2018 Fall PlayNow Poker Championship Hits Record Numbers

Rick Blom PlayNow Poker Championship Club Regent Casino

Over the past few years, the PlayNow Poker Championship (PNPC) has quietly been making a name for itself as a key stop on Canada's poker tournament schedule. The semi-annual event runs once in the spring and again in the fall, offering players a choice of buy-in levels ranging from $300 through $1,100. The series kicks off with a satellite night for the Main Event, which adds to the many online satellites offered by PlayNow.com.

Since its early inception in 2015, the PNPC has steadily grown to the point that last year it officially outgrew the original home at McPhillips Station Casino in Winnipeg. Beginning in 2018, the new home is the impressive new poker room at Club Regent Casino across town.

The 2018 Fall PNPC established new attendance records for the Main Event. The previous high of 200, set at the only PNPC event to be held in Vancouver in 2015, was easily surpassed when a total of 225 entries were recorded this fall, which led to a prize pool of $225,000 that was divided 23 ways. Top spot paid just a hair under $60,000.

When Day 1 was finished, 225 had become just 32 players looking for a spot in the money, and Arian Alemzadeh was the player who bagged the most chips after 15 levels. Alemzadeh was on a high after winning the opening $600 event the day before in a heads-up battle with Dylan Ellis, and he ran through the field on Day 1 to amass a huge stack of 462,000. Norman Gautron bagged the second biggest Day 1 stack with 444,000.

Day 2 proceeded fairly quickly. The money bubble burst within early in Level 18, after players made a bubble deal with 24 left to send the next player to bust home with $1,200 in consolation money. That consolation winner was Wayne Haddad, who got his money back, plus $100 profit, leaving the remaining 23 players in the payouts proper.

They didn't slow down once they hit the money. Within two hours, Day 1 chip leader Alemzadeh was out in 14th, dashing his dreams of winning the Player of the Series, and the final table convened shortly thereafter with Rick Blom leading the way.

1Peter Pawlak98,000
2Jared Mercredi536,000
3Rick Blom860,000
4Dave Shiska277,000
5Donald Cowie331,000
6David Thompson420,000
7Norman Gautron421,000
8Quentin Jennings362,000
9Don Karasewich630,000
10Kevin Cloutier260,000

Blom took that chip lead and ran with it. He wasn't afraid to gamble it up, and he was getting the cards, and running well enough, to do it successfully. Blom had racked up 2.4 million chips by the time they broke for a shortened 20 minute dinner break, with Peter Pawlak barely able to see him in second with a stack of 502,000. Blom was able to hold onto those chips after dinner, and finish it out for the $59,499 first prize. Blom took the top prize after a very short heads up battle against Kevin Cloutier ($37,658).

Final Table Results

1Rick Blom$59,499
2Kevin Cloutier$37,658
3Peter Pawlak$25,133
4Don Karasewich$17,617
5David Thompson$12,919
6Dave Shiska$9,872
7Donald Cowie$7,828
8Jared Mercredi$6,416
9Norman Gautron$5,412
10Quentin Jennings$4,682

In addition to the money, the trophy and the ring, Blom also secured enough points with his Main Event win to take down the Player of the Series title. That means he'll be playing all the events in the 2019 Spring PNPC for free, a great added value for the points race winner. On Saturday, the points race looked to be between Alemzadeh who won the first event, and Ellis, who was runner up in that one, then went on to win the $300 bounty later the same day. But with Ellis unable to find a bag in the Main, and Alemzadeh going out in 14th, the race was open to the Main Event winner.

Dylan and Daryl Ellis after the $300 Bounty
Dylan and Daryl Ellis after the $300 Bounty

It's worth adding that an Ellis DID manage to find a bag at the end of Day 1 of the Main, though it wasn't Dylan. Instead, the father half of the familiar father-and-son duo, Daryl Ellis, was the one to bag a stack at the end of play, and he returned to make it into the payout table with a minimum cash. With son Dylan's stellar Friday where he won nearly $30,000, that meant an Ellis was awarded money on every day that the PNPC gave out cash prizes this series.

Arian Alemzadeh with the winner's check after $600 event
Arian Alemzadeh with the winner's check after $600 event

BC player Arian Alemzadeh was one of the biggest early stories of the series, when he powered through the first event for the win, and then proceeded to build castles of chips during Day 1 of the Main Event. While he ultimately fell short of his goal of winning the Main, Alemzadeh scored nearly $30,000 in prizes over the course of the week here.

Darren Penner with the trophy from the $400 final event at 2018 Fall PNPC
Darren Penner with the trophy from the $400 final event at 2018 Fall PNPC

The other story line from this week was the play of Darren Penner in the lower buy events. Penner was part of the six-way chop at the end of the $300 Bounty event, and though Penner technically finished fourth in that tournament, he secured the most money when the deal was made, and went home with $10,434 from that one, nearly $4,000 more than the eventual winner of the event, Dylan Ellis. Penner then went on to take down the final $400 tournament on Sunday in dramatic fashion, winning it after just a single hand of heads up play against Allan Alejandro. That meant Penner took home over $21,000 from two deep runs in this series, a solid result by any measure.

Over the five-day event, more than $450,000 in prizes were awarded across the four tournaments, not including the satellites. Poker room manager at Club Regent Casino, Mo Shulu, was quite happy with result. "We were really happy to get over the hump of 200 for the Main," he said, adding that he wanted to "thank all who participated, especially from out of province. We are very excited for what's to come in 2019 for the PlayNow Poker Championship."

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