Elena's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure
At the beginning of 2014, I have to admit I was feeling kind of pessimistic about poker. The online options here in the US have been steadily deteriorating, and playing in casinos takes more effort and patience than I usually care to muster. Once upon a time, I had fancy ideas about making poker my profession, but as each year goes by, that goal feels less and less attainable.
I am a recovering academic, having completed a Ph.D. in Psychology at UCLA in 2009. I began studying poker after I finished my degree, and before long, I had dropped any sensible career plans and devoted all my energy to playing a card game on the Internet. I was diligently working my way up the stakes when Black Friday came along and destroyed all our hopes and dreams and bankrolls. Reluctantly, I returned to the academic sector and have been cobbling together an income from teaching and editing gigs for the past couple years. But I still try to fit in as much poker as I can manage, and I relish every opportunity to get the hell out of the States and play on PokerStars!
I was super excited for a tropical island getaway to the Bahamas, and this is the second year I've tagged along to PCA with my boyfriend, Mickey Petersen. Mickey is a member of Team PokerStars Online, and you can learn all about him in this recent PokerStars short film (I also have a bit part as supporting actress!):
Once we got settled at the Atlantis resort, I immediately began grinding a full schedule of online tournaments. It was raining when we got to town, but even when the sun came out, I preferred playing online to hitting the beach or riding the waterslides. I spent my first five days at PCA happily clicking buttons, minus a couple short breaks for live cash games or drinks with friends. I missed out on getting a suntan, and I definitely did not partake in my fair share of Bahama Mamas, but my antisocial efforts paid off; one fine day, I took down "The Big $27.50" for $6,570.94!
That win provided me with a nice confidence boost going into the PCA Women's Event. Although an $1,100 buy-in is on the larger side for me, I allow myself the occasional splurge for a fun live tournament, particularly when there are ladies involved. When I got to my table, my first order of business was accepting a special delivery from Team Online's Daleroxxu - a lovely bottle of Taittinger Rose Champagne! I vowed I would drink it if I won the event (and also if I didn't).
A cool thing I've found about ladies events is that most players have a genuine and vested interest in the female poker community. People are friendly and interested in conversing - and not solely for the purpose of prying information from their opponents. When my tablemates started talking, it turned out that many knew each other by their screen names from playing in the satellites and weekly $55 PokerStars Women's Sunday tournaments. I love that online women's tournaments are beginning to foster a community that spans both online and live arenas.
I maintained a decent stack up to the dinner break, when everyone headed to the PokerStars party. Mickey had just busted from the $25K High Roller, which was a bummer, but at least it meant he could come party with us! We even got to meet two of my biggest idols, EPT Live commentators James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton. I've been watching the livestreams and bothering these guys on Twitter for a couple years now, so I enjoyed the opportunity to bother them in person.
The open bar was tempting, but I responsibly limited myself to one party drink, and this allowed me to stay vigilant, as play stretched into the wee hours. I ended the night third in chips, with 17 players left and nine spots paying.
Day 2 began with excitement and tension in the air, as everyone was keenly aware of the looming bubble. As one of the chip leaders, my plan was to put pressure on basically everyone else, and I accumulated a lot of chips while the shorter stacks were forced to play more cautiously. When the bubble broke and we moved to one table, I had been so hyper-focused that it barely had a chance to sink in - this was my first final table at a live event!
The final table was the toughest I have ever faced at a ladies event - or at any live event, for that matter. There were several accomplished pros in the mix, including Fatima de Melo, Amanda Musumeci, and Loni Harwood, and I was proud that I could hold my own among this talented group. After a long and arduous day of ups and downs, I eventually finished in second place for $14,460! This was my biggest cash and best live finish to date, so I was very happy with the outcome. Of course, I would have preferred to win, but to perform this well at my first live final table was enough of a win for me!
After the tournament, Mickey and I had a fabulous dinner at Nobu and then went out for some celebratory drinks. I met some amazing people at PCA this year and even got some top-secret strategy tips from Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst, who was also celebrating what may have been the best PCA performance of anyone ever. I finally got to reward myself with some tropical cocktails, and of course, we didn't forget the lucky pink champagne!
Before PCA, I was unsure if I'd be playing much poker in 2014, but after winning over $20,000 in one week, my outlook for this year has become decidedly brighter! Those funds will definitely help bankroll some more poker trips, and I'm heading over to London to see Mickey in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to stepping out for some posh games at the Hippodrome, and we'll also be hopping over to Ireland for UKIPT Dublin at the end of February. Maybe I'll see some of you there!