PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

About the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, or PCA, as it’s commonly referred to in poker circles, is another poker establishment that has undergone a world of change, evolving from a small event into something much, much larger.

When it first began in 2004, the PCA was a part of the World Poker Tour– simply another stop (and single tournament) among a much larger regular in the poker world. Because it took place on a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea, the original PokerStars Caribbean Adventure not only offered a location unlike any others in the WPT, but it also offered a locale that was theoretically neutral ground between the Americans who often dominated North American World Poker Tour events and the Europeans who dominated the other locales. After the inaugural season, the PCA moved to the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island. This small island off the coast of the capital of the Bahamas is best known for the resort, which is often called the “Vegas-by-the-sea,” largely due to the variety of gambling and family activities that it offers to guests.

By 2008, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure would leave the World Poker Tour and become a part of the European Poker Tour. This curious move changed the European Poker Tour by introducing far more American players, who could easily access this location; as a result, the PCA, for the years that it was apart of the EPT, consistently had a turnout and number of entries higher than the rest of the events in the tour. Not long after its raging success as a part of the European Poker Tour, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure evolved again. When the North American Poker Tour began in 2010, the PCA became a part of it, and the events in the Caribbean kicked off the newly-formed NAPT with a solid event that had already drawn a great deal of attention. In the first two seasons of the North American Poker Tour, almost every final table spot in every PCA event has been held by an American, demonstrating the American love of both the game and heavy competition.

Past Seasons of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

The inaugural year of the PCA saw a winner who, like many of the later winners of this event, began his gaming career playing something other than poker. Unlike PCA winners Ryan Daut and Bertrand Grospellier, who both played StarCraft competitively before turning to poker, 2004 winner Gus Hansen started out playing backgammon and tennis, becoming a champion in both. Apparently, two games was not enough for Hansen, who claimed the first place prize of $455,780 and further solidified his continuously strong poker career.

The winners of years two and three of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure won their entry into the tournament through online satellite games at The year two winner, John Gale, was a relative unknown before his win– he had only been playing Texas Hold’em for about a year when he qualified for the PCA event of the World Poker Tour. After winning the event, the Englishman quit his day job and focused on playing poker full-time, a move that seemed good for him, as he had the first of his several money finishes in both the European Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker; the following year, he would nab a WSOP bracelet. The following year, Canadian Steve Paul-Ambrose qualified through a $102 PokerStars tournament and went on to make his only final table and win of the WPT (although he had a total of four money finishes). Paul-Ambrose has also claimed five money finishes at the WSOP.

The following year, which would be the final year that the PCA was a part of the World Poker Tour, American Ryan Daut would put his schooling in advanced mathematics to use and play professional poker, taking the PCA title away from several very strong players. Daut’s WPT title and $1,535,255 win accounts for the vast majority of his poker earnings; apart from his PCA win, Daut’s career has been largely unglamorous.

The PCA was adopted into the European Poker Tour for two years, and the two winners during the time it was a somewhat oddly-located part of this large poker event could not have been further apart. In 2008 (the fifth year of the PCA and the first year of its EPT stay), crowd favourite Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier bested a table full of Americans (and one Brit) to take the $2,000,000 prize. Grospellier’s win surprised no one, as he has been a strong EPT player (strong enough to stay in the higher rankings of the EPT leaderboard) and was well known to be a fierce contender in online poker play. The 2009 winner, however, was a complete surprise, as 22 year old Poorya Nazari took the win away from many professional poker players with some fancy playing that no one would have anticipated. Like many other amateur and semi-pro players in the tournament, Nazari qualified through a satellite tournament.

During the inaugural year of the North American Poker Tour, a new record was set at the PCA when then 19-year old Harrison Gimbel, an online poker player who hadn’t tackled a live game before, became the youngest person every to win the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event. Rather than paying the $10,000 buy-in, Gimbel accessed the tournament through a series of satellite qualifiers through and eventually made it to the final table. Along the way, he bested a slew of professional poker players, many of whom had been members of the PokerStars team for years. The next year, he would go on to win the World Poker Tour Fall Poker Open and earn the biggest poker tournament payout ever seen in Florida.

While Chris Oliver dominated the majority of the final table during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure during the second season of the NAPT, he was ultimately beaten by Galen Hall. Hall also created a record for himself at the PCA– he beat out 1,560 other players, a record in terms of tournament size– and has established himself as a serious contender in live play, which he previously stated had been his weakness (having amassed almost a million dollars on assorted online sites, clearly online play is a strength of his).

Qualifying for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

Playing in the PCA has never been easier– or less expensive. PokerStars offers countless satellite games which allow players to compete online or at a live event in order to win seats at the PCA, cash prizes, and other prize packages that include side event seats, flights, hotels, and more.

Live satellites are typically held in late November through December on both the east and west coast of the United States (most recently, they were held in Bakersfield, California and in Connecticut). Sites chosen are usually between major metropolitan areas (such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles) so that they are accessible to as many potential entrants as possible. Live satellites are often hosted by Team PokerStars Pro members, offering poker fans a chance to meet some of their favourite players when they enter a live satellite. All of the live satellites have a low buy-in and are by far a better way to try to win a seat at the PCA than paying one’s way in, and live games are substantially different than playing online; players who read others well may do better in a live satellite than they would in the online qualifiers. also offers countless online satellite tournaments for those who want to try their luck and skill but cannot or prefer not to attend one of the live tournaments (or for those who want to enter as many different satellite tournaments as possible for the maximum potential gain). These online satellites go on for months and have an incredibly low cost to enter– often as little as one dollar or 100 Frequent Player Points (the reward currency of Considering that such a small entry fee could lead to a money finish at the PCA (or even a seat at the North American Poker Tour Grand Final), the satellites are an excellent option for players of all walks of life. Tournaments take place around the clock, and for those with a restricted bankroll or just the desire for more competition, PokerStars also offers “steps” satellite tournaments, where a player can buy-in at different levels of competition for different amounts. For example, players from the first heat will progress to the second, where they will play against the other winners from the first heat, as well as any players who have paid a little extra to buy in at step two in the tournament. Several players from the PCA final tables have made it there through satellite tournaments– you could be next!

Whether you prefer to play online or in person, for a small cash buy-in or with Frequent Player Points, there are plenty of satellite tournaments available to help you get one step closer to playing in the PCA.