PCA 2012: Keeping up with the joneses

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThere is no methadone for the kind of jones the staff members of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure suffer every year. Nothing can ease the twitching, sometimes painful itch, the one that rises up like a sharp-toothed nicotine fit or deep, maniacal hunger. Imagine a fasting monk at a Vegas buffet. Picture a married man at the Adult Video News awards. Think of Charlie Sheen...actually don't. It's not quite that bad.

In any case, there is a great misunderstanding among people who don't know everything about PCA jobs. Many people believe the workers here spend their off-hours engaged in one of their favorites pastimes. So many times have I been asked, "So, how much poker are you getting to play?" The answer...none. None at all. For eight years running at the PCA, not one hand.

It's not just me. Every writer, photographer, dealer, floor person, presenter, videographer, events manager, massage therapist, TV director, and PokerStars staffer is prohibited from playing poker for the duration of the PCA. Each one of us is issued a temporary Bahamian work permit for this event, and ipso facto, we're essentially Bahamians for the week. And Bahamians aren't allowed to play poker. In fact, Bahamians aren't allowed to gamble at all.

It's one of the nation's somewhat controversial curiosities. Although gambling is readily available here, it is available--except in very limited circumstances--only to tourists. Locals are prohibited by law from playing cards, betting on black, or pulling the arm of a slot machine. So are we.

This is not a trivial matter. Our jobs depend on it. Each of us knows that if we even try to play, it would mean our jobs. And we need these jobs. Let's be frank, if any of us could make a living playing poker, we'd probably be doing that.

The real struggle here comes from the fact that a great many of the people who work at the PCA got into this line of work because of our love for the game. In other parts of the world, we'd be soothing our after-hours time with a few hands of hold'em at the end of the night. Here, that's verboten. Really, really verboten.

And, so, the itch. It's always there, and there's no getting rid of it. Even eight years into my PCA tenure, I still feel it in my gut when a seat opens in the cash games or registration is about to close in a side tournament. My colleagues feel it, too. The dealers have it the worst. They actually have to touch the cards and chips.

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The afflicted (pictured in white shirts) surviving their altered state

Over the years, we've all developed our own coping methods. It's cold comfort to be sure, but here are the top five ways PCA staffers persevere.

  • 1: Aversion Therapy: Walk through the Atlantis Casino late one night and look for the anonymous person standing behind the craps or blackjack tables. He won't be gambling. This person will invariably have found the biggest loser of the night and will be watching every lost bet slide into the dealer's rack. If you listen closely, you might hear that person's troubled mantra, "There but for the grace of my work permit go I."

  • 2: Fatigue Therapy: The younger staffers (or the ones who like to believe they still have a breath or two of youth in them) have chosen to work out their demons on the running trails and in the fitness centers. The more talented among the staff have a regular basketball game every morning. The stronger the poker jones, the harder these exercise buffs work. The hardest of the hard core force themselves to run a mile every time they think, "I could probably wear a disguise and play a couple of orbits."

  • 3. Zen Therapy: Every morning at 9:30, the massage therapy team members do yoga on the beach (none of these ladies are exceptionally attractive or out-of-this-world-phyicially-fit, I assure you...and any other staff wives that might be reading). I can provide no further information on this topic. None at all.

  • 4. BBQ Therapy: In the year since we have been away from Atlantis, the famous New York City BBQ joint "Virgil's" has opened up a location on the resort. It is, without question, the best addition to Atlantis since the water slides. When the need for poker gets too strong, the BBQ lovers among us saddle up (literally, some of the seats at Virgil's are repurposed horse saddles) and dive into a plate of brisket, ribs, and hushpuppies. It's a messy form of comfort, but it gets the job done. When you're clutching your stomach and praying for a quick death, poker is not the first thing on your mind (it's the second, of course).

  • 5. Liquid Therapy: Of all the statistics PCA staffers have memorized, this one is the most widely known: Atlantis has more than 40 bars and lounges. That's all that needs to be said about that.

    Of course, we members of Team PokerStars Blog do our best to avoid all of the above. To quote our venerable leader Simon Young, "When the work day is done, my team and I simply run to our rooms and curl up with a good book."