EPT Prague has a fascinating relationship with the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC). It was here, memorably, in 2017 that the public first learned of the original crazy idea: a tournament with $9 million added money, a $25,000 buy-in, and a field scattered with rank amateurs on a brilliant beano. The grandstand announcement, hosted by Daniel Negreanu at Hilton Prague, was equal parts thrilling and hilarious, with a decent degree of confusion. (If you missed it, the full oral history is a must read.)
Despite its chaotic beginnings, the first PSPC in the Bahamas went on to become the most talked about tournament of the year and few were surprised when PokerStars announced a repeat. This year’s second incarnation retains all of the best elements of the first, but shifts to Barcelona. There will be the same $25,000 buy-in (€22,500 to be precise, but close enough), the same host of amateurs taking a shot at the very biggest of the big time, but it will all be to the backdrop of Europe’s most popular poker festival.
EPT Prague’s role is slightly reduced this time (the announcement was made a long time ago), but we still got in on the chaos once again today. That’s because there was a Platinum Pass giveaway scheduled for the start of play, whereby one lucky player was going to earn him or herself a ticket, including expenses, to August’s shindig.
The giveaway was open to all PokerStars qualifiers still in at the start of Day 2 of the EPT Prague Main Event, and they were all invited to play a crazy pineapple flipout shootout, with the last player standing taking the Pass. With 63 players filling the qualification criteria, the first round took them quickly down to a last eight. Then all of Bhavin Khatri, Aliaksei Dubrovski, Evgenii Shibaldin, Ronan Sweeney, Luke Haward, Raydond Hilbert, Michal Janczarski and Leanid Bachrov gathered around a single table, with a crowd jostling for position behind them, and Felix “xflixx” Schneiders on the mic.
“Welcome, players, to the final table,” Schneiders said. “You’re now flipping for a Platinum Pass.”
There were nervous laughs. Though there was nothing to lose, of course, this was the closest all of these players were likely to get to a Pass. And all of them likely knew it.
The dealer gave them all three cards, then put the 9♥4♥8♠ on the flop. Players discarded one card, before the 6♥ came on the turn. At this point, they showed one card and everyone began calculating their chances. After the K♣ on the river, Khatri thought he had it locked up with the king in his own hand.
But Shibaldin, who had sat all but silent and motionless, had 8♥5♥ in front of him at showdown, and his flush turned out to be good. “He’s got a flush!” Schneiders announced, and Khatri was first to congratulate him with a fist bump.
Shibaldin doesn’t speak fluent English and seemed a little overawed by the whole process. The Platinum Pass suddenly made its appearance and was shoved into his hands. He then posed for photographs and a quick video segment, right at the moment that the Main Event was due to resume. With 29,500 in his stack, Shibaldin couldn’t afford to miss too many hands, so scooted quickly off to sit down.
But…actually…where was he sitting?
In all the excitement, Shibaldin had forgotten to check the Main Event seat draw, so the Platinum Pass went on its first tour. As its new owner clasped it tightly in his fingers, Shibaldin wandered through the returning tournament field, then out into the lobby to the electronic seat draw screens.
He waited for a couple of pages to scroll through, then discovered he was due to Table 23 Seat 4. With renewed purpose, Shibaldin entered the tournament room and headed for his seat.
But…actually…where was Table 23?
He turned on his heels again and walked to the other electronic screen with the table numbers on it. Finally, with a clear destination in sight, Shibaldin headed off again, and found a chair next to Parker Talbot and across from Steven van Zadelhoff. He placed his Platinum Pass on the table in front of him but no one had yet noticed. His table-mates continued their chit chat.
“Oh, you won it?” the dealer said, first to glimpse the Pass.
Shibaldin nodded. Then Talbot suddenly noticed the bling that had landed on the table beside him. “Oh wow man,” Talbot said.
And with that, Shibaldin’s journey to the PSPC truly began.
“I am happy to be here at EPT Prague,” Shibaldin told us after his crazy victory. “However, I was unlucky to get sick right before the festival. I qualified for Prague online on PokerStars at the final table of All-in shootout.
“When the final table Pineapple players started to open their cards, I saw that one player had Q♥, and another one had A♥. I had a feeling that I was winning and I won.
“The PSPC 2020 will be my first tournament with such a high buy-in and I am happy I will have a chance to play it. I can’t wait already!”