PCA 2013: How to queue, spend, eat and spill ketchup in 15 minutes
The refrain is one heard at the break, and one heard every year just outside the tournament room, spoken by dozens of players every year: "You have to get tickets?"
The tickets are those sold outside in the hallway, which you exchange for food from the poker kitchen. But this is no ordinary kitchen and has a unique, seriously antiquated, but now much loved system that baffles newcomers but which keeps PCA veterans in giggles, particularly those asking to pay cash. The answer to that is no, you can't. Here's how things work in Paradise.
First you have to buy tickets, priced at a dollar each. If you buy ten for example, you're given a strip of tickets, like you just won big on the Wheel of Fortune machine at Frankie's Fun Park. These things serve as money, and you take them to the food counter where you ask for something, like a salad. That's when you realise that a salad costs $12. You go back to buy two more and repeat.
Damn the signs! Greg Mueller purchases food
It's a lengthy process, and a sign suggests that players should buy tickets in advance to save queuing at times of great bustle. But no one thinks ahead for things like and besides, money feels better in your pocket when it can pay for anything, and not just pretzels or a box of fruit.
Regardless, dozens jump into this process at each break to fend off hunger pangs until dinner. But time is short, and everything requires standing in line, whether it's for the bathroom, the line for tickets, food or condiments. The results are quite lively, with a crowd of players vying for the attention of vendors.
It makes savages of everyone. Soup, served in a disposable plastic bowl, is eaten on the move with a teaspoon. Bowls of garnish are stacked high onto plastic plates with ketchup requested in English, American, Spanish and Russian accents.
Elsewhere conversations between friends recap the past hour and a half and are mostly spoken in numbers, all, like punctuation, ending with "kay". Between them all speeds Doc Sands on his mobility scooter.
Then, before you can shove a chicken roll in your face, it's time to play again. Plastic forks are thrown away, mouths are wiped and one man high fives his two young kids, telling them he'll see them at dinner.
That's one level away.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter