PCA: Of buttons and big games

Previous coverage:
PokerStars Caribbean Adventure set to begin
PCA: Paradise Eve
The Arrival of Lee Jones
Party Time


Necessity is a funny thing. With it comes importance, stress, and the definitional need for doing or having something. With poker comes the necessity of dealer buttons. Before we go further, you should understand that PokerStars knows this and was fully prepared for the event. That is, PokerStars was prepared until the PCA dealer buttons mysteriously disappeared.

Ever aware of the aforementioned necessity, the PokerStars staff went hunting for enough dealer buttons to get through the next week. Finding 100 buttons at the 11th hour is not as easy a task as some folks might expect. In fact, it required calling in a favor to a friend in Miami. Said friend agreed to find 100 dealer buttons and 100 cut cards, get on a plane, and hand-carry the package to the Bahamas. Good friends, folks, are hard to find and PokerStars felt fortunate.

Fortune is a funny thing sometimes. It occasionally brings an ugly traveling companion. With the fortune of good friend came the misfortune of a terribly messed up flight situation in Miami. As it turned out, this friend of PokerStars was unable to use his paid ticket to actually get on a plane. And so there he sat with a handful of buttons and an inability to make good on his good deed.

Make no mistake, PokerStars was nonplussed. Trying to pull off a $5 million tournament without a basic necessity like dealer buttons was not in the plan. What's more, when the news came that the buttons weren't on their way, the poker room was just a couple hours from opening.

Now, no one could fault PokerStars for the problem. The staff actually had the dealer buttons on the property several months in advance. Everything was ready. I myself, while playing in a WSOP event in 2005, was forced to play the first half an hour of the event with a Starbucks coffee lid as a button because there weren't enough buttons for every table. Still, the idea of running to Starbucks and asking for 100 lids just didn't sit well with a company like PokerStars that likes to make sure everything is pefect.

Back in Miami, this friend of PokerStars sat waiting with three other guys who couldn't get on the packed plane either. One of the three men had found a flight an hour later. And, oddly enough, that man looked familiar. So familiar, in fact, that the man with the buttons engaged him in conversation.

And that, folks, is how 2003 World Series of Poker champion Chris Moneymaker became the Button Savior of the 2006 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. With just minutes until the Main Event Super Satellite began, Moneymaker slid into Atlantis with a package of dealer buttons and an extreme appreciation for the fact that no one asked him before he boarded his flight, "Did anyone unknown to you ask you to carry anything on the plane?"

A Moneymaker button in play in the $200 rebuy Super Satellite

Big Games

Within minutes of the 8:30 opening of the casino, the room was packed. Wads of cash, disgustingly thick and screaming to be turned into chips, appeared and disappeared as fast as the shuffle of cards. The Main Event Super Satellite began. After the rebuy period was over, tournament director, Mike Ward, announced the event would pay out 24 seats to the main event. As a point of reference, the same satellite paid eight seats in 2005.

As players met their demise, the board grew thick with players looking for SNGs and cash games. Players, having had at least a 24-hour withdrawl from poker, stormed the giant easels and scrambled to get in a game.

The board, under siege

Around the room, players found their seats and settled into the long-familiar pattern of betting, folding, sighing, and screaming. It would begin what I like to call Day Zero, a phantom night of poker before the big event actually begins. Again, the Bahamas felt like a poker home away from home.

Chris "savemyskin" Fargis

Tom "Hold_emNL" Dwan

Danny Ashman, the same man who told me confidently that he would win the EPT Monte Carlo event last year, said tonight "You must have good foresight to be photographing me now." The man's confidence never buckles.

KylePaul and wife Karen, sending a smile home to the kids

And while the satellite and SNGs continued around the room, a crowd formed along one wall. I'd heard rumblings that a big game might be in the offing and I saw a few familiar faces around the table. As I walked closer, I saw the stacks and knew that the room's largest game was underway. The $50/$100 NL Hold'em game was not for the faint of heart. At one point, somebody walked away with a slightly bemused look and said, "That was a $35,000 pot."

"TheTakeover" (center) taking over in the room's biggest game

2005 PCA final table finisher Nenad Medic holding up his end of the table

After midnight, Alex Brenes slid into the four seat and seemed to be holding his own. As I looked on, I mentioned to Lee Jones that it wasn't every day that you see a $50/$100 NL game going on within three feet of a $2/$4 game.

Lee smiled and said, "Not only that...there's a list."

Sure enough, there was.

The list for the $50/$100 NL game

And so, that was how the 2006 PCA poker room opened. As I type, the Super Satellite is winding its way down to its completion and the poker room still buzzes at 2:33am. In less than 10 hours, the main event will be under way with what figures to be more than 300 players in the first flight.

Until then, keep an eye on your buttons.