Living the Dream at the Punta Cana Poker Classic
By Bob Garcia
I’m off to the Caribbean again, this time with a group from Americas Cardroom! They’ll be playing in the action-packed $500K GTD Punta Cana Poker Classic Main Event. And I’ll be tagging along with my camera and microphone so you can get a feel for what it’s like when online players find themselves playing a big money live tournament.
It’s a huge leap from playing online to competing in a high stakes international tournament like this one. Some handle it well, some fold under the pressure. Fortunately there’s lots of ways to unwind on a tropical island – and those often make for great videos!
The 2016 Punta Cana Poker Classic is a Texas Hold’em poker event with a guaranteed prize pool of $500,000. This year it will be held at The Level at Melia Caribe Tropical, one of the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts on the island. The tournament structure has been designed so players get plenty of time at the tables and still have time to enjoy a tropical island holiday. Last year, Venezuelan Luis Yepez won the tournament and took home $185,615.
There’ll be more than 120 Americas Cardroom players with us in Punta Cana. Many are freeroll winners getting their entire trip paid for by the US poker room. Their prize packages included the $1,650 buy-in for the Main Event and several smaller tournaments during the week, accommodation at the Melia, and travel expenses.
Twitch poker guru Doug Polk will be with us. In his live-streaming video program, Doug teaches poker with astute commentary in offering insights gained from successfully grinding his way to fame and fortune. Nearly broke in 2011, by 2013 Polk was considered one of the best online cash game players. Now, with more than 20,000 viewers on YouTube, 30,000 followers on Twitch, and total live tournament earnings exceeding $5,000,000, he’s worth listening to!
And I get to meet Faraz Jaka, the Homeless Millionaire! By 2009 Jaka (29) was crowned Player of the Year by the World Poker Tour and had $2.5 million in poker winnings. He was worn out and thought it might be time to settle down. Six months in Chicago taught him that he wasn’t ready.
“I started to recognize that familiar feeling, being ‘pot committed.’ It’s a saying we have in poker. It means you’ve invested a bunch of chips, and even if your hand feels like a loser, you stay with it. But you have to have the discipline to throw it away and move on. And that’s exactly what I did.”
By 2012 he’d traveled to 45 cities in 13 countries. He was working along the way, hitting major poker tournaments and playing online, but experiencing so much more. For nearly four years, he’s been living out of a backpack and suit bag with not much more than a few t-shirts, a couple of pairs of shoes, a variety of plugs and adapters, and his laptop.
“You don’t have to be a professional poker player to live the lifestyle I’m living. Making changes takes effort, and most importantly, letting go. The reality is that we live in a changing world. And it’s never been easier to break free.”
He sounds like a very cool guy and I can’t wait to hang out with him in Punta Cana!
Punta Cana is in the Dominican Republic, on the same island as Haiti which was pummeled by Hurricane Matthew just a few weeks ago. And Hurricane Nicole has swept through the Caribbean basin since then. So yes, I’m a little nervous about flying into a storm! But mostly I’m just happy to be flying south since winter is really starting to settle in around here!
My videos from the 5-day Punta Cana Poker Classic featuring conversations with players and personalities begin Wednesday, October 26th.
Larry Colcy is a casino and poker blogger who’s Living the Dream video series have taken him to tournaments in Europe (CAPT Velden in Austria) and the Caribbean (TKPT St Maarten and CPT Punta Cana) with groups of online satellite winners. He’s also a regular contributor to Bluff Europe and Casino World magazines.