Happy 2010! If I can describe my mood in the first blog of the New Year it's a pretty simple answer: jealous. Thousands of players are ready to land or have arrived in the Bahamas to be part of the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. As Gary Wise noted today, it's a big party and from all accounts I've heard, this is going to be the best year yet to be down in PCA. ESPN.com is happy to have the PCA covered from all angles for the next 10 days with Gary Wise, Bernard Lee and Laura Lane on location. They'll be filling you in on the sights and sounds from the event and share their thoughts as they watch the best online players (and some pros) battle it out for some impressive prize money.
The playing age for the 47 tournaments is 18 which is why this event is truly the World Series of Poker for the online poker player. Winning a PCA title might not come with as much prestige as a WSOP bracelet, but once you take down an event, everyone will remember ... your screen name. It's a younger atmosphere where those who have had online success get recognition by introducing themselves in a completely different way. Despite the focus being on the online player during this series, heading to PCA is also advantageous for the everyday live professional poker player. Much of the field will be live-tournament rookies either given their age or by their choice. The top professionals should have the upper hand here and it's always interesting to see which side will come out ahead.
As we look forward to crowning new champions, meeting new poker personalities and enjoying the next 10 days, let's first take a look back at 2009. More specifically, let's take a look back at the 2009 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event which is the first major of the year. The $10,000 main event attracted a gigantic live field of 1,347 players to be the largest $10,000 event besides the main event. Poorya Nazari took down the title and $3 million for his only cash of 2009, but that one cash was enough to put him in 19th in Cardplayer magazine's player of the year standings.
Here's a look at the rest of the final table and how their 2009 shaped out:
(2nd) Anthony Gregg - Gregg earned $1.7 million for his runner-up performance and had two more small cashes during the year.
(3rd) Benjamin Spindler - Spindler most recently made the final table at WPT Marrakech, but added a 12th place at EPT London and one WSOP cash to end the year with $1.27 million in earnings.
(4th) Alexandre Gomes - The title of "Biggest winner after PCA" out of his group belongs to Gomes. The PokerStars Pro became the first Brazilian to win a WPT title (Bellagio Cup) and earned $1.1 million for the victory. Gomes fell just short of $2 million in earnings in 2009.
(5th) Pieter Tielen - Just like Nazari, Tielen had one cash in 2009, his $550,000 he earned at PCA.
(6th) Dustin Dirksen - Dirksen had two WSOP cashes in 2009 in two of the smaller no-limit hold 'em buy-in events.
(7th) Dan Heimiller - On the tournament trail since the early 90's, the veteran Heimiller had a successful 2009 earning just over half a million in nine cashes. Heimiller had four WSOP cashes including a final table in the $1,000 stimulus special (sixth).
(8th) Kevin Saul - One of the world's top online players, Saul's 2009 included an FTOPS victory, a cash in the WSOP main event and a top-25 finish at the WPT Bellagio Cup. With over a million in earnings from both venues, Saul's 2009 was a great success despite falling short at PCA.
(9th) Jan Collado - After PCA, Collado headed back to Europe where he would make three more final tables by the end of January. For the year, Collado earned $320,088 and is already 48th on the German all-time money list.
Despite the fact that I'm not in the Bahamas, I'm happy to know that the rest of the ESPN poker team is there and ready to cover all the action. For those playing, I wish you the best of luck and hope you can start 2010 off on the right foot.
Small blinds: Party Poker is running a huge promotion for players looking to satellite into the L.A. Poker Classic. I think it's great they're running these WPT satellites, but players from the U.S. can't play there! I really think something is going to change on this front soon, especially since PartyGaming's success could be augmented by a WPT resurgence. ... One of Steven Begleiter's 2010 New Years resolutions: "Fold if Antoine Saout reraises me preflop while I am holding 8 high." ... The FTOPS XV schedule has been released with 27 events in February. MiniFTOPS will follow in March. ... Not a bad couple weeks for Faraz Jaka who recently made a WPT final table and followed that up with a second place finish in Full Tilt's Sunday Mulligan for $33,573.