PCA 2014: Behind the curtain of the biggest show on sand

When you see the PCA on TV, you see poker. That's by design, because that's what you want to see. What it takes to get it to that point is something you might never know. That's also by design. There's no reason for you to see the sausage getting made. You just want to see somebody become a millionaire.

But if you were to step behind the curtain as I did last night, you would see a machine of such intricacy and precision that you'd be afraid to touch it without gloves. It's made up of people like this, the so-called "working holiday" and core staff of the PCA.

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A small portion of the people running the PCA this week

"Passion and care is what we have for our players."

That was Alex Payne, PokerStars' CMO, standing in front of dozens of people from around the world. Many of them had never met each other. Many of them had never set foot on Paradise Island. And all of them were seated in front of one of PokerStars' top dogs and tasked with the mission to take care of several hundred people they'd never met. Their charges will come from everywhere today. They will speak more than a dozen languages. And they will expect the best poker experience of their lives.

"You are all here because you performed very well this year," said David Carrion. He and James White (pictured below) were in charge of making this event happen, and to do it they did what PokerStars has been doing for years: awarding select members of the PokerStars worldwide staff with a working holiday.

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James White and David Carrion

Payne's directive and Carrion's congratulations might sound a bit like a platitudes, and if it were any other company, they just might have been. But in this case--for this company--it was the essence of every bit of training. It's an ethos passed down from the highest of highs to the newest of hires. It's a mission these PCA worker bees fulfill every day. They're all here because they did a good job, and while they're here, they're expected to maintain the same standards they do every day in the office.

I can't tell you everything that was said last night at the PCA staff meeting, because if I did, I'd be sent home. But consider what it takes to put together a poker festival this large. Here's a quick By The Numbers look at the 2014 PCA.

210,000: Poker hands that will be dealt this week (give or take a few)

22,880: Square feet of drapery used in the PCA tournament room and other hospitality rooms.

10,000: Hotel room nights booked during the PCA.

7,000: Individual tournament registrations that will be accepted this week.

4,000: Emails received by the PCA staff from players in the lead-up to the event. Every email got a reply, and nearly all of them were addressed by just a couple of people.

1,100: PokerStars Bank transactions in which people can access their PokerStars accounts to use cash at the PCA.

600: Meters of network cables

200: Hours of video footage that will be shot this week.

125: People on the TV crew.

120: People responsible for running the tournament room.

48: TV screens and digital displays

40: Cameras in use by the TV crew, including 10 hole card cameras, two flop card cameras, five TV set cameras, seven camera floor crews.

40: Members of the international media

Indeed, what happens behind the curtain is the stuff of the Wizard of Oz. In the end, you'll simply get a good TV show...unless, of course, you're here with us. In that case, you might just have a number of your own...maybe something like...

$1.2 million: Amount of money you won this year at the PCA.


Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging