PCA 2014: flying the Turks & Caicos flag in paradise
For the most part, the PCA beach life is a novelty for those that make the journey to paradise each year. But there are five competitors in this week's Main Event field for whom it's nothing new. The group has made a short 400-mile hop from an idyllic chain of islands known as the Turks & Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory where the average annual temperature rates in the high eighties, and you need lotion in the shade. For a few of them, the peaceful setting is a safe-haven where they can grind the PokerStars games and build their bankrolls. For others, it's where they've based their livelihoods. To all, it's home.
Mike Adamo, Blair MacPherson, Rhynie 'Kojak' Campbell, William Davis, and their friend, Jason Francis -- who's playing Day 1B of the Main Event tomorrow -- make up 0.02% of the Turks & Caicos population. That might not sound like a noteworthy figure, but if the same principle was applied to the United States population, this year's Main Event would have at least 63,000 players flying the stars and stripes in the Imperial Ballroom (It's amazing what you can do with statistics).
One by one, Team Turks & Caicos arrived today in good spirits. And together they're a microcosm of what major live poker fields are all about: diversity.
MacPherson is a "big real estate guy", and "not a hardcore player at all". Davis is a
"four or five time Supernova Elite" and former Loose Cannon on the Big Game, who emigrated from the US to keep his poker playing days alive. Adamo grinds multi-table tournaments when he's not watching over his much-loved "Sharkbite bar and Grill". And Campbell -- the only one of the four playing today actually born in Turks & Caicos -- is a WPT winner, casino owner, and the island's current all-time money winner.
"Back home the weather's incredible all year round," says MacPherson from under his red-rimmed baseball cap. "People come there for the beauty of the islands. I mean, it's got one of the five best beaches in the world."
"I would say top three," jokes Davis, his wife Hannah by his side. "They use the US Dollar, the internet's reliable and English is the official language, so it's very convenient."
"We're all poker hermits." adds Adamo, who moved to Turks & Caicos from Canada in 2006. "But this...the PCA... it's a big event for us."
Together, this close-knit group have attended 15 of these "big" events. And each has their own story for how they got here today.
PCA regular, Adamo, won his seat on PokerStars in December, Campbell bought in as the first hands were being dealt, while MacPherson followed the satellite route, albeit in slightly more dramatic fashion than most. "I won my seat at eight o'clock on Sunday night in the final $700 online satellite qualifier," he gushes. "I love the challenge poker gives me and I'll learn a lot today."
To a man they know that if anyone of them can turn today's 30,000 starting stack into a seven-figure pay day, they'll be welcomed home as heroes. When your home country is less than 500 square kilometres in size, beating the game's best players for more than a million dollars would probably turn you into a sizeable attraction.
"These guys are already celebrities on the island," says Campbell as he gestures towards his friends. "The local people visit Mike's restaurant to see the sharks, Blair's well known for real estate, Will's doing all the poker stuff, and if one of us can we win this..."
So what do the chances of celebrating a first Turks & Caicos PCA winner on Monday look like? Well, the seat draw hasn't been too kind.
MacPherson has to contend with WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Reiss. Adamo has Team PokerStars Pro Humberto Brenes two to his left, and Davis is sat next to the reigning LAPT Uruguay champ, Carter Gill. But the real challenge, on paper at least, has been reserved for Campbell. His starting table is Table 27. And Table 27 sees the likes of Team PokerStars' Ike Haxton, Jake Cody and Liv Boeree all sharing elbow room.*
For the 25,000 or so Turks & Caicos islanders waiting back home, here's hoping one of their representatives can overcome the odds.
*As of 16:40 Eastern Time, Campbell is the chip leader on his table. Shows how much I know.
Click through for live coverage of the PCA 2014 Main Event to see how they get on.
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.