The PokerStars Championship in Panama has come to a close with Kenneth Smaron winning the Main Event and Steve O’Dwyer winning the $10,500 High Roller.
The first PokerStars Championship to hit Latin America has ended with three North Americans and a Brit taking home the biggest events on tap, and a record number of 6,100+ entries, and $9.3m+ in prize money spread over 46 unique events.
The PokerStars Championship Panama $5,300 buy-in Main Event attracted 366 entrants and a $1,775,100 prize pool. There were plenty of top dogs chasing down the title at the deepest end of the dive, but it was American, Kenneth Smaron, who took the $293,860 first prize after beating the Canadian Harpreet Gill in heads-up action. It’s the largest prize pool ever won in a Panamanian tournament.
The Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino played host to a final table that took 170 hands to reach its conclusion, but only nine of those took place in the final duel, which Smaron won when his KJcc beat the T8o of Gill in the race to the river after Gill had moved all-in.
The victory takes Smaron’s live tournament earnings to the $1.2m mark, and both of his biggest scores have come in PokerStars Live Events. In 2015, Smaron won the Season 12 European Poker Tour (EPT) €10,300 High Roller in Prague besting 252 entrants, including a final table containing The Jungleman, to win the top prize of $654,302.
Smaron, 32, was forced to flee from his home country post-Black Friday and now spends his time grinding online out of bases in Costa Rica and Colombia, where you can find him playing under the pseudonym ‘kenny05’.
Final Table Results
1. Kenneth Smaron – $293,860
2. Harpreet Gill – $217,860
3. Denis Timofeev – $161,340
4. Jonathan Abdellatif – $119,480
5. Robin Luca Wozniczek – $88,480
6. Anthony Diotte – $65,520
Other notables to run deep included the former 2015 Global Poker Index (GPI) Player of the Year, Byron Kaverman (8th), World Poker Tour (WPT) Bay 101 Shooting Stars final table bubble boy Igor Yaroshevskyy (10th), and Olivier Busquet’s punching bag JC Alvarado (13th). UFC Legend Tito Ortiz also cashed in the event finishing in 22nd place for a $16,080 payday.
98 players competing in the Main Event qualified via online satellites, including 40 via the hugely popular Spin & Go avenue.
PokerStars Championship Panama High Rollers
PokerStars Live events stand out because of the volume of high stakes professionals that follow the circuit. One of the stars of this bunch is Steve O’Dwyer, and the American took down the $10,500 High Roller beating 84 entrants, and Sam Greenwood in heads-up action, to take the first prize of $240,451. It was O’Dwyer’s first victory since April 2016 when he took down a $4,000 High Roller in Cyprus for $51,100.
O’Dwyer had a successful time in Panama, also finishing fourth in the $50,000 for $182,220, and 48th in the Main Event for a min-cash.
Final Table Results
1. Steve O’Dwyer – $240,451*
2. Sam Greenwood – $223,149*
3. Francois Billard – $123,780
4. Chris Hunichen – $100,300
5. Felipe Ramos – $80,560
6. Anthony Zinno – $62,690
7. Daian Salas – $49,620
8. Sam Chartier – $37,880
*Indicates a heads-up deal
As previously reported Ben Tollerene won the $50,000 Super High Roller earning $538,715, and Stephen Chidwick won the $10,500 Single Day High Roller for $366,500.
I reached out to PokerStars, Edgar Stuchly, to ask him a few questions about the Panama event and this is what he had to say:
Out of all the Latin American locations, why Panama?
“There are many reasons why we chose Panama for our second Championship stop. Panama City is a fascinating melting pot of cultural history and 21st-century life. This vibrant metropolis boasts plenty to see and do with great shops and restaurants and, of course, the famous Panama Canal. Panama is a safe place and also has great connectivity – it is very close to US and has good flight connections to Canada, Europe and the rest of LATAM. We have a strong local player base there too.”
How can you add more value, and are there any leaks you need to plug before you return?
“Post event analysis is extremely important to us – learning what worked and what didn’t so as we can optimise our future events to ensure we continue to offer players the ultimate gaming experience is key. As PokerStars Championship Panama 2017 has just ended, we will need to conduct an extensive debrief first and collate all the feedback so that we can analyse all the data holistically and optimise accordingly. However, one thing that can be said is that special efforts need to be taken to attract more of the travelling players and increase qualifier numbers for the Main Event.”
The PokerStars Championship now heads off to Macau March 30 – April 9.