In total 1039 players took their seats in the Atlantis Resort and Casino, Bahamas, to participate in history’s largest ever highroller tournament.
Neil Stoddart - Rational Intellectual Holdings Ltd.

Outside the ultimate winner Ramon Colillas, an aspiring poker professional from Spain who won the PSPC Trophy and more than $5 million yesterday, perhaps the biggest winner was PokerStars itself.

In total 1039 players took their seats in the Atlantis Resort and Casino, Bahamas, to participate in history’s largest ever high roller tournament: The $25,000 PokerStars Player’s No Limit Hold’em Championship.

Just under a third of these players—320 to be precise—won their way via the Platinum Pass system, PokerStars’ audacious year-long promotion that saw $8 million in prize packages given away through a myriad of paths.

With those odds, PokerStars probably hoped a few would run deep and one or two would make it to the final table.

What they got would have only existed in their wildest dreams. A likeable, photogenic, aspiring poker player with little professional live experience, born in a key regulated market, winning his way via a leaderboard at a small PokerStars-sponsored live tour, going on to win the event with an incredible run. It is a fairy tale result.

“We couldn’t have scripted a better outcome for the tournament and PokerStars congratulates Ramon and all of the competitors for making this an historic event,” said PokerStars Director of Poker Marketing, Eric Hollreiser to PRO.

“Ramon’s victory is a reminder that with a dream, some talent and a little luck, poker can change your life. We’re proud to have created a special experience for more than a thousand players, but especially for those like Ramon who had never previously dreamed of playing in such a tournament.”

Ramon Colillas might have flown under the radar of many during the five-day event, but he was caught in our spotlight from Day 3. Quietly, he had amassed a sizeable chip stack. At one brief moment he was the tournament chip leader, and he stayed in the top five during Day 3 and into Day 4.

Going in to the the final table on Day 5, he was fifth out of eight stacks, but had a healthy enough position. The day obviously ran fantastically for him, including some rather lucky spots—creating some great social media moments—along with some great play.

Colillas won his way to The Bahamas by winning the leaderboard in the 2018 Campeonato de España de Poker, a small poker circuit in Spain that is sponsored by PokerStars.

Colillas, 30, studied at the Faculty of Sciences for Physical Activity and Sport and worked as a fitness trainer, but according to the PokerStars profile, at the age of 24 he decided to make a go of it as a poker professional.

However, according to his Hendon Mob profile, Colillas had no big scores until his trip to the PSPC—at least not live. His live winnings prior to his $5.1 million payday totaled $10,000. According to the Campeonato de España de Poker website, he won €55,900 for winning the leaderboard, definitely a career high to date. That figure may however include his $30,000 Platinum Pass which came with the win.

So the the story for PokerStars is near perfect: Plucky aspiring poker player seeking to go professional wins via grinding a small local tournament in his home country. He wins his way to his first ever major tournament—the buy-in three times greater than any previous score—and through a mix of skill, composure and (naturally) a good dose of luck, goes on to win one of poker’s largest prizes.

That he calls Spain home is also a great coup for the operator. The Spanish market is growing and highly competitive thanks to the advent of Southern European shared liquidity. While PokerStars has a dominant position in the market, it is facing increasing competition.

In particular, Winamax, the market leader in France, recently launched in Spain. It is looking to make inroads by hiring Spain’s most successful live poker player and its most prominent female ambassador (Winamax ambassador Mustapha Kanit had a deep run to 56th; both Margets and Mateos entered but did not cash).

Exit interviews suggest that Colillas is motivated to play more live poker and travel, so he is a slam dunk new ambassador for PokerStars if that is what he desires. He does not speak English—English interviews are done through an interpreter—but he is still a great face, a fantastic story and a huge coup for PokerStars.