PCA 2012: We are poker
As you walk into the rotunda that leads into the main tournament room here at the Atlantis resort you are confronted by ten foot high pictures of Daniel Negreanu, Ivan Demidov, ElkY and Liv Boeree, each of which are adorned with slogans such as 'we are competition', 'we are strong' or 'we are determination'. No, they're not SoCal morning mantras, they all come directly lifted from the new PokerStars global advertising campaign that flies under the banner 'We are poker.'
Like the adverts themselves, they're an impressive sight and a good kick-start to get your poker juices flowing before you get seated in the tournament room, assuming you're not getting blocked off by the large Bahamian whose job it is to prevent players from bringing food and drink in.
If you were here last year - and if not, why not? - you may recall last year's photomontage was taken by world renowned snapper Rankin: all bleached white iconography, steely gazes and quasi-religious overtones. Now if you're cynical, not that we are, you could possibly think that it was all a bit much, hyped up platitudes for a game of cards. Then you walk up to the $100,000 Super High Roller and you quickly remember it really is so much more. Fame and fortune can, and often does, rest on the flip of the card, a marginal decision gone wrong or a momentary lapse in concentration. And these are some of the best guys in the business.
Thirteen players remain - an unlucky number for some (eight to be precise) - five of whom will be pocketing at least quarter-of-a-million dollars. These kings of the baize are all to a man (there were no female entrants) looking casual. There is no nail biting, head rubbing or nervous dry swallowing, but there is tension. Buckets of the stuff. This is no $10 multi-table tournament and while these players may be calmly tossing chips around for a $100,000 buy-in all of them started in much, much smaller games. They've earned their place, they've chiselled out their monster bankroll and it's a great spectacle to watch. This is poker: big, brutal and ballsy.
At times it can be easy to get lost in the numbers of the game, the sea of face but here at the PCA, the biggest poker festival outside of Las Vegas, you're always given a reminder of the grandeur of the game. We are poker and we are here at the PCA 2012 for another sun-drenched, rum-fuelled, chip-riffling 41 events.
Find the full PCA 2012 tournament schedule by clicking through to the official PCA 2012 website