PCA 2014: Dining out on Team PokerStars Online
The Cove is a five-minute shuttle bus ride away from the PCA tournament room and is where high rollers tend to reside during the PCA. While our end of Atlantis is still pretty fancy - where else would Starbucks get relegated to the basement? - it just doesn't compare. In rooms in the Coral Tower, where us mortals stay, you get eight pillows. Eight! One can only assume that rooms in The Cove come with a minimum of 12, probably more, all stuffed with unicorn manes or fairy dust. And I've been invited to dinner with Team PokerStars Online there. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
Right around the midpoint of a steel drum rendition of 'We wish you a happy Christmas and a merry New Year' my shuttle bus pulled up outside The Cove, which is billed on the Atlantis website as 'stylish and dynamic' and offering 'the ultimate escape within the world of Atlantis.' That I can't attest to, but it certainly looks swanky. It's one of those places only the truly rich and successful can walk into without thinking that someone might ask to see their ID. The Mesa Grill, which sits just inside the entrance to The Cove, had been chosen yesterday as the dining and getting together spot for Team Online following a busy day of media and PR seminars from, among others, PokerStars Blog head honcho Brad Willis. It's not all just button-clicking and making FPPs faster than you could flick an abacus. There are media commitments.
I know the difference between Team Online and Team Pro inside out, but to the uninitiated it may not be so obvious. Both teams wear patches. Both teams are full of PokerStars sponsored players. Both teams have some enormous winning players. What you might not know is that the teams are managed by two entirely different departments to somewhat different ends. While Team PokerStars Pro could be compared to Messi, all fancy tricks and front covers, Team PokerStars Online is perhaps more of a Xavi or Iniesta, technical brilliance demonstrating a pure understanding of the game from the centre of the field. That's not to say there's not a crossover, but I'll let the analogy stand.
One big happy family (of international poker wizards)
They may be a group of international poker players better known for beating all comers at virtual poker tables by way of mouse and laptop, but in person they're a surprisingly pleasant bunch, if not downright amusing. From the smiley and affable Adrienne "talonchick" Rowsome through to the occasionally sardonic Mickey "mement_mori" Petersen, the group seems to operate like a family unit, albeit one that only gets together occasionally before returning to far flung corners of the world to tear the online poker world apart.
Dale "Daleroxxu" Philip seems to be the naughty nephew. He's certainly the only one who's told, quite specifically, by the team manager not to order a doggy bag takeout, which I presumed was a joke. Philip's spent time living in Thailand and, following a sojourn back home to Scotland, is returning to South-East Asia this year. I found myself seated next to Philip on one of the two tables reserved for us and quickly discovered the doggy bag warning wasn't made in jest. Philip looks like a man who would order two starters given a chance. In fact, he does. And two sides with his main. And several glasses of fresh orange juice. And he talks a lot, too - pretty much non-stop when he's on a roll.
New addition Alex "Kanu7" Millar, a high stakes pro, was sat on my other side, somewhat ironically opposite fellow high stakes heads-up grinder Ike "Ike Haxton" Haxton. Millar's obviously a smart guy and has a wry sense of humour (well, he is English). He can play and win at $400/$800, but when it comes to more mundane matters, like explaining how he found himself owning a flat in Germany, and he's at a loss. Haxton only a little earlier that day had bust out of the $100,000 Super High Roller, but seemed less concerned about that than teaching Philip what a tamale is (it's a Mesoamerican corn-base dish). There's a certain quality needed to win at the highest stakes.
Also sat at the table were Randy "nanonoko" Lew, Felix "xflixx" Schneiders and Marc-Andre "FrenchDawg" Ladouceur. They're all friendly chatty guys, at least up until dinner was consumed: Ladouceur entered a food torpor partly brought on by, if I caught this right, four hours of sleep in the previous two days. Even by PokerStars Blog standards, that's not much.
Now then, I'd understand if you didn't take my word for it. I do work for PokerStars and had just been bought a delightful dinner (even if I did have to wrestle Philip off the second half of my steak), but you can find out for yourself if you're here at the PCA. Team Online is going to be playing HU4ROLLZ in the Players' Lounge and you can play them heads-up with the chance to win $2,500. Just don't leave any food unattended near Dale Philip.
• HU4ROLLZ runs in the Players' Lounge from Jan 7-9 with daily winners.
• There will be two sessions a day: 12.15pm - 2.15pm and 8.15pm-10.15pm.
• You can play each Team Online member once. There will be four Team Online members to play each day.
• Daily winners are determined by maximum number of points accumulated at end of each day.
• Participants play until they lose to Team Online member.
• Daily Prize Structure*: 1st: $2,500, 2nd: $1,500, 3rd: $1,000
• Point System is as follows: Win: 50 points, Loss: 10 points
• Example: Win 2 straight matches, lose third: 50+50+10 = 110 PTS
• Tie Breakers: In the event of ties, the tiebreaker is made based on the amount played on PokerStars in 2013, measured by the number of VIP Player Points (VPPs) accumulated.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.