Making friends and memories at the PCA

Thumbnail image for PS Women logo.jpgWhere else but at the poker table at the PCA (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) would you have a chance to hang out and chat with TV celebrity Ricki Lake? For Tina Bergstom and Jennifer Tokarek that was the memory that stands out as the most memorable from their trips to the PCA. Ricki played the Ladies Event at the PCA in 2011 and wound up cashing in sixth place. During her time at the table Ricki made friends with many of the players, and Tina was one of them. "Who knew she would be on TV again!" Tina remarked, referring to her current talk show on U.S. television. "Very down to earth lady!" Jennifer Tokarek had a similar experience with Ricki and called her a "great neighbor at the poker table" who had lots of entertaining stories to make the day fly by. Celebrities are great and the PCA has a ton of them, but Ricki was a treat for everyone she met during the tournament that year.

But for both Tina and Jennifer it has been the friends they have made with other non-celebs that they keep in touch with regularly. Jennifer, who has attended the PCA for the last three years, says that she has met "so many amazing female players" at the tournament and keeps in touch with them on the poker circuit. Those connections and friendships have led to some great opportunities for her and lasting friendships. Tina mentioned that she and Jennifer became friends as a result of playing the Ladies Event and they have visited and played together several times since that first meeting. The PCA gives them a chance to reconnect every year, along with other friends they've made along the way. Tina, who usually travels by herself to the event, says that she looks forward to getting a chance to meet up with other friends while she's there. Jennifer is trying to trying to talk her mom, who is an avid poker player, into coming with her this year, but says that she has shared a room with a friend in past years.

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Tina Bergstrom, Jennifer Tokarek, and Carmenlita Cothron

Carmenlita Cothron, winner of the 2010 Million Dollar Challenge, made her first trip to the PCA to play the Ladies Event in 2011 as a prize for winning that challenge. One of the things that was really memorable for her that year was getting the chance to be a celebrity herself. She said that being recognized by some of the players there "kind of blew her away." This year she returned and scored some props from Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst for her play, which was even better. She wound up getting all in against Selbst three times, but Selbst knocked her out on the third attempt. That paled in comparison to the memory Carmen has of the remark she made afterwards, however. Selbst's comment to Carmen that "she respected my play" is something that meant a lot to her, "especially as we novices tend to question our play a lot." She must have been doing something right because she wound up placing third in a later tournament for a cash of $1675. It was a big event for her because it was only the second time she had ever played a live tournament. She really enjoys the variety of tournaments available at the PCA and says that games like Chinese poker, Badugi, and Deuce-to-7 Triple Draw are really fun to play and rarely available at other tournaments.

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Carmenlita Cothron

Networking was also mentioned as a big plus for Carmen and she has had the opportunity to become a co-host on a poker radio show as a result. But the appeal of the Atlantis resort is something that keeps bringing Carmen back as well. She says she has made lasting memories from her experiences "swimming with the dolphins, jet skiing, and walking across the bridge into the little souvenir shops."

For these three players and many more like them, the PCA is the highlight of their poker year. "I was so impressed with the structure and the various tournaments that I have made it an official stop of my tournament calendar every year," says Jennifer. If there ever came a time that I could only afford to go to one fly-away poker series a year, it would definitely be the PCA. It is the most fun and relaxing tournament on the planet." Tina commented that the PCA "has the BEST women players in the game." Comparing it to the WSOP Ladies Event she found the WSOP lacking. "I truly wish the WSOP Ladies event reflected the caliber of players that attend the PCA. Maybe I would play the WSOP event if it did. I absolutely enjoy the trip, gifts, events and party that PokerStars provides to its players." Carmen seconded that comment with this comment, "Ever since my first experience, I've been telling every poker player I know that this is an experience EVERY poker player should have at least once. I like it better than the WSOP Main Event in Vegas!"

So there you have it. The reasons (or some of them) why so many women return to the PCA every year to play the events, meet up with friends, and maybe hob nob with a few celebrities. Look for Tina, Jennifer, and Carmen at this year's PCA but in the meantime, read more PCA stories from former players in the next few weeks.

The PokerStars Women Live Event is slated for January 12, and satellite qualifiers are running now. The $3,250 prize package includes your buy-in for the women-only tournament, luxury hotel accommodations for three nights, and money for expenses. We hope to see you there. For more information, see PokerStars Women Live or the PCA page.

Rebekah Mercer
@PokerStars in PS Women