PCA 2014: Cast of Hundreds
It happens all the time during the PCA. Somebody comes up to me, shakes my hand, and says, "This is amazing, Lee - I've had a great time; thanks for all the hard work you do." Needless to say, it's gratifying and I'm gracious in accepting the compliment. But I'm always careful to tell people that I'm just one guy out of hundreds who make the event what it is.
And in fact, I need go no further than Joe Stapleton, who recently won the Bluff Magazine Poker Commentator of the Year award. To anybody who congratulates him on the award, Joe says, "Well, that award is for James (Hartigan) too, at least. But really it's for everybody on the TV team. I'm just the guy whose voice they hear - but without all these other folks, I'm nothing."
Joe gets it.
If Joe and I tried to tell you about all the people who make the PCA happen, you'd get bored long before we finished. The people who manage our Team Pros and the folks who man the player lounge. The dealers, floor staff, and tournament directors (Trivia quiz: how many PCAs has chief tournament director Mike Ward worked? Trick answer: how many PCAs have there been?). The TV people of whom Joe speaks - producers and camera-persons, directors and card recorders and gaffers. Sound-people and coordinators and people whose jobs I don't even begin to understand but without whom there'd be no webcast. The registrations people who get thousands of players into dozens of events, and the staff at the PCA bank who handle deposits and withdraws. Bloggers, photographers, and media people who get the words and pictures out to a voracious poker community.
Chief event organizer James White (Spanish name: Jaime Blanco) and VIP Host Garry Gates (Spanish name: Gregorio de las Puertas) who instituted a sock-off this year. Gates won the final table by wearing socks with a picture of Jesus (Spanish name: Jesus) woven into them.
Dozens of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker employees who attend PCA each year on "working holidays" as a peer-nominated award for excellence in their job the prior year. They have a few days in the Bahamian sun, but they're also handing out player bags, assisting bloggers, hosting the player lounge, and doing a variety of jobs necessary for the event's success.
And in fact, there are a bunch of people who make the PCA a success but aren't even here to share the Atlantis and Caribbean Sea with us. They set up the satellite tournaments on PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, which is how Dominik Panka got to the PCA (and won $1.4 million). They read and respond to thousands of emails from hundreds of players. Some of the questions are common ("How can I get adjoining rooms with my parents?") and some not so ("Can I bring my seeing-eye dog with me?"). But hard-working folks clear those mailboxes 24/7 so our players get prompt and accurate answers.
Joe Stapleton and I would both love to tell you all kinds of stories about the people who make the PCA the amazing experience it is. We're acutely aware that we are simply two of a handful of public faces for an amazing team of folks. But there are too many people and too many stories. So when you compliment Joe or me, we say, "Thank you, on behalf of all our colleagues. We sure appreciate the kind words."
In closing, though, I'm going to single out one guy, because he is virtually the sui generis of the unsung PCA hero. His name is Leonard and he is the (unofficial) president and CEO of the PCA Bank (aka "The Bank of Leonard"). It's a tiny little bank that opens every year during January in the Bahamas, handles a few million dollars in deposits and withdraws, and then shuts down until its next phoenix-like reemergence the following year.
Leonard arrives a couple of days early and gets everything all set up. He supervises a team of mostly working holiday staffers, and reconciles every transaction the bank does. He was extra proud this year because they have automatic non-stop reconciliation; if there's a mistake (and they're rare) then it's caught and corrected within minutes. Leonard even wrote a manual for his volunteer workers so they'd know the procedures even before they hit the ground on Paradise Island.
Leonard doesn't leave Atlantis until the last transaction is reconciled, the last tournament payout confirmed, and the safe is sitting on a pallet ready for storage until next year. Between arriving and leaving the Atlantis, Leonard rarely leaves the bank, which helps explains why it runs so smoothly.
You might not recognize Leonard - he's the guy sitting in the back of the PCA bank office, engrossed in his laptop, making sure that all the dollars and cents add up. But without Leonard, and hundreds of people like him, there's no PCA.
Joe Stapleton and I will be the first two people to tell you that.
Postscript: This will be my last blog entry from the 2014 PCA. In the past couple of days, there's been one recurring phrase that I've said (and heard) as I've shaken people's hands: "Safe travels." All these people who play at and organize the PCA and other PokerStars events - they get on a lot of airplanes. Airport shuttles, taxis, and trains. I never take that for granted and I always whisper a silent thanks to the universe when every cameraman, dealer, poker player, media worker, and PokerStars employee is safely home. We're not just a team - we're a professional family and part of the global poker community. "Safe travels" is more than a phrase - it's a heartfelt wish for all of us until the next community gathering.
Lee Jones is the Head of Poker Communications at PokerStars; he first joined the company in 2003. He has been involved in the professional poker world since the mid 1980's.