"It hasn't sunk in yet. It feels unbelievable, surreal. I can't believe it's happening," was the reaction from 22-year-old Canadian poker pro Poorya Nazari over the weekend, immediately after winning the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main prize of $3 million after coming out tops on a roster of globally respected poker aces. Nazari's win includes a sponsored seat in the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo later this (2009) year, which will be his first trip to Europe.
And the Richmond Hill, Canada player did it all on $33 – he qualified for the PCA through a $33 rebuy turbo tournament – a series of aggressive, quick-paced Internet games. 746 of the players who started in the main event this year had won their seats online at Pokerstars qualifiers.
The 22 year-old biochemistry graduate was one of 1 347 entrants in the $10 000 buy-in, NLHE event – an entry field that broke the records for a poker tournament held outside the United States and created a total prize pool of more than $12.5 million.
Played at the spectacular Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, this year's PAC saw every final table player – Nazari, Tony Gregg, Benny Spindler, Alexandre Gomes, Pieter Tielen, Dustin Dirksen, Daniel Heimiller and Kevin Saul – collect six figure or bigger prizes.
Team PokerStars Pro and 2008 WSOP bracelet winner Alexandre Gomes started the final table action as the chip leader, with Nazari in second lead. Gomes subsequently busted out in fourth place in the first few hours of aggressive, adventurous play. The game slowed somewhat following the first burst of activity, and it was a further four and a half hours of tough, gruelling poker before the heads up was decided.
Nazari faced Tony Gregg in the final minutes of a highly entertaining tournament, with the young Canadian holding a massive chip advantage of 17.7 million chips against Gregg’s 9.2 million. It was all over in a mere four hands. Gregg collected $1.7 million for his second placing, with third placed Benny Spindler taking home $1.1 million.
Nazari graduated in biochemistry from McMaster University only late last year, but he has been playing poker successfully for some time and is especially adept in the Internet environment, playing at Poker Stars.com and winning enough for the game to be his main source of income for several years.