My trip to the Isle of Man
Not long ago I was able to go to the Isle of Man for the recent UKIPT event. While I was there, I had a chance to visit PokerStars' headquarters. It was a great trip, and I thought I'd share some impressions from it.
Before getting to the Isle of Man I played EPT London, the WSOP Europe and the WPT events in France. When I asked my girlfriend about going on the trip she wasn't too interested in those stops, but when I mentioned the Isle of Man she said she'd come. Some people think going to the Isle of Man sounds like going to Alcatraz, but she likes out-of-the-way places.
As it turned out, the Isle of Man did not disappoint. I had been there before, but I didn't have much time to see the sights. This time we had a lot more time to experience what the island had to offer.
It seemed like everyone we met was friendly. Although I like all of the stops on the EPT, they're all big cities. In the Isle of Man, you get to experience a kind of small town feel. Everyone seems genuinely interested in talking to you. We felt safe wherever we went.
That said, if you don't like rain and wind, the Isle of Man might not to be your favorite place to visit. People say you can have all four seasons in one day there, and we saw evidence of that.
A majority of the people who were there to play were from the U.K.. Some flew across the Irish Sea, but other people who took the less-expensive ferry. I was told the ferry wasn't necessarily the best option because the Irish Sea is pretty choppy. I heard the rate of throwing up was about 50%.
The UKIPT is kind of a scaled-down version of the EPT. Americans might think of something like the Heartland Poker Tour and how it compares to the World Poker Tour.
The UKIPT is connected to PokerStars, so you have a lot of people qualifying to play online. In a £1,000 event, you'd hear many players say how they'd made it to the tournament via a £10 satellite. You can imagine the enthusiasm since many who played had gotten in for very little. It's a different vibe than what you find in the bigger events on the tour where most of the players are jaded pros and full-time players.
The venue was also very interesting. The UKIPT held the event at the Villa Marina. I'm not sure what that venue is usually used for, but PokerStars has become very good at coming in ahead of time and transforming all kinds of places into excellent locales for poker tournaments. It really was a great venue, with everything laid out very well. I can't remember hearing anyone complain.
Another great highlight of the trip was going to PokerStars' headquarters. It's about a mile up the road from where the tournament venue.
I actually walked there one of the days. Making that walk, you kind of get the feel like you're in Oz and you're walking down the yellow brick road. The only difference is that if you walk on the side of the road near the water, it can be a bit cold and windy.
I'd actually been to PokerStars' headquarters before. They have a lot of servers there and a lot of staff located there, too. It's really an impressive operation, especially when you see all of the monitors showing all of the traffic on the site and tracking all activity. For a better idea, take a look at this video showing some of what goes on behind the scenes.
For me personally, it was a treat to meet face-to-face all of the people with whom I communicate via email on a regular basis.
One overriding feeling when you go to PokerStars' headquarters is how professional everyone is and how much pride there is in the company. PokerStars has done especially well in terms of hiring good people. When they come, they are committed to making the company the best it can be. Support, security, and the variety of poker options stand out. On all three fronts it's pretty clear PokerStars has been number one for a while now.
When you are a Team Pro like I am, you don't always think about how many people are following what you do. You represent the company, but to some extent you're also an extension of them as well. Since they work so hard and do such a good job, it kind of makes the Team Pros want to work hard and do a good job, too.
It was a good trip, and it seemed like there was a lot more bonding happening than is the case in the larger cities. The tournament was a success as well. Even better, there was a £100,000 overlay, so we enjoyed some extra value. Based on how happy everyone was with the tournament, I wouldn't expect there to be an overlay next time around. This was kind of a test run to see if the Isle of Man would be a good place to hold a tournament. It passed with flying colors.
Barry Greenstein is a member of Team PokerStars Pro