Most of the poker players who started off their 2014 campaign with a trip to the Bahamas for the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure are back home. The flip-flops, sunscreen and swimsuits have been unpacked, and the industry has returned to normalcy until the next major stop. The biggest poker festival outside of the WSOP set the pace for what should be a busy year and the players that shined in the Bahamas have already taken strides towards a year they'll never forget. Here's what I'm taking away from PCA:
The best player in the world is Vanessa Selbst
Sure, Daniel Negreanu won the 2013 BLUFF Player of the Year award in a dominating fashion, but he's not the best player in the world right now. Vanessa Selbst is, and she proved it again at PCA.
Selbst, who finished fourth in the 2013 Bluff Player of the Year race, cashed in the three most high profile events at PCA: the $10,000 main event (42nd), $25,000 High Roller (third) and $100,000 Super High Roller (third). This comes after closing out 2013 with a seventh place finish in the EPT Prague High Roller and winning a $7,300 buy-in pot-limit Omaha side event.
She's won $2.25 million since September and now sits alone atop the ladies all-time money list -- but that's just not important anymore. Selbst is 24th on the all-time money list and could soon be the 22nd player to break the $10 million lifetime earnings mark. Once she does that, she'll have more lifetime earnings than Kathy Liebert and Annie Duke, No. 2 and No. 3 on the ladies all-time earnings list, respectively, have combined.
When asked to do our voting for the next edition of The Nuts, I'm going to be hard-pressed to find a reason not to write Selbst down at No. 1.
At 21, Ole Schemion could be poker's next big thing
Selbst's trifecta of cashing in all three big PCA events, final tabling the two biggest buy-in events of the festival, would have been more impressive had she been the only one to do it. German sensation Ole Schemion, now finally 21, also pulled it off. Schemion, who finished 5th in the 2013 BLUFF Player of the Year race, put up seventh place finishes in the High Roller and Super High Roller, and busted out of the main event in 144th place.
Schemion is a bit of an unknown commodity, particularly in America where he's been unable to play until recently. He doesn't make himself too available for interviews and most believe the less than favorable German tax laws play a role in that. Specifically, he doesn't want to draw unnecessary attention to his success. If that's the case, he's going to have to cool it a little bit on the felt. In a little over three years work he has 36 career cashes, 10 of which are for six figures or better. He's already banked over $500,000 in 2014.
Prior to busting loose on the European poker scene, Schemion was a multitable tournament crusher online. In 2011 he finished on top of the PokerStars leaderboard, no easy feat considering the number of wizards grinding all day every day. There are 40-year-old poker pros who would kill to have the numbers that half-their-age Schemion already has.
It's not a guarantee of future success or poker stardom, but it's one heck of a start. Oddly enough, some of the reports of the PCA had Schemion as an Austrian. Maybe their tax laws are a little bit nicer?
The Germans meditate their way to High Roller success
It's getting somewhat ridiculous just how amazing the Germans are doing in big buy-in events. Fabian Quoss is the latest to take down a Super High Roller event, beating out 55 other entries to win $1.6 million.
In the process of winning the event, he appeared to have angered Dan Shak. Quoss was late to the final table by an estimated 30 minutes, and when he was pressed as to why he was so late, Quoss admitted he had been in his room meditating. Shak wasn't overly impressed with Quoss, but the poker world certainly should be.
Quoss, Martin Finger, Philipp Gruissem and Niklas Heinecker have all won events with a buy-in greater than $50,000 in the last eight months. That's only first place finishes. A big part of their success is that they're all sharing concepts, strategies and information as they travel the world. Quoss, Gruissem, Finger and Russia's Igor Kurganov are good friends and represent the modern German equivalent of the Texas road gamblers.
Americans Still Coming Out in Numbers
You're probably feeling a small psychological hit every time you read the word "PokerStars" in this column and long for the days when you could fire up the online poker site and play pretty much anything you wanted from the comfort of your home. Black Friday should have been a death blow to the relationship between U.S. players and the world's largest online poker site, but it wasn't.
There were 346 players in the $10,000 PCA main event from the United States. That's 33.5 percent of the total number of players. Sure, some of those players are now living in Canada, Mexico or Europe so they can continue to earn a living playing online poker, but clearly not every single one of the 346 lives abroad.
That number speaks pretty positively about the future of poker in the United States. Had Black Friday not happened, or had PokerStars somehow managed to have landed licensing in New Jersey, there surely would have been even more players representing the red, white and blue.
PokerStars continues to impress
In terms of overall size of the festival, PCA is up there with the WSOP and the LA Poker Classic. It's 39 events over nine days with buy-ins from $400 to $100,000 and for the most part, they go off without a hitch.
PokerStars understands the recipe for success: a great location (it's the Bahamas, folks), good offering of tournaments and side action and above all else, make the festival about more than flops. Players, and maybe more importantly, player's families, know they can go to PCA and do more than grind away day after day inside a poker room. The beach, the water slides, the aquarium, shark tank, the restaurants, the nightlife all make the PCA the top-three tournament stop that it is.
With PokerStars adding the Aussie Millions to the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour, it will be interesting to see how they improve upon one of the best stops on the poker calendar.