With the loss of the World Series of Poker Circuit stop at River Rock Casino Resort, their abandonment of the B.C. Poker Championships, the cancellation of the popular Women’s Poker Classic at Cascades Casino, and the sudden disappearance of the Spring UltraStack and the West Coast Poker Championship at Edgewater Casino, the Greater Vancouver area has been enduring a tournament series drought recently.
The province’s only licensed online poker site, PlayNow Poker, filled the void by offering the first-ever PlayNow Poker Championship over the last week and a half, and the sold-out attendance indicates locals are happy to have a tournament series on offer.
Only one other tournament series was available for Vancouverites this year. The Hard Rock Casino Vancouver Poker Championships offered a small four-event series back in April, capped by a $1,100 Main Event. The same venue, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, played host to the PlayNow Poker Championship, establishing itself as Vancouver’s poker-friendly casino.
The government-owned and operated online poker room organized six events across 11 days from October 15 to 25, and every tournament aside from the women's’ event sold out. The 10 tournament tables capped seating at 100 players at a time.
Action kicked off on Thursday, October 15 with a tournament just for female players. There is a strong community of poker ladies in the area, largely because of the once-great and now-defunct Women’s Poker Classic, so an event was created just for them. There were 38 players for the $330 tournament, and it ended in a three-way deal that saw Brianne Murphy take the top earnings of $2,568.
The $800 two-day tournament with two Day 1s followed. After the survivors out of the 97 players on Friday’s Day 1a and 100 on Saturday’s Day 1b met for a final day on Sunday, it also ended in a three-way deal with Mijat Djakovic taking the title and $27,390.
Play continued with a $330 bounty tournament on Monday where two hours of reentries and alternates saw the sold-out field stretch to 124 entries. Martin Kendell topped the field, earning $9,112 as well as a huge stack of $50 bounties.
Then 112 entries were tallied for Tuesday’s $500 tournament. Kai Heinonen was the man hoisting the trophy after an especially long day at the table. It took 14 hours for the tournament to conclude, and Heinonen earned $14,815 for the victory.
In support of the large number of older players who frequent the local poker rooms, the next tournament was restricted players 50 years and older. The $330 “Seniors’ Event” enjoyed yet another sold-out field, coming to 115 total entries when registration closed. Dung Ngo earned $10,144 for first place.
After a day off on Thursday, the $1,650 Main Event began with Day 1a on Friday, qualifying 36 out of 100 players, and another 36 made it through Saturday’s 100 for Day 1b. Out of the 72 who came back for the final day, Scott McMorran earned the big win after another three-way chop that saw $50,000 go to second and third while McMorran earned $58,760.
The sold-out fields included some of the best of the local talent. Players like November Niner and bracelet winner Matt Jarvis as well as fellow bracelet winners Ashkan Razavi and Robert Cheung, Aussie Millions Champion Ami Barer, WPT Champion Shawn Buchanan, and online beasts like Jonas Mackoff and David Quang.
Vancouver’s thirst for premier tournament poker series is strong. The recent sold-out success indicates that a series could also be successful on a much grander scale with a larger venue and more events. It remains to be seen what 2016 may bring for the city, but the demand is in place.