Today we witnessed a winner-takes-all, single-table tournament that was more than two years in the making.
For Italy’s Giada Fang, to say it was well worth the wait would be a drastic understatement.
The reason? She just won a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) 2023 worth $30,000.
Cast your minds back to 2020. To celebrate International Women’s Day, PokerStars asked the public to nominate women who had inspired and impacted the poker community. Suggestions came in droves and a long list was whittled down to a final nine.
Fang, a former doctor, was nominated for her efforts in promoting the game for women through both her prolific online play (she was a member of PokerStars Team Online from 2011 to 2017 and recently became the first European Female Supernova Elite), but also for her commentary on Italian poker streams which have inspired many women to play poker for the first time.
She spent 28 months preparing for today. And with her victory, she now has five months to prepare for the $25,000 PSPC 2023, which she’ll be playing in the Bahamas come January.
Fittingly, this women’s event all came down to a lady on the river.
Fang took an overwhelming chip lead into heads-up play against France’s Aurelie Reard; so big that she could set Reard all-in every hand with minimal risk to her stack.
Reard, a nine-year poker pro helping other women get into poker, picked up 9♥9♦ when Fang shoved with Q♣3♠ and it looked like a fantastic spot for a double up. The 6♠7♥J♦ flop and 4♠ turn were safe for Reard, but the Q♠ river sealed her fate and secured Fang the win.
Play kicked off around 1 pm local time and the action between the seven finalists (unfortunately Katie Stone and Jan Fisher couldn’t make it to Barcelona this week) started off slowly, hardly surprising considering the prize at stake.
The first important pot took place a few levels in between Christina Read–founder of the women’s poker group ‘Poker Queens’–and the eventual runner-up, Reard. The preflop all-in saw pocket fives go up against ace-jack, with both players on near-identical stacks. The board ran out 8♣3♥K♠J♥A♥ giving Reard the win and leaving Read with just a single 100 chip.
But all you need is a chip and a chair, right? Read would surely have repeated that mantra in her head after this next hand took place.
Terry Hatcher, a WSOP Circuit Ring winner who runs a women’s PokerStars Home Game that has raised more than $30,000 to date, kicked off the hand by opening A♥K♥. Fang then shoved over the top with A♣J♠ and as Read was forced all in from the small blind with 10♥2♣, that meant two players were at risk after Hatcher called.
We're down to the final four in the PSPC Women’s Platinum Pass Tournament.
— PokerStars LIVE (@PokerStarsLIVE) August 15, 2022
The 2♠Q♦10♠ flop gave Read top two pair and a strong chance of survival, but the K♣ hit the turn, giving Fang a straight. Hatcher needed a jack to survive, but the 10♦ didn’t help her and she was the first player eliminated. The river gave Read a full house but her stack was still minuscule compared with her opponents. Her hopes for a comeback were quickly quashed and she busted a few hands later.
The next to fall was Meichelle Culhane, a volunteer and poker teacher for senior citizens at the Broken Arrow Senior Activity Centre in Oklahoma. Her stack fell to just five big blinds and she put them all in when she picked up A♦5♦ in the cutoff. Reard called on the button and when the blinds folded she flipped over 3♥3♦. The flip began with the 2♥7♠7♥ flop, creating some counterfeit opportunities for Culhane, but the 6♠ turn and 7♦ river changed nothing and Culhane exited in fifth place.
Reard and Fang then clashed in a huge blind vs blind pot when Reard flopped top pair with A♣8♣ on A♠Q♣6♠, while Fang flopped the nut flush draw with K♠4♠. Reard checked it and Fang fired for 3,500, which was called. The 9♠ turn was gin for Fang and this time she led for 5,500 when checked to, which Reard called. The 6♣ hit the river and Fang fired for 8,800, less than a third of the pot, and this got another call from Reard. With that, Fang took a commanding lead.
She put her new chips to use and opened the button with Q♦Q♣. Lexi Sterner–who was nominated in part due to an inspiring poker story that led to her becoming a nurse–defended her big blind with 9♥8♣ and found herself in big trouble when the 9♦7♦3♣ flop fell. She understandably check-called a 6,000 c-bet, but when the J♥ hit the turn, Sterner came out firing and shoved for her last 22,500. Fang made the call with her overpair and dodged Sterner’s outs on the 3♦ river.
And then there were three. Both Reard and Daiva Byrne, founder of FLIP (“Fantastic Ladies in Poker”)–the largest global female-only poker community on Facebook, had a tall order with Fang possessing most of the chips in play. So when Fang open-jammed and Byrne picked up pocket jacks, she must have thought she’d be in great shape.
Alas, Fang had the goods with pocket kings and the cowboys held to take it down to heads-up. From there, Fang was just unstoppable.
“I just can’t wait to fly to the Bahamas!” she told Joe Stapleton after Jennifer Shahade presented her with her Platinum Pass.
We’re sure it’ll be worth the wait.
PSPC Women’s Platinum Pass Tournament
1 Giada Fang – Platinum Pass to the PSPC 2023
2 Aurelie Reard
3 Daiva Byrne
4 Lexi Sterner
5 Meichelle Culhane
6 Christina Read
7 Terry Hatcher