2008 PCA: Cards in the air

No matter how remote the location nor how early one arrives, checking in at a major poker tournament means an end to anonymity. Not everyone knows your name, perhaps, but no player worth their salt forgets a face, and walking through the labyrinthine corridors between lobby and poker room means a nod and a smile in this direction, a quick wave over there, maybe even a stop-and-chat if you really go way back -- to EPT season two, or something equally as distant.

This week, the extended family have decamped to the Bahamas, and in the past couple of pre-tournament nights, the bars have been reliably packed with the chatter of old acquaintances. Newcomers quickly join the fray as screen-names are matched with handshakes; avatars fixed to a real-life visage. Meanwhile, the lobbies turn into what look like air-traffic control towers: rows upon rows of laptops keeping the online seats warm.

And now, as the tournament has just begun, the faces are scattered far and wide across the Grand Ballroom of the Beach Tower in the Atlantis Resort. No matter how well you know them, picking them out becomes a real feat of identification. It's amazing how easy it becomes to walk down the line of tables, right past a world champion, and not even know they were there, hidden behind a pile of chips, a pair of shades and a scowl.

However, we still try -- and among the 580 players eyeing their share of the $10 million (approx) prize pool are:

Team PokerStars Pro members Dario Minieri and Tuan Lam both on table 10.
Luca Pagano peering over at his team-mates from table 11.
Bertrand "ElKy" Grospellier also in the region, on table 13.
Chris Moneymaker, who will never again need an introduction, on table 2.
Katja Thater, Bill Chen, Steve Paul-Ambrose, Humberto Brenes, Andre Akkari, the remaining Team PokerStars Pro members also in today's field.

Also spotted:

Erik Seidel sharing table 16 with British pro Peter Gould.
One spilt drink on table 44.
John Shipley, a former EPT champion and PokerStars qualifier here.
Erik Friberg, who made the World Series final table while a PokerStars qualifier, sharing a table with Thor Hansen, legendary Scandinavian pro.
Patrick Bruel, French actor/singer/poker player.
Norm MacDonald, announcer, comedian, player.

For a full list of notables, click here. We'll be updating their chip counts throughout the day.

As a reminder, players started with 20,000 units in chips for their $8,000 buy in. We're playing 75 minute levels, with a ten minute break at the end of each. Full details of the PCA structure, are here.

And check out the main EPT site by clicking here.