2010 PCA: Festival of poker ready to roll

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThis is going to be unlike anything we've seen before.

As jaded tournament reporters, it's not often we encounter something new and surprising. Moreover, after covering every PokerStars Caribbean Adventure since it came to Atlantis, one would think we would be able to forecast every little detail about the legend-in-the-making PCA.

This year, it's different.

Gone are the days of going to the PCA for only the main event. Gone are the days of a couple of side events to pass the time. Gone is just about everything you'd expect. In its place, a poker festival featuring 50 live events over 12 days. The main event already has more than 1,100 people signed up and in-person registration doesn't start here for another 90 minutes.

This is going to be one trip to Paradise Island that we don't forget.


Despite how big things have become at the PCA, this festival has still managed to maintain a sort of quaintness we have come to enjoy. Though PokerStars never set out to make the PCA a family reunion, that is almost exactly what the event has become over the past six years. Even if we make no mention of the $39 million in prize money awarded during the first six main events, the tournament is monumental for the number of people who come back every year. More than 4,800 players have competed in the Main Event since it began in 2004. Every year the PCA grows, and every year it seems more like a reunion of old friends and family. Old memories are rehashed and new memories are made.

This story is now six years old. It had its beginnings on a cruise ship that bounced from Miami to Jamaica to Mexico to the Caymans. In 2004, 221 players set sail across the Caribbean for what was then a World Poker Tour event. By the time the ship was tied up at the dock, Gus Hansen had won the lion's share of the $1,657,500 prize pool. It seemed like so much money at the time. Only a few people could have predicted how big the prize pools and the PCA would get.

One year later, PokerStars set up shop at the Atlantis Resort and Casino. That in itself was a coup. Until PokerStars arrived on the island, the Bahamian government didn't allow poker. In the beginning of 2005, 461 players showed up and more than doubled the field from the year before. Gentleman John Gale won $890,600 in that year's Main Event.


By 2006, first prize in the PCA had grown to more than a million bucks. Steve Paul-Ambrose was, at the time, a college student from Ontario who had qualified in a PokerStars satellite. After plowing through a field of 724 people, Paul-Ambrose won $1,388,600. That win also paved the way for the Canadian's signing with Team PokerStars Pro. He remains on the team today.

The year 2007 brought 937 players to the Main Event field. It was the year the Americans dominated the PCA. The top 13 players in the event all hailed from the United States. New Jersey's Ryan Daut managed to walk away with the win. It earned him $1,535,255.

Twelve months later, the PCA changed in a very big way. It shed its relationship with the World Poker Tour and hooked up with the now very successful European Poker Tour. For the first time ever, more than 1,000 players competed in the Main Event. As if those changes weren't big enough news, Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier ran over the 1,136-player field and won $2 million for his efforts.

By 2009, it seemed there was no end to the growth. Last year, 1,347 players built a prize pool worth $12,674,000 and a first prize of $3 million. Finishing fourth that year was none other than Team PokerStars Pro Alexandre Gomes. It was PokerStars qualifier Poorya Nazari, however, who stood as champion when the event was over.

The PokerStars' live webcast team is expanding its coverage at this year's PCA to provide five days of broadcasts, including the amfAR and PokerStars Celebrity Charity Tournament, the last two days of the PCA main event, the World Cup of Poker final and the final of the PCA $25k High Roller event.

The first cards go in the air tonight in the annual live super sat to the Main Event. After that, it's another 49 events over 12 days. We've stocked up on intravenous caffeine and Ecco walking shoes and will have full coverage beginning Tuesday at noon ET.

Now, the PokerStars family embarks on its seventh PCA, and it will be unlike any before it. There is simply no advanced accounting that can be done for how big the 2010 event will be, and what it will mean for future years.

Only this prediction is guaranteed to come true: When people come to the PCA, they will want come back for every family reunion to come.