PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Primer
One week from today, the little airport in Nassau, Bahamas will be teeming with poker players on their way to Paradise Island, home of the Atlantis Resort and Casino and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Regardless of how well the players fare in the main event, the trip itself will be one to talk about for years.
If you are one of the hundreds of people on their way to Paradise Island next week, this post will serve as a primer for your trip. Feel free to print it out and bring it with you.
If you are one of the unfortunate folks who can't make it to the Bahamas this year, this blog will be updating many times daily beginning Janaury 4 and lasting all the way through the final table on Janaury 10, where I'll provide hand-by-hand action of the event.
If you qualified for your seat through PokerStars, by now you should have already registered online for your hotel rooms. If you have not, you should e-mail pca @ pokerstars.com immediately (remove the spaces in the e-mail address). You should also have already booked your flight, which will likely land you at the airport in Nassau (there are sea planes that fly directly up to Atlantis, but if you've done this, you're already a step ahead).
When you land at the Nassau airport, you'll quickly find your way to baggage claim and customs. When I went through last year, it took me very little time to make it through. Don't forget your passport. It will make your life 100% easier. The airport is small and it's just a few steps from baggage claim to the ground transportation area. Once outside, there should be a long line of cabs and limos waiting for guests of the island.
Here's a tip: Chat up the people on your plane before you land and find out how many of them are headed to Atlantis. Then, find a mini-van or SUV cab and fill it up. There might be a per person surcharge on the cab, but splitting the cab fare is the way to go. Last year, when splitting the cab with a few dealers, I paid $27 for my ride to Atlantis. However, to be on the safe side, I'd suggest you have at least $50 in pocket when you land (I would expect, as poker players, you'd have much more, but make sure you are carrying some cash, regardless). Also, American dollars spend just fine in the Bahamas, so you don't need to worry about exchanging your cash.
Depending on the traffic, it will take you a half hour or so to get from the airport to Atlantis. You will likely ride through Nassau's bustling downtown (a place where all the cruise ships let off their passengers for a day of shopping and such) and then over a bridge to Paradise Island. Depending on your cab driver and his/her tolerance for traffic, you might also end up on some of Nassau's back streets. This is faster, but not nearly as pretty. Either way, in 30 minutes you should see a giant salmon-colored structure they call Atlantis.
As a guy who likes to play around with words, I'd like to come up with a nice way to describe the enormity of the property. I find myself lacking. Instead, I can only relate what one helpful lady told me when I asked where I was going.
"It's about a twenty-minute walk that way," she said, her pointing finger only making it an inch or two along the marbled walkway I'd eventually find myself treading along.
In short, it's big. You will get lost. Do not be ashamed.
Once there, go to the main desk and check in. Your room should be reserved in your name. Find your room, chill out, and check out Atlantis.
Among the first the first things you should do is go to the PokerStars hospitality desk to pick up your premium bags, participant's bracelet, and a schedule of events. Do not forget to do this. The bags are top of the line and contain more cool stuff that can you can imagine. The participant's bracelet will get you into the big parties. The schedule will make sure you know when everything is happening. Don't mess around and forget to do this. You'll find the PokerStars hopsitality desk outside the poker room (also known as the Atlantis Grand Ballroom).
The parties, the poker, the paradise
When you arrive on Janaury 4, you will have time to yourself until 7pm. That's when the fun will start. At 7pm, PokerStars will be throwing you a big party on the Atlantis Royal Deck. Prepare to enjoy yourself. If the event is anything like last year, the food and drink will be fantastic. You will also have a chance to meet the PokerStars staff and all the members of Team PokerStars. DO NOT FORGET TO WEAR YOUR PARTICIPANT'S BRACELET. Without the bracelet, you're not getting into the party.
A word or two on the PokerStars staff: These folks have been working for the past year to make this a great event and there will be several memebers of PokerStars' team on-site to make sure you have a great time. Most of the time, the staff will be wearing light blue/gray staff shirts with the PokerStars logo on them. I will be among the staff and wearing the same shirt. Feel free to introduce yourself and ask for help when you need it.
After the party, the poker room will open at 8:30pm. Over the course of the week, in addition to the main event, you'll be able to play just about anything you want. Cash games, SNGs, and tournament satellites will be running every day from 10am to 4am. The first night, the poker room will run a $200 Super Satellite to the main event. Over the course of the week, there will also be side multi-table tournaments ranging from $300 to $1,500 buy-ins. So, even if you get knocked out of the main event early, you'll still be able to play poker all week.
Please be aware, you will not be able to withdraw funds from your PokerStars account while at the PCA. If you plan to play in sidegames or other tournaments, you must bring the cash with you or have a working ATM card. If you're running well while in the Bahamas, please be aware of U.S. Customs laws about returning to the U.S. with currency. Failure to declare currency in amounts of over $10,000 can result in its seizure.
Update: There will be limited hours each day during which you will be able to get money from your PokerStars account. You will be able to withdraw a maximum of $10,000 during the week.
The Main Event
Starting on January 5, the big event starts. Flight A will begin playing on that day. Flight B will play Day 1 on January 6. When you arrive, be sure to confirm your flight assignment. It is your responsibility to be sure you are in your seat at the start of play when your flight starts.
Tournament Director Mike Ward (some of you may know him from last year's PCA or from Foxwoods) will be the point man for the main event. Listen to him. He knows what he's talking about and will steer you in the right direction.
Mike Ward (left) and floor man Glenn at the 2005 PCA
First, the PCA is a big deal. The World Poker Tour cameras will be there and you never know when you'll end up on camera. CardPlayer will be there covering the event just like it did the WSOP, as will some of the biggest magazines and newspapers around the world. That's not to mention, I will be in your face...all the time.
So, let's talk a little bit about how I work.
From the moment the party starts on the 4th until the final hand is dealt at the final table, I'll be around with a camera, a note pad, and a laptop. I'll be taking pictures and updating this blog all day, every day.
Brad "Otis" Willis, in the same state of fatigue you should expect to see him at the PCA (Photo courtesy of Linda from PokerWorks.com)
A few things to remember: I'm going to want to know your name and PokerStars screen name. You don't have to give it to me, but it would be nice. I won't bother you when you're in a hand. More often than not, I'll crouch down beside you and try to catch you for a few seconds after you've folded. I'll also be taking pictures like mad and posting them for the folks back home. And while I'm pretty good at counting piles of chips without touching them, I might ask you how many chips you have. If you know, just tell me. It'll make things easier.
Chip counts, obviously, are important. However, everyone should remember that we won't have a chip count on everybody at all times. In the first couple of days, you can expect day-end chip counts as well as updates from time to time on the people who have chipped up early. But, don't expect to see how everybody is doing at all times. It just doesn't work like that.
Finally, even more than tournament reporting (which I enjoy more than I can say), I enjoy telling stories. So, I may pull you aside during breaks and interview you a little bit. And if you have a great story to tell about how you got to the PCA or something that's happened to you while you're there, pull me aside and let me know. The only thing I don't want to hear are bad beat stories (unless, of course, you pay me the Lee Jones' $1 fee, in which case, I'll listen happily).
Since most of you are online poker players, there might be the occasion that you want to play online while in the Bahamas (it happened a LOT in 2005). That means, you'll want to know about high-speed access. The Atlantis system is set up as follows:
Last January, I was lucky enough to have a hotel room that overlooked a pool deck, so I had high-speed wireless access from my room.
Remember, while it is very close, the Bahamas is not in the U.S. So, if you want to keep in touch with the folks back home and do it cheaply, you might want to consider Skype.com. Skype has a cheap pay service called Skype Out that allows you to call anywhere from your laptop. You can fund your account in any of eight different ways and then make unlimited calls for something like two cents a minute. All it requires is a laptop and headset/microphone. I've used it all over the world and it works as well as a cell phone.
If you're not bringing a laptop, consider buying an international phone card before you leave home. It could end up saving you a lot of money and keeping the folks back home happy--especially if your wife is like mine and likes to make sure you haven't lost a limb in an unfortunate late night rock-climbing accident.
Finally, if you've never been to the Bahamas, check out this link for a page dedicated to Bahamas information.
If you have any questions, please shoot me an e-mail at blog @ pokerstars.com (remove the spaces in the address). Otherwise, I'll see you in a week, folks. Have a safe trip.