It is a course of action that nobody wanted to take. Nevertheless, as time went on it became increasingly inevitable. Finally, on March 24, PokerStars released a statement affirming the decision to postpone its Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC), for the foreseeable future—and certainly beyond the end of this year.
The PSPC was scheduled to take place in Barcelona in August but the ongoing coronavirus situation has rendered that plan impossible. PokerStars had no choice but to postpone the event, for the second time in the space of a year. Of course, safety was the primary concern: the inaugural PSPC in 2019 attracted 1,039 players and providing a Covid-secure environment for a field that size—at such close quarters—was a bridge too far.
A Message from the Sponsor
PokerStars’ press release featured a short video message from Severin Rasset, PokerStars’ Managing Director & Commercial Officer, Poker, Product and Innovation, in which he detailed the rationale behind the decision. A visibly disappointed Rasset explained, “The only reason… is that we feel we cannot guarantee the safety of our players and our staff.”
But even if health fears could have been allayed, the logistics of running such a huge event—in a continent where many countries are under lockdown, and travel infrastructure has been crippled—would surely have been unworkable.
However, Rasset insisted that PokerStars still intends to hold the PSPC at some point in the future, adding, “I want to reiterate our commitment to this tournament” and assuring anyone who has won a package for the PSPC that they will remain eligible for the event when it happens.
An FAQ page on the PokerStars blog confirmed that Platinum Passes will still be valid for the Championship and that it would still take place at Casino Barcelona when it is deemed safe enough to do so.
PokerStars is obviously keen to achieve this as soon as possible, to capitalize on the buzz created by the wildly successful inaugural tournament. But at the same time, it is obviously aware that rushing that through at the present time, could result in a poorly attended and possibly dangerous event.
A Job Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well
Understandably, it does not want to damage a brand that has become so iconic—despite running for only one edition. As tough decisions go, it must have been one of the easier ones. The 2019 event, held at the idyllic Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, was the biggest ever $25,000 buy-in poker tournament. It had a field of 1,039 runners and boasted a first-place prize of $5.1 million.
But what really made the occasion so memorable was that the winner was not one of the ranks of pros that had lined up at the hotel, eyeing their place in poker history, but by 30-year-old Spaniard Ramon Colillas, who had qualified for the Championship via a Platinum Pass package—the promotion for recreational players that Poker Stars had created specifically to market the event. The poker dream was alive and well.
It was the just the kind of fairytale that Stars would have been hoping for—generating publicity the world over. Sensing a Moneymaker moment, PokerStars signed up Colillas as a brand ambassador and set about planning the second PSPC in his home country. $10 million worth of Platinum Passes had been earmarked as prizes in the run-up to the August 2020 tournament.
And then Covid happened.
Focusing on the Positives
By April 2020, it was clear that the live tournament circuit was going to look very different for some time. Later that month, it was announced that the World Series of Poker had been postponed and it was becoming obvious that the PSPC would suffer the same fate. On May 22, PokerStars made it official. Now, less than a year later, it has been forced to delay the contest again.
But it is not all doom and gloom. PokerStars has been unequivocal in its insistence that the tournament will go ahead. And when it eventually does, the story of Ramon Colillas’ victory will still resonate; will still inspire poker players the world over to try to emulate his achievement.
After such a long wait, the appetite for a live poker event on this scale, will surely be higher than ever. Obviously, with the Covid situation still full of uncertainty, no date has yet been decided for the rescheduled event, but Rasset signed off his video message by assuring players that PSPC will take place “as soon as we can do it.”