Marty Derbyshire

Online poker players in New Jersey had the chance play the PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour last weekend but not before the tour finished up a three-stop California swing.

The PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour is built around a plan to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s boom-sparking 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event win. It does so by giving away $30,000 packages to the 2019 PokerStars Poker Players Championship in the Bahamas for the winners of a $86 buy-in Main Event at each stop.

Speaking of that number, Moneymaker’s improbable journey from Tennessee accountant to poker’s World Championship started with a $86 online satellite on PokerStars.

The packages include a $25,000 PSPC tournament buy-in, plus Atlantis Paradise Island accommodations and money for travel and expenses. Overall, PokerStars is giving away more than 300 PSPC packages, also known as Platinum Passes. However, the PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour offers one of the only ways to win one while inside the US and for such an affordable buy-in.

As for this state, California lawmakers have spent a decade debating whether to legalize and regulate online poker with no results.

California Platinum Pass winners

The first stop in the tour was held at Stones Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights near Sacramento on Aug. 4. More than 800 players turned up to vie for the Platinum Pass. However, local Cliff Ellefson booked the win and his way into the 2019 PSPC.

Ellefson told live-stream commentators he’d never experienced anything like the tour coming to Stones. People were lined up around the corner to get in. He said it all played out like a dream.

Next up came the Colma Aug. 26 stop at Lucky Chances in the Bay Area. This time, the $86 main event drew a whopping 1,072 players. In the end, a 76-year-old Lucky Chances regular from Belmont, John Mokhtari, won the Platinum Pass.

A favorite of the local crowd, Mokhtari started the day short but persevered to capture the win and delight onlookers. Mokhtari said he has no idea why they love him so much. The trip will be his first to the Bahamas, and his wife is coming along.

One quick jaunt east

The tour made a quick jaunt east to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, where New Yorker Ronald Mici got the best of a field of 1,300 entries to capture the $30,000 Platinum Pass. However, it soon came back to the Golden State to finish out the California leg.

The final stop was in Los Angeles County where the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens played host on Sept. 22. The PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour $86 main event at Gardens Casino saw more than 700 players enter. The 28-year-old Ori Kossonogi, an Israel native who lives in San Diego, claimed the victory and Platinum Pass.

Kossonogi said Moneymaker’s win first inspired him to play, and his Magic The Gathering background gave him an excellent strategic foundation. He’s looking to add his first big score to his poker resumé in the Bahamas.

Next up for the Moneymaker tour

In addition to the New Jersey online event, the PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour plans to stop at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Maryland Live! in Maryland, the Peppermill in Reno, and Talking Stick in Arizona before it’s through.

Dates and venues are subject to change. However, it looks like California players who want to win a Platinium Pass will have to go out of state.

The PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour wraps up at the beginning of November. The 2019 PokerStars Poker Players Championship will go off in the Bahamas in January.

Marty Derbyshire
Marty Derbyshire - Martin Derbyshire is a veteran of the world of poker and gambling, having worked as a reporter, producer, and editor in the industry for more than a decade. He has traveled the globe interviewing high-profile personalities and contributes to a number of publications, including USPoker.com, PlayCA.com, and PlayNJ.com.