2008 PCA: From Brazil to baseball

It was getting on toward midnight last night when I spotted Team Poker Stars Pro member Andre Akkari. He sat at the back of the Coral Lobby lounge in a long line of Brazilian players.

"I'm going to bed. I play tomorrow," he said.

There was something, though, binding him to the table. Poker friend and running buddy Igor Federale sat focused on his computer screen and busy playing the final table of the PokerStars $100-rebuy. Just a couple of feet away sat PokerStars player FU_15, who had busted out just short of the final table...at Federale's hands.

That was a preview of what the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is all about. Many of these players who sat down here today have spent years battling each other in the virutal PokerStars world. Now, they sit down across from each other in a very, very live venue. Instead of merely relying on bet-sizing and timing, these players can now look at their PokerStars opponent's face.

Akkari, as usual, did the smart thing and made it to bed in time to come down to the PCA poker room today. It was just a few years ago that Akkari and his Brazilian crew went to Las Vegas on a bit of a soul-searching mission. Akkari had built a modest bankroll playing freeroll tournaments and small buy-in events. With $2,000 in his pocket, he went to Las Vegas for ten days of play. Just off the plane, he entered a small tournament at Binion's and won nearly $500. Bouyed by his first success, he entered a $450 tournament the next day and won the entire thing for $22,000.

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Today, Akkari is a member of Team PokerStars Pro and living a dream built on a foundation of freerolls. He's resting comfortably on 24,000 after the first level of play.

Just a couple of tables away, fate decided to wink at the poker room in the form of a fun table assignment. At table 56, Tampa Bay Devil Ray baseball player Wade Townsend sat in seat 1. Two seats away sat none other than David Wells. Wells has managed to show he can collect more than strikeouts. After only an hour and fifteen minutes of play, Wells has more than doubled his stack.

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In other news, the word on the street is Erik Seidel has made an early exit from the PCA.

After a cautious first level of play, the runners here have settled into that slow and rhythmic mindset so familiar at these big events. Day 1A play is scheduled to continue here until around 9pm tonight.

All photos © Neil Stoddart