2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Primer

Portions of this primer have been taken from previous PCA how-to posts. Everything here is updated for the 2008 adventure.

For 51 weeks out of the year, the Atlantis Resort and Casino is home to some of the world's elite travelers. Obscenely expensive yachts float in the marina. Celebrities walk without their entourage. Oh, and nobody plays poker.

For the past several years, the environment has changed in the first half of January. Hundreds of people come from all over the world to compete for millions of dollars in prize money while soaking up the kind of sun you just don't find in the northern hemisphere's winter.

In just a few weeks, the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will again invade Paradise Island. If you're a veteran, you already know how much fun it can be. If this is your first time, take a few minutes to review some of the finer points. As I've been to every one, I've included among the basic information some details you won't find in the travel brochures.

Getting there

By this point, you should also have already booked your flight. This will likely land you at the airport in Nassau (there are sea planes that fly directly up to Atlantis, and 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. In the past I have split the cab with dealers, players, and couples. Usually, I pay around $27 for my ride to Atlantis. However, to be on the safe side, I'd suggest you have at least $50 in your pocket per person in your party 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 if you are form the States.

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.

The picture does the place little justice. It is as huge as it is beautiful. Here's a short snippet from something I wrote after my first trip to 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 than 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 hospitality desk outside the poker room (also known as the Atlantis Grand Ballroom).

The parties, the poker, the paradise

If you arrive on January 4th like most folks, you will have time to yourself until early evening. That's when the fun will start. PokerStars will be throwing you a big party. Prepare to enjoy yourself. If the event is anything like years past, 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 members of PokerStars' team on-site to make sure you have a great time. Most of the time, the staff will be wearing staff shirts with the PokerStars logo on them. Feel free to introduce yourself and ask for help when you need it.

After the party, the poker room will open. 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 until around 4am. Over the course of the week, there will also be side multi-table tournaments. So, even if you get knocked out of the main event early, you'll still be able to play poker all week.

There will be limited hours each day during which you will be able to get money from your PokerStars account.

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 when play begins.

Tournament Director Mike Ward (some of you may know him from other PCAs 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

From there, it's all up to you. Still, there will be a lot going on around you that you should be ready for.

First, the PCA is a big deal. The European Poker Tour cameras will be there and you never know when you'll end up in their sights. Many members of the major poker media will be there covering the event, as will some of the biggest magazines and newspapers around the world. That's not to mention, members of PokerStars Team Blog will be in your face...all the time.

So, let's talk a little bit about how we work.

From the moment the party starts on the 4th until the final hand is dealt at the final table, we'll be around with a cameras, note pads, and way too many questions. We'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)

That's me. Chances are I'll look a lot like that (blissfully tired) when you see me.

A few things to remember: We're going to want to know your name and PokerStars screen name. You don't have to give it to us, but it would be nice. We won't bother you when you're in a hand. More often than not, we'll crouch down beside you and try to catch you for a few seconds after you've folded. We'll also be taking pictures like mad and posting them for the folks back home. And while we're pretty good at counting piles of chips without touching them, we might ask you how many chips you have. If you know, just tell us. 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, we enjoy telling stories. So, we 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 us aside and let us know. The only thing we don't want to hear are bad beat stories (unless, of course, you pay us the Lee Jones' mandated $1 fee, in which case, we'll listen happily).

Other stuff

Since most of you are online poker players, there might be the occasion that you want to play online while in the Bahamas. That means, you'll want to know about high-speed access. The Atlantis system is set up as follows:

  • Guest rooms access is usually spotty (although we've heard rumor of improvements)
  • Pool decks are WiFi hotspots
  • Hotel lobbies are WiFi hotspots
  • Marina is a WiFi hotspot
  • WiFi access is $10 for 24 hours

    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.

    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.

  • Veteran Tips

    While the above information is the most important, there are some other things you might want to know during your time away from the tables. Here are some tips compiled from three previous adventures.

    Best place to play online: The Coral Tower lobby lounge is online poker's version of a LAN party, especially during the Sunday Million. Even better, it has a bar and restrooms within a ten-second walk.

    Best time to get a sunburn: Er, when the sun is out. Despite the comfortable temperatures and early sunset, a couple hours in the sun without sunscreen will result in a sunburn. Trust me on this one.

    Best place to grab a late night drink: The Atlas Bar and Grill and Dragon Bar stay open later than any other bar at Atlantis. The Atlas is a laid back place where you can grab some food and a drink. The Dragon Bar is more of a nightclub. Both are inside the casino.

    Best place to watch football games: The area around the bar in the Beach Tower usually attracts football fans. If you're looking to root on playoff teams, this is your best bet.

    Best place to find comfort food: Murray's Deli has great hours and a wide selection of food, not to mention a really good selection of sandwiches. Murray's is located in the Marina near the casino entrance to the hotel.

    Best place to eat with a large group: The Marina boasts of a Carmine's, perfect for big tables of family style Italian.

    Best place to take your significant other for dinner: This one is a tie. If you're a red meat person, hit the Seafire Steakhouse. If you're looking for something different, hit Nobu.

    Best way to avoid getting in trouble: Do not under any circumstances swim where you shouldn't. This should be pretty obvious. If you have questions, ask. Also, avoid the guys on the beach selling drinks in coconut shells, especially any person referring to himself as Dr. Feelgood.

    Best way for your family to watch you at the final table: EPT Live. In fact, EPT Live will be providing live coverage of featured and final tables for the last two days of the event. It's a great production with expert analysis from all the big names: Daniel Negreanu, Greg Raymer, Vanessa Rousso, Barry Greenstein, and more.

    Any other questions, feel free to grab a member of the PokerStars staff. They're good people and will answer any question except how you should play AK to a raise in middle position.