PCA 2012: Behind the castle walls with the kings of poker

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThe people who buy in to a $100,000 poker tournament are used to being treated differently. Daniel Negreanu has a personal assistant who makes him vegan Big Macs. Eugene Katchalov is a Bluff magazine cover boy. ElkY is...well, he's ElkY. They are people who routinely earn seven figures a year playing poker. Cameras and reporters follow them down hallways. They lead lives of which we commoners can barely conceive let alone understand.

Still, these poker players spend most of their working lives around normal people--or as normal as people who spend $10,000 on a tournament ticket can be. The kings of the castle earn their bread at the same bakery as the town jester. It's the nature of their business. The high rollers have to get their hands dirty with the unwashed if they want to buy boutique $100 hand sanitizer.

But every once in a while there is a blessed January day in which the kings can cloister themselves away, sit on their stacks of money, and battle in private. This is that day.


The main tournament room of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is a cavernous place. It's almost frighteningly large. It must be to handle the crowds who will arrive here tomorrow in advance of the 2012 main event. Today it is empty save a polite security guard, a few tournament organizers, and hundreds and hundreds of chairs.

Still, the $100,000 kings play on. They do so in a place that has been set aside just for them. Few of the PCA players will see in the inside of the High Roller Room. It's open only to the big dogs, to the $100,000 Super High Roller players, and the people who will play the biggest of the cash games at the PCA. These guys have it good.

At the near end of the small room, a large PokerStars façade stretches to the ceiling. In front of it stands a bartender in crisp white dress. Bottles of wine, liquor and beer surround him. There are crispy snacks along another wall, five private dealers in the middle, and signs displaying the Shamballa jewels bracelet the Super High Roller event players are fighting.


Jonathan Duhamel

"That's the nicest carpet I've ever seen at the PCA," said PokerStars Blogger Stephen Bartley.

He's right to be impressed. As the Super High Roller event kicked off this afternoon, that room filled with the richest of the rich and the people who serve them. Five beautiful massage therapists crack their knuckles on the sidelines and stand at attention waiting for someone who needs their touch. Meanwhile, the players--who pretend to be mortal even though we know they are not--take stacks of 250,000 chips and do their job in private.


This is something new for the PCA. Over the course of the PCA's nine-year history, the stakes have risen, the cash games have grown, and the people who come here need special backpacks just for their buy-ins. At some point, a little extra pampering was bound to happen. And so it was revealed today that for the duration of the PCA, the High Roller's Room will cater to the wants and needs of the biggest players in the world.

"I think they'll be happy," said Neil Johnson, a man who spends his working life making sure the people who play PokerStars events are satisfied.

Today the High Roller's Room home to people like Negreanu, Katchalov, and Masa Kagawa. Before the end of next week, those walls will see the biggest pots of the entire PCA. It's already something to behold. Stay tuned to the PokerStars Blog for stories from inside the castle. Given that the kings will let us stick around, we jesters will do our best to report on how the 1% lives and plays.