2008 PCA: Let loose the action

Lee Jones, an old hand at the PCA, stood like a poker king surveying his land. The poker room (now 33% bigger!) had just opened and within minutes, three single table tournaments and a big cash game were running.

"A poker player without action is like a bee without wings," he said.

And I think he knew he was understating it a bit.



Despite the fact PokerStars is about to throw a huge party for hundreds of people, the action inside the poker room is already starting and will not end until the last dealer collapses, all the money is in one person's hands, or time runs out. Frankly, I'm not laying bets on which happens first.

Elsewhere, the EPT crew is beginning to build the featured/final table set. This year, all of the action, including the final table and EPT Live broadcast, will take place inside the Grand Ballroom.


In a little less than an hour, PokerStars will officially welcome all its players to this record-breaking PCA. Post-party, an untold number of people will get into the first tournament action of the weekend, a $500 rebuy super satellite to the main event.

There is so much to see here that it is sometimes easy to cradle one's self in tunnel vision. As this is my fourth trip to the PCA, I asked co-blogger Howard Swains to give us a first-timer's impression of all that is the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at Atlantis.

A new Europe
by Howard Swains

Living in New York but originating in London, England, I have made a number of flights between America and Europe over the years. And yet there was something peculiar about this particular trip from the Big Apple to the European Poker Tour, most notably that we flew over Florida, then a landed on a tiny island surrounded by bright blue sea.

I realise that this might be the impression that some folk have of Great Britain, but the blue surrounding that particular small island is somewhere between an oil slick and a Monday morning hangover. This, however, was the kind of shade that would please an elementary school artist: shiny, translucent and really, honestly, blue.

The weirdness didn't end there. In place of the familiar grizzled immigration officers at the airport was a guy tinkling a sweet melody on the upturned lid of a trash can, accompanied by a wah-wah guitar. I'm sure the guy who checked my passport even smiled at me and then my taxi driver shook my hand. Twice. We then drove past palm trees, lagoons and a fleet of million-dollar yachts, and there wasn't a single ill-informed rant about the miserable state of the country.

Europe sure had changed in the couple of months I'd been away. And I think I kind of liked it.

Welcome, of course, to Europe, Bahamanian style. The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is in its fifth renewal, but for the first time it joins the likes of London, Copenhagen, Dublin and Monte Carlo as a part of the spectacular success story that is the EPT. Much of what we've come to expect is present and correct: there are hoards of supremely talented poker players, a vast tournament room, a massive prize pool, and bad beat stories in a hundred languages. But so much is very different indeed.

For the uninitiated, it takes some getting used to Paradise Island, our home for the next six days. Flipping around somewhere outside the poker room are a bunch of Galapagos turtles, the likes of which you don't tend to find in Dortmund. The network of swimming pools, slides and sun-loungers don't immediately spring to mind when you think of Prague. And strolling through the aquarium the this morning, I passed Humberto Brenes in the viewing tunnel peering up and around as sharks cut menacingly through the water. A new card protector, perhaps?

The first glimpse of Paradise Island comes while traversing one of two, humped, narrow road bridges that join the larger part of Nassau to the party island. The Atlantis Resort covers the entire expanse of this smaller land-mass, but while it might be little more than a speck on a map, it's plenty big enough to wander aimlessly around for hour upon hour.

There are towering blocks of hotel rooms, pink and orange against the Caribbean sky. But just because you can see them, it doesn't mean you can get to them. Not without making a right over the rope bridge, left at the volcano, trudge across the beach, crack a coconut, slurp a cocktail, play a couple of hands of blackjack, swim with a dolphin, clamber up the climbing wall, count your millions on a sailboat, dance a rumba, surf the breakers, and fight a pirate.

It's Disneyland, crossed with Las Vegas on Monkey Island. And the next week should be a lot of fun.