HomeThe ShuffleMinsk Pro Shylko Wins PSPC for $3.1 Million

Minsk Pro Shylko Wins PSPC for $3.1 Million

Aliaksandr Shylko from Belarus, won the PokerStars Players Championship and pocketed a cool $3.1 million.

Aliaksandr Shylko, a 26-year-old Belarusian pro, won the second installment of the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) which capped off the return of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in the Bahamas at the Baha Mar Resort.

PokerStars intended to host the second running of the PSPC in Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2020, but as we all know, the world got turned upside down during the pandemic. With live poker and the tournament circuit shutdown for a couple of years, PokerStars still intended to host the PSPC as soon as they could.

2023 PSPC Final Table Results

  • 1st Place: Aliaksandr Shylko (Belarus) — $3.1 million
  • 2nd Place: Max Menzel (Germany) — $2.8 million
  • 3rd Place: Philipe Pizzari (Brazil) — $2.5 million
  • 4th Place: Nacho Barbero (Argentina) — $1.5 million
  • 5th Place: Pedro Marques (Portugal) — $1.2 million
  • 6th Place: Niclas Thumm (Germany) — $1 million

When PokerStars decided to reinstate the PCA after a multi-year layoff, they also made a wise decision to include the PSPC on the schedule and the PSPC returned to the Bahamas.

The PSPC is a $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event which attracted 1,014 runners, including 418 Platinum Pass winners. In total, the second-ever PSPC generated a prize pool worth $24,843,000, which fell short of eclipsing the inaugural PSPC that took place in 2019. Only the top 175 places paid out, with $4.05 million originally set aside for the champion.

The 2023 PSPC final table included two Platinum Pass winners from Germany and a Brazilian businessman living in Miami. Three pros advanced to the final table, and they represented Portugal, Argentina, and Belarus.

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Meet the Final Table Players

Jose ‘Nacho’ Barbero, a well-known pro from Buenos Aires, sits at the top of the all-time tournament money list from Argentina. These days he focuses primarily on high-stakes cash games. He won three events on the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT) including back-to-back events in 2010. Nacho won his first-ever WSOP bracelet last summer.

Aliaksandr Shylko, a pro from Minsk, is a semi-regular on the European Poker Tour (EPT). He cut his teeth playing cash games in Belarus before he shifted his focus to live tournaments in Europe, and grinding online tournaments.

Philipe Pizzari is originally from Sao Paolo, Brazil, but lives in Miami, Florida. He used to earn his living as an online poker player before he took a “real job” in finance when he got married and had kids. He currently plays tournaments in Florida, and the Bahamas was a short flight away for him.

Pedro Marques recently moved into second place on the all-time money list in Portugal. The pro has multiple six-figure cashes on his resume, and won a couple side events on the EPT.

Max Menzel is originally from Berlin, Germany, and he carved out a decent bankroll while playing online poker during his university days. Like many former online pros, he settled into a day job after he got married and started a family. He worked in China for almost a decade, but still held a passion for poker, and played high-stakes cash games in Macau. He relocated to Singapore for his job, and secured a PSPC Platinum Pass by winning a qualifying event in the Philippines.

Niclas Thumm is an accountant in Germany, who played low-stakes tournaments. As an aspiring Twitch streamer, he entered the PokerStars Dare2Stream competition. He did not win the competition, but he won the community award, which included a PSPC Platinum Pass and a free trip to the Bahamas.

Final Table Action

Barbero entered the PSPC final table as the big stack with $19.3 million, followed by Shylko with $12.2 million. The two Germans —Menzel and Thumm —were the short stacks, but they had the largest and loudest rail. Seems like every German in the Caribbean were cheering on their fellow countrymen at the Baha Mar.

Thumm was the first player eliminated when his Ace-deuce were outgunned by Barbero’s Kd-Qd. Barbero flopped a pair of Kings and rivered trips to win the pot. Thumm went home in sixth place, but parlayed his Platinum Pass freeroll into a cool million bucks.

Barbero relinquished the chip lead on a live mis-click. He was in the small blind, and thought he was in a battle of the blinds without anyone else in the pot. He raised to 5M, and the big blind folded, but he didn’t realize that Shylko had opened the action from early position. Shylko woke up with pocket Jacks and re-raised all-in. Barbero had to fold his paltry 9d-3d and he lost $5 million in chips. Shylko seized the lead shortly after, and Barbero did everything he could to get off tilt after his rookie mistake.

Marques busted in fifth place when his Big Slick lost to Pizzari’s Ad-6d. Pizzari issued a bad beat when he rivered a six to win the pot.

With four remaining, Barbero and Pizzari jousted in a battle of the blinds. Barbero, from the big blind, caught a piece of the flop with 8-5 offsuit. However, Pizzari flopped two pair with 5-3 offsuit. Pizzari won the pot, and Barbero met his fate in fourth place.

After Barbero’s elimination, the final three players agreed on an ICM money chop. As the big stack with $26 million in chips, Shylko got $2.9 million in the deal. Menzel was second in chips with $20 million, and he secured $2.7 million. Pizzari was third overall with 14M, and he locked up $2.5 million. According to the three-way deal, the winner won an additional $200,000 and the coveted PSPC trophy, while the runner-up got $100,000.

The final three put on a good show. Menzel momentarily snagged the chip lead, but Shylko regained it back in a heck of a cooler. Menzel’s pocket Queens ran into Shylko’s pocket Aces.

A short-stacked Pizzari’s epic run ended in third place after he made a final stand with Jh-7h. Menzel picked him off with Ks-Qs. Menzel flopped two pair, but Pizzari picked up a heart flush draw. The turn and river did not help Pizzari, so Menzel faded the flush, and dragged the pot. Pizzari he busted in third place, which paid out $2,524,871 according to the deal.


Max Menzel

When heads-up began, Shylko held a $41.4 million to $19.5 million chip lead over Menzel. However, the German could not pull off a comeback against the Belarussian because heads-up lasted only one hand.

Both players limped into the final hand. Holding 10h-5c, Shylko flopped trip fives on a board of 8c-5d-5h. Menzel bet the flop with Jc-9s and Shylko only called.

The 10s hit the turn. Menzel picked up an open-ended straight draw and bet away. Shylko improved to a full house, but opted to slow play his monster hand and he only smooth called.

Fireworks occurred when the Queen of clubs spiked on the river. Menzel made his straight and he thought he could set a trap against Shylko, so he checked the river. Shylko bet the river, and Menzel check-raised all-in. Shylko could not call fast enough with a full boat. Menzel’s Queen-high straight lost to Shylko’s full house with fives over tens.

“Sick, sick cooler,” said Menzel.

Menzel earned his PSPC buy-in with a Platinum Pass, and the stoic German parlayed his freeroll into a $2.8 million payday for a second-place finish.

Shylko won the 2023 PSPC and became another overnight sensation on the international poker circuit. He banked $3.1 million for first place, which marked the biggest cash of his career. With the victory in the Bahamas, Shylko moved into third place on the all-time Belarussian money list.

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