Because I don’t live near a card room, I have rarely played in a live poker tournament. Back in 2005, though, my former boss bought me into a $100 re-buy event that we were sponsoring and I proceeded to run roughshod through the field (read: played disturbingly tight, eventually getting lucky when I had to move all-in with A-9 and cracked A-K), finishing third and winning more than $3,000. My only proof of this is that I have the standings sheet somewhere – the result is not on TheHendonMob.com. That was a hell of a freeroll for me, but my god, if I was in Ramon Colillas’ position this week, I would have aggressively dirtied my pants. Colillas won the $25,000 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) yesterday for $5.1 million. And he played for free. Happy New Year!
Ramon Colillas finished atop the Campeonato de España de Poker leader board in 2018, a points tracker that ranked players based on their successes in specific PokerStars-sponsored tourneys in Spain. For that, he was awarded a Platinum Pass, which was a $30,000 prize package that included the $25,000 entry into the PSPC, travel, and hotel. He was one of 320 out of the 1,039 players in the event that were freerolling via Platinum Passes. Colillas was one of two Platinum Pass winners, along with the Philippines’ Marc Rivera, who made the final table this week.
Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse
This could not have worked out better for PokerStars. As I wrote earlier this week, while this was certainly not a make-or-break tournament for the world’s largest online poker room, it was definitely putting a lot of eggs in the PSPC basket. It had been hyping the PSPC for more than a year, marketing it at every opportunity, and adding millions of dollars to the prize pool through those Platinum Passes (in addition to the $1 million added to the first place prize). The PSPC is basically what PokerStars was all about in 2018 and though the Main Event of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) is now underway, the PSPC was the headline event.
PokerStars desperately wanted the PSPC to break records, and it did, becoming the largest $25,000 live tournament of all-time, breaking the previous record – set by the 2007 World Poker Tour World Championship – by 400 entries. And now, to have one of its Platinum Pass winners, a guy who had won less than $11,000 in live tournaments previously, hoist the trophy, was everything PokerStars wanted.
PokerStars’ Director of Poker Marketing, Eric Hollreiser, said in a press release, “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. 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.”
It Just Takes One Big Hand
Colillas had a ton of ground to makeup going into heads-up play against France’s Julien Martini, as Martini held a 42 million to 19.45 million chip lead after knocking out Rivera in third place. It didn’t take long for Colillas to turn the tables, though.
Through eleven heads-up hands, Colillas had not made a bit of ground, gaining about 5 million chips. The twelfth hand, though, was the most significant of the entire tournament and one that he will remember forever.
Martini had 9h-6h and raised to 1.25 million chips pre-flop (blinds and antes were 250K/500K/500K). Colillas called with Qc-5s. When the flop of Ah-4h-Qh was dealt, Martini knew he had the hand locked down and must have been trying to keep Colillas around as long as possible to extract some of his chips. He bet 1 million and Colillas called.
The turn was the Qd, giving Colillas trips, and Martini bet 4.6 million. Colillas called again.
The river was the incredible 5d, allowing Colillas to make an improbable runner-runner full house and dooming Martini. Martini pushed all of his chips into the middle after Colillas checked, but of course, Colillas made the quick call to beat the flopped flush. Colillas’ stack grew to 48.3 million, while Martini’s shrunk to 13.150 million.
Martini never recovered and it wasn’t long before Colillas clinched the victory and the $5.1 million first prize.
Martini sounds like he took it well, telling PokerNews later, “When he snap-called, I knew he had at least a flush,” Martini would say afterward. “It’s a big cooler but it happens every day in poker.”
Chris Moneymaker, a poker legend and one of the faces of PokerStars, was there to congratulate Colillas.
“It’s amazing,” Colillas said afterward. “I’ve been following poker and poker history from a very young age. I was watching Chris [Moneymaker] on my computer when he made it, so now it’s a dream come true. It means a lot for me.”
2019 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) – Final Table Results
1. Ramon Colillas – $5,100,000
2. Julien Martini – $2,974,000
3. Marc Rivera – $2,168,000
4. Scott Baumstein – $1,657,000
5. Jason Koonce – $1,304,000
6. Marc Perrault – $1,012,000
7. Farid Jattin – $746,000
8. Talal Shakerchi – $509,000