Poker Returns To Aruba with the Players Poker Championship



It’s about time that poker returned to the beautiful island of Aruba. Ever since Ultimate Bet cancelled the Aruba Poker Classic after the 2009 edition, poker has yet to make a big splash back on the incredible Southern Caribbean island. That’s all going to change in May 2012, though, as poker is returning to Aruba with the Players Poker Championship.

Held at the Westin Resort and Casino Aruba from May 3 through 7, 2012, and boasting the slogan, “Aruba Poker is Back,” the series consists of six events ranging in buy-ins from $330 to $3,300. The biggest of all is the $3,000+300 No-Limit Hold’em Championship Event that kicks off on Friday, May 4 and is scheduled to run to Monday, May 7. For the Championship Event, players will receive 25,000 in starting chips with levels lasting 60 minutes and starting at 25/50.

PPC Commissioners Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton have been working diligently on hosting a tournament in Aruba since a marquee event was last held on the island in 2009. PokerNews reached out to Swartzbaugh for some comments regarding the event and here’s what he had to say.

“As poker players, we realized that players not only want to play in a top-of-the-line event, they want a destination location. Both [Oulton and I] are South Florida locals and thought the marriage of an island like Aruba and poker was perfect. Not to mention the feedback at the UB Aruba Classic did great numbers and players loved the beach, festivities and nightlife. The great thing about the Westin Resort and Casino in Palm Beach (couple hotels down from the Radisson where UB was) is all fun is accessible by foot. As you stated, [Aruba is an] incredible island. I personally could stay for a month and might after the tournament.”

2012 Players Poker Championship Schedule

Date Time Event Buy-In
Thursday, May 3 7:00 PM Mega Satellite $330+20
Friday, May 4 5:00 PM Championship Event $3,000+300
Saturday, May 5 12:00 PM No-Limit Hold’em $500+50
Saturday, May 5 9:00 PM No-Limit Hold’em Second Chance Turbo $300+30
Sunday, May 6 12:00 PM No-Limit Hold’em Mix-Max 10-8-6-4-2 $1,000+100
Sunday, May 6 9:00 PM No-Limit Hold’em Second Chance Turbo $300+30
Monday, May 7 12:00 PM No-Limit Hold’em Turbo Deepstack $500+50

Click here for the list of events, structures and hotel information.

In case you’re already salivating at the thought of poker right next to beaches with some of the whitest sand and bluest water in the world under the hot sun, grab a couple of napkins because it gets a bit better as Swartzbaugh tells us.

“After launching in May 2012, we are looking to expand our PPC Caribbean poker series. Ideally, we are looking at six events a year in locations such as the Bahamas, St. Croix and Turks, with a second event in Aruba hopefully this year if it fits the poker schedule.

“We have teamed up with the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park to run satellites all through the month of April. We will also be utilizing some of their world-class staff that includes Mike Smith, Director of Poker at the Isle. Mike will act as our Tournament Director for the PPC.” For information on those satellites, you can click here.

"We are excited to be associated with the PPC Aruba. It’s going to be a great event," Smith said.

Westin Resort Aruba

Westin Resort Aruba

From 2006 through 2009, Ultimate Bet’s Aruba Poker Classic attracted great field sizes. In 2006, the event had 512 entrants and grew to 548 in 2007. In 2008, the number of entrants increased again to 551 before falling off a little bit with 475 runners in 2009. Each of those events held a $5,000 buy-in to the Main Event and proved that Aruba was one of the top destinations on the circuit for poker players.

According to Oulton, the PPC expects between 100 and 300 players for the Championship Event. He knows that’s a wide number, but has high hopes and explained, "We’re expecting 100-300 players. It is a broad range, but we feel that we’ll be somewhere in the middle of that number. Any first-year event has its concerns with draw, but the combination of our marketing, satellites in South Florida, player advisory board and our friendships and associations in the poker community will lead us to a tremendous launch in year one. We have the facilities to host over 400 players, so we are ready for the masses."

To help draw players to the event, Swartzbaugh mentioned, “In year one, we have focused our efforts on heavy grassroots marketing throughout South Florida, local pros, TwoPlusTwo and satellites at the Isle Casino. We are also very active in social media via Facebook and Twitter."

When it the poker experience in Aruba, here’s what Oulton says players should look forward to.

"Top-of-the-line poker, designed for players by players. Our players advisory board will help us keep us on the cutting edge of what players are looking for in tournaments. From the eight-handed Championship Event to the Mix-Max format tournament, we will give players exciting events not often seen outside of the WSOP or LAPC. In addition, with the host hotel being the Westin, we have a superior space for holding our events in, with cash game availability in the same space as the tournament areas, so players need not be spread throughout the hotel to play. Also, the conference space is beautiful and much more spacious than previously experienced in Aruba."

PokerNews also reached out to a few players planning to attend the event. Matt Waxman, Steve Karp and Taylor von Kriegenbergh are all planning on attending.

Waxman from his 2010 WSOP Circuit victory in Atlantic City

Waxman from his 2010 WSOP Circuit victory in Atlantic City

Waxman is a former World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker Circuit champion and very optimistic about the size of the event. He was also drawn in by the location, saying, “It was a great location and was expected to have a huge prize pool. It’s going to be a real fun time. Great time of year to go.”

He goes on to add, “The PPC is the ‘Players Poker Championship’ and the great thing about these guys is they really care about accommodating the players. They consider everything from the reasonable hotel rates (for Aruba) to providing the best structure possible. This should be a fun stop and a nice, relaxing getaway before the WPT Championship and WSOP grind!”

Karp mentioned that he was at the last event held in Aruba. Karp has nearly $700,000 in live tournament earnings including numerous WSOP and WPT cashes to his name. The main reasons he’ll be attending are the “excellent deep structure and the $1,100 mixed 8-6-2-8 handed is really interesting."

“I expect this to be a world-class event ran by people that are not profit-driven, but really want to see their brand (series) succeed. The guys behind this event want to give the players exactly what they want and, most importantly, a series that brings poker back to Aruba for years to come.”

Both Waxman and Karp are on the PPC’s player advisory board with four others. Those other four are Darryll Fish, Hayden Fortini, Tim Morgan and David Castranova. Putting together a committee of players to assist with the happenings of the PPC helps to ensure the best possible tournament experience is put forth by the PPC.

Fish mentioned that he has yet to make a trip to Aruba, but is looking very forward to it. "I’m always interested in poker tournaments located in exotic, exciting places, where there’s lots to do outside the poker room, and as I said I’ve been regretting the fact that I never went to the UB event, so I’m really excited that the guys at PPC are bringing it back down there. Also it doesn’t conflict with any other event I’d want to play during that week, so it’s an easy decision for me," Fish said.

Fourth-place finisher from the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Xuan Liu is also thinking of attending the PPC. Here’s what she had to say about the possibility of heading down for the event.

“I’ve never been to Aruba before, but I have heard fun stories about the Aruba Poker Classic when UB was in its glory days. I’ve been told it has a very different vibe than the gargantuan resort feel of PCA — the island tends to be more laid back and all the players have more of a chance to hang out together due to the size of the hotel.

“This will be my last vacation before WSOP, so I will spend a lot of time relaxing on the beach and mentally preparing for a competitive summer. I expect the main event field to be fun and manageable, from complete recreational tourists to WPT boot camp students to a few tournament regs. Being able to buy-in with US dollars without the downside of US tax withholding as a Canadian is also a big incentive to play.”

You can find all information pertaining to the PPC Aruba on their website. There is also an active thread on the TwoPlusTwo forums. In order to get all the latest PokerNews updates on your social media outlets, follow PokerNews on Twitter and like us on Facebook today!

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Ante Up Magazine

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