Filipino Marc Rivera, a 43-year-old former Civil Engineer turned poker pro from Quezon City, represented the Philippines in the largest $25,000 buy-in tournament in history to outlast more than 1,000 aspirants and land in third place for a record-breaking US$2,168,000 cash prize. Rivera's achievement at the recently concluded Pokerstars (No Limit Hold 'Em) Players Championship (PSPC) in the Bahamas now installs him as the best Filipino poker player on the planet in terms of earnings.
Not bad for someone who gained entry into this prestigious international event for absolutely free.
Rivera, who has been an icon in the Philippine poker scene for over a decade now, took down the 2018 Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) National Philippines Main Event title which had a buy-in of PhP30,000 (US$575) and more than eight hundred entrants. Besides winning the trophy and the top purse of over P4.5 million (US$85,940), the tournament came with what is known as a "Platinum Pass" which enabled Rivera to qualify for the annual undertaking in the island paradise-a part of the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure (PCA)-at the cost of merely airfare and board and lodging. The PCA is acknowledged as the second most important competition in the poker calendar year after the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in the summer.
Armed with one of ten Platinum Passes handed out to deserving players from all around the globe by Pokerstars-the largest online poker entity in the world, Rivera proceeded to turn his zero investment into a goldmine.
Rivera, the oldest of four poker brothers who storm the international circuit with great success, began brandishing his inimitable playing style that has allowed him to net victories in four countries prior to the PSPC.
Considered as a "Poker Guru" in the Philippines due to his mentorship of several renowned pros, such as his younger brothers Euryd, Ashby and Czardy, he also helped develop former billiards campaigner Mike Takayama who recently became the first Filipino to win an event in the WSOP.
Rivera went on to school the field of 1,089 seasoned pros and talented amateurs from every corner of the world. His run, however, was not without its missteps and several times Rivera barely made it through to the next day of competition. But his vast experience and resilience enabled him to nail the biggest cash ever by a Filipino.
He had made a grand total of US$304,648 in his entire live poker tournament career and his accomplishments now push him way ahead of legendary former World Poker Tour (WPT) champion Noli Francisco atop the all-time Philippine moneylist. Francisco, a Cebu-born New York City resident was only one of two poker millionaires before Rivera with his total earnings of US$1,350.000.00. The other is young gun John "Jojo" Tech who had amassed US$1.108,580 in total winnings-highlighted by triumphing in the 2017 MBP Summer Showdown Main Event in Macau for almost US$600,000.
Rivera's payday in the PSPC equates to a staggering PhP113,028,680.
Another Platinum Pass entry in Ramon Colillas of Spain went on to top the event for the top purse of US$5.1M while France's Julien Martini settled for second place and US$2.9 million.
"There was a lot of pressure knowing that I was representing the Philippines," Rivera said in an exclusive interview with ESPN5 from the Bahamas. "I knew that every decision I made, the whole Philippine poker community was praying for me and while I'm disappointed I wasn't able to win it for the country, I'm still very happy with the run."
Rivera was joined by Takayama and renowned international champion Lester Edoc of Benguet in the PSPC to carry the Philippine banner and while the duo were railed early, the support they gave was more than instrumental in the historic finish.
"Lester and Choké (Takayama's nickname) were a big help. It's great to have countrymen supporting you so far away from home," the known Pot Limit Ohama (PLO) specialist shared. "My wife (Ghie) was also here to cheer and I know my brothers back home also rallied all of our friends to stay up and watch the final table on live stream. I'll celebrate this with the community when we return but I'm thankful to be given this opportunity by Pokerstars (via the Platinum Pass). I also am very grateful for the support of the Metro Card Club (Rivera's home turf). I think I'll play more tournaments from now on."