Is the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Headed Towards Extinction?

Steve Ruddock : January 9th, 2016

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On Friday morning PocketFives.com cofounder Adam Small posted a self-ascribed “bold-ish prediction” on Twitter, when he wondered if the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure would be around in the coming years.

After some sussing out, Small explained the reasons behind his speculation, which include (paraphrasing and extrapolating from Adam’s tweets) the growing rift between PokerStars and high-volume players, who he sees as one of the key demographics that makes the PCA work – Small wondered if the high-stakes community would continue to turn out for the tournament in future years. Small also wondered if the company’s U.S. return would see them move away from grand global tournaments and place a greater emphasis on smaller, local tournaments with a tie-in to their legal online gaming products.

It’s not often that this happens, but in this instance I completely disagree with Adam. My feeling is PokerStars is well positioned to launch a major North American poker tour, and that the PCA (at least in the early days) will be the centerpiece of this yet to be launched tour.

PokerStars is positioned to launch a major North American poker tour

In addition to the PCA, PokerStars has already secured several other potential venues, where they can host a live poker tournament series, through strategic partnerships.

In Atlantic City the company has partnered with Resorts Casino, and given their license to operate a legal online poker room in the state, this would seem like a prime location for them to host multiple live tournaments.

In California they have several high-profile partners, all capable of hosting a major poker tournament: Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens Casino, as well as the Morongo and San Manuel tribes brick & mortar casinos.

PokerStars also has past or current relationships with Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (Mohegan Sun hosted PokerStars short-lived NAPT tournaments in 2010 and 2011), The Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida (PokerStars allowed players to buy-in directly to the SHRPO via their online accounts and live-streamed the tournament in 2014), and the Playground Club in Montreal (PokerStars hosted Canada Cup tournaments at the casino).

Finally, it’s likely the company has had talks with multiple casinos in Pennsylvania (and perhaps in other states) about potential online poker partnerships that would almost certainly include the potential to host live tournaments.

Far from focusing on smaller local-level events (such as the Latin American Poker Tour or the UK and Ireland Poker Tour), PokerStars appears to be ready to launch a World Poker Tour sized initiative in North America, and the PCA would likely be the headliner event for this tour… at least in Season 1.

The PCA could be the cornerstone of the North American tour

The reason PokerStars will need the PCA (at least in the short-term) is the tournament’s current prestige and brand. The PCA is a well-known event that not only attracts massive fields, but it should convey instant credibility onto whatever poker tour it’s a part of.

On top of prestige, the PCA has two other things going for it:

  1. Unlike most U.S. poker tournaments, the PCA is an 18+ event that can attract players from around the globe;
  2. It takes place in the Bahamas in January, which should make winning a seat even more appealing to online poker players in New Jersey and other cold weather locales.

Why Small might be right

This isn’t to say I can’t envision a scenario where Adam is right; in fact, I can envision two that would see the PCA go the way of the dodo as soon as next year.

First, I’m not privy to the financials of the PCA, and if Amaya Gaming feels the benefits of the event don’t outweigh the costs, I could see them scrapping the tournament, particularly if they feel they can relocate the PCA to another venue without losing much in the way of attendance.

Second, and this is the more likely scenario in my opinion, PokerStars could make the PCA the cornerstone “Championship” event of their North American poker tour during the inaugural season and phase it out over time. This could happen in one of two ways:

  1. PokerStars could simply cut ties with Atlantis and end the PCA if one of their other events proves to have the potential to be a “Championship” caliber stop.
  2. PokerStars could replace the PCA as the Championship event in Season 2 and phase the tournament out over time based on its ability to maintain attendance numbers.

Upshot

I can certainly envision Small’s prediction coming to fruition, particularly if the financials don’t make sense, but considering their partnerships and the relationships they’ve sown over the years with casinos, PokerStars seems to be setting itself for a relaunch a major North American poker tour, and the PCA seems like an extremely valuable asset.

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