For the first time in four years, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is underway in the Bahamas. Long a staple on the poker calendar, a $100,000 High Roller and the $10,000 PCA main event kick off a couple of weeks of serious tournament action.
What a lot of people don’t know, or have perhaps forgotten over the last two decades, is that the inaugural edition of the PCA was part of the World Poker Tour schedule for Season 2. In January 2004, 221 players boarded a cruise ship to battle it out for a top prize of $455,780. Gus Hansen ultimately defeated fellow WPT Champions Club member Hoyt Corkins heads up to capture a then-record-setting third WPT title. It would be another six years before Carlos Mortensen matched that feat.
The first PCA main event final table didn’t lack for accomplishments and characters. Runner-up Corkins would become a two-time WPT winner a few years later. You may have heard of the third-place finisher as well – Daniel Negreanu. The following season, Negreanu would win twice on the World Poker Tour, and with a multitude of poker accomplishments along the way, Negreanu eclipsed $50 million in career tournament earnings in the last week.
Two satellite winners – Michael Benedetto of Virginia and Remco Schrijvers from the Netherlands – finished fourth and sixth, respectively. Outside of a 2006 World Series of Poker main event cash by Benedetto, neither has gone on to record a major result in a buy-in over $600 since those results.
But then there’s John D’Agostino, who would go on to finish fifth. It was the first recorded tournament cash of the then-21-year-old D’Agostino’s poker career. In what would become a breakout year, D’Agostino would finish second to Phil Ivey that July in the $10,000 Turning Stone American Poker Championship, which aired on Fox Sports Net. That final table also featured John Juanda, Robert Williamson III, Paul Phillips and Erik Seidel. That October, D’Agostino made another big run at the United States Poker Championship in Atlantic City, finishing sixth at a final table that once again featured Corkins. D’Agostino went on to make two more WPT final tables over the following two years.
Three more PCA main events graced WPT airwaves. In 2005, “Gentleman” John Gale took the title and an $890,000 payday. The following year, Steve Paul-Ambrose was the first to eclipse a $1 million prize at the PCA, outlasting a field of 724. And in the final WPT edition of the tournament, Ryan Daut defeated Isaac Haxton heads up to win over $1.5 million, at a final table that also featured Robert Mizrachi and Jonathan Little.
Many careers have been made over the years at the PCA, and a few more names could very well be added to that list in 2023. But in terms of narrative and accomplishment, any final table is going to have to hit a high threshold to match or eclipse the original.