Mark Drover is working towards a Masters in political science at Memorial University in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. He qualified for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars after reaching stage five in the Steps program and joining the $700 qualifier, meaning he’ll now get a great return on his investment. Two of his friends from St John’s also qualified for the PCA on PokerStars, and they have been railing Drover since being knocked out themselves.
Drover, 24, normally plays mid-stakes online multi-table tournaments, but he has made four Venetian Deepstack final tables in Las Vegas as well as one World Series of Poker cash, giving him total live tournament earnings so far of $34,497. That figure has been far eclipsed here at this final table.
Anthony Gregg started playing poker at age 18. Once an online cash game specialist and mid-stakes regular, the young man from Maryland in the United States made his biggest live poker score right here at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at age 22. In 2009, Gregg finished in second place to Poorya Nazari in the PCA Main Event.
At the time, Gregg was on a complete freeroll after cashing in 800,000 of his Frequent Player Points for a seat in the Main Event. His score was worth $1.7 million. Gregg’s appearance at the 2012 final table will be the first time anyone has made two PCA Main Event final tables.
Now 25, Gregg has been focusing on playing live games in the Washington D.C. area. He said, “It's really cool making the PCA final again. I don't think anyone has ever done that. I'm the short stack for tomorrow, so not really under any pressure.”
Back in December, the 30-year-old - who works in sales for Mill St Brewery - took part in a competition run by online payment company Ukash. Everyone who took part in the “Ukash Ultimate Experience” was entered into a prize draw – and David Bernstein was the player selected at random just three days after Christmas.
The prize included free flights to the Bahamas, nine nights’ accommodation, a live tutorial, a meet-and-greet with a member of Team PokerStars Pro and – most importantly – a seat in the Main Event. A week ago he told the PokerStars blog: “The feeling of winning the competition was surreal. It felt like a dream. Now I am
going to try and win the tournament and take the money home to my family."
Ruben Visser took up online poker while studying business and marketing at college. He is still at college, but now combines studying for a Masters in entrepreneurship with playing poker. His first live cash came in 2008 when he made the final table of a €500 event in Prague. At the time, his online career was also heating up and results included winning the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up for $113,000.
In 2009, Visser finished 20th in a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure side event and in June came 11th in the World Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event, before winning a €400 side event a few days later. His biggest cash to date was runner-up in a €5,000 side event during the Season 6 EPT Grand Final for €171,450. Last summer he finished 44th in the World Series of Poker Main Event for $196,174 and only a month ago he took down a €1,000 event in Venlo, Holland, for €42,000.
Visser was born in Amsterdam and had a childhood in which sports played a large part; he excelled at hockey, tennis, football and snowboarding. He has made more than $600,000 so far in live tournament winnings and considerably more in online poker tournaments.
Faraz Jaka, poker professional, entrepreneur and fashion figure, has dominated large swathes of this tournament having built a huge stack early on Day 2. He has relinquished the chip lead at times, but only briefly, and it never seemed that it was going to lose it for long.
“I’ve been playing professionally for around three years, but I’m going to slow things down to focus more on www.axiscasterboarding.com, which I’m really pushing as a sport,” said Jaka, a player known to be as creative with his dress sense as he is with his poker play.
Jaka has racked up $2,394,969 in live tournament winnings over the last five years with his largest single cash being $774,780. To make a career high score the American will have to get to heads-up play. “Only the top two will do it,” said Jaka, but he starts in the best position to do so as he's at the top of the board entering the day.
John Dibella is a 43-year-old stock trader and hails from Westchester, New York. He qualified for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event in a $1,000 satellite earlier in the week and has parlayed that into a seat at the final table worth at least $156,400. His third time at the PCA, Dibella previously cashed in the Main Event in 2008 when he finished 60th for $16,000 (his largest cash on record).
In total, Dibella has just $42,405 in career tournament earnings. That means by making this final table, he's already more than tripled that. He'll enter the the day slightly below average in chips sitting in fifth position out of the remaining eight players.
Xuan Liu is the first woman to ever appear at a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event final table. Her breakthrough came when she won PokerStars’ Italian Poker Tour San Remo €1,000 side event in December 2010 for €48,000 and then, only a few months later finished third at EPT San Remo for $524,705; a stand-out result in total career winnings so far of $655,886. She is already guaranteed $156,400 here, but she looks like a good bet to get much more as the final progresses.
Liu, 25, has always been fascinated by games of skill and chance, and used to play hands of poker against herself from six years old. But it was at Waterloo University back home in Ontario, Canada where she started playing regularly. It was a poker hotbed that was also home to the likes of Mike ‘Timex’ McDonald, former EPT Grand Final winner Glen Chorny, Michael Watts and Steve Paul.
After school, Liu switched from cash to live tournaments, a move which now looks like the best decision of her life.
The 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event final table is guaranteed to be a career-high live score for Illinois native Kyle Julius, but the poker pro has plenty of experience on his side, not to mention a big stack, heading into today’s action.
Julius, who made a name for himself online under the screenname “KJulius10”, has over $1 million in winnings on PokerStars, including a win in the Sunday 500 in January of 2011 worth around $87,000. His previous best live score was a third-place finish in a 2010 Venetian Deep Stack event worth $65,861. He also made a deep run at last month’s World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio, finishing in 12th.
Julius first learned to play poker when his older brother, Ryan, 27, came home from his freshman year of college and told the younger Julius he should take up the game. Little brother listened to his big brother and, after a brief stint studying at Northern Kentucky University, Kyle started playing poker full time. Kyle says Ryan, who was playing in the PCA$25,000 High Roller today, is the better player of the two, but both are well known in online poker circles as tough competitors.
Welcome back to PokerNews' coverage of the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure from the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.
The Main Event began almost one week ago and after six days of poker, a field of 1,072 is left with just eight players looking to capture the $2,000,000 first-place prize and a place in the PCA record books. Leading the way with 6.47 million is Faraz Jaka, the man who has held the chip lead after Days 2, 4, and now into the final table.
Yesterday's action saw the chip lead change multiple times throughout the late stages of the night as Jaka, Kyle Julius (6.45 million), and Xuan Liu (6.355 million) are within one big blind of each other. Firmly entrenched in fourth place is Ruben Visser (4.4 million), followed by John Dibella in fifth place (3.465 million).
David Bernstein (1.96 million), Mark Drover (1.43 million), and 2009 PCA Runner-Up Anthony Gregg (1.16 million) round out the final table, each with less than seventeen big blinds, so don't be surprised to see some fast and furious action in the early stages.
The final table will begin at 1:00pm local time, but our coverage will begin at about 1:40pm along with the live stream.