PCA 2015: 15 things I never expected to see at the PCA

As previously reported, this is my first trip to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. I'm no stranger to tournament poker though, having watched it on TV for years and played it for even longer. But no matter how well I tried to prepare myself, there's plenty going on here that has taken me by surprise during my first visit to Paradise.

With the tournament series now into its final two days, it seems like a good time to reflect on the 15 Things I Never Expected to See at the PCA:

1. Chris Moneymaker dominating at the tables...the beer pong tables

Everyone who's picked up a poker chip in the last decade knows the story of 'the accountant from Tennessee'. I'd never met him before this week, but having seen him in action I can confirm that the guy's got mad skills. Reading the table, sizing up the opposition, playing the percentages...and he didn't spill a drop.


The amazing thing is, he qualified for the beer pong tourney for just $39

2. A striker in top form

For a while it seemed like former World Footballer of the Year Ronaldo was going to make it all the way to yet another final. 'Il Fenomeno' outplayed, out-drew and outlasted a huge field to make it past the bubble and down to the final three tables, eventually finishing in a more-than-respectable 26th place for $42,180.

Smiling Ronaldo PCA 2015.jpgRonaldo: the people's champion

3. A rail so biased

Speaking of the boy from Brazil, I've never seen a player on the TV table of a tournament, with 27 players left, so well supported. Brazilian flags were waved, mini-sambas were danced, and you couldn't escape the feeling that even members of the TV crew were rooting for Ronaldo whenever he got his chips in. When he finally bust out, so did a tiny part of us all.

4. A single apple on sale for over $3.50

Not since the Garden of Eden has a man named Adam paid a higher price for an apple.

5. A Super High Roller focusing so intently...on push-ups

If I found myself at a table with former EPT winner Mike McDonald, I'd certainly try and find a way of distracting him and making sure the patented 'Timex Staredown' wasn't pointed my way. Bill Perkins found an unusual solution on Day 1 of the Super High Roller, when he somehow managed to get McDonald to spend one level doing 300 air-squats (completed with time to spare), and another doing 350 push-ups (of which he did 'just' 323).

McDonald Push Up PCA 2015.jpgMike McDonald looks for that chip he dropped

6. The Young Guns

It's still a surprise to walk through the field in a $5,300 Turbo, for example, and see tables filled with youthful protégés who somehow have that kind of money to spend on the higher variance, breakneck-paced Turbo tourneys. I heard a story about one player (name withheld) firing three bullets in the $100K Super High Roller, then spending another $100K on a buy-in for a friend, then when they'd both bust out complaining that it left him 'only' $100,000 for the rest of the week. And all this at an age when I'd memorised the cash machines in my area that carried £5 notes, because I didn't always have £10 in my account.

7. Rain

Last Saturday it rained. For about 5 minutes. In the middle of the night. Honestly, the things we have to put up with...

8. Main Event players at the table playing poker...on their phones

After the ME bubble had burst I saw an in-the-money player, with a medium-sized stack, playing on the PokerStars mobile app at the same time as playing a live hand. You've got to respect the ability to multi-table when there's almost $1.5M up top (not to mention the brand loyalty).

9. An aquarium with beer on tap

The Atlantis 'Predator Tunnel' is an amazing underground aquarium populated by some of the most beautiful and dangerous creatures on Earth. And at the end of the tunnel is a bar. Watch the fish, then drink like one. You don't get that at London Zoo.

10. Unusual hands

I'm no Daniel Negreanu, but I've played a bit, read a bit, watched a bit. And some hands I've seen here still have me scratching my head. One hand I witnessed on the last level of Day 2, with blinds of 1000/2000/300, ended up with a board of 7♦9♠A♣A♥A♠ and three players still in. One player called a bet and a raise on the river, then mucked when shown pocket fives. You won't see that one on TV.

11. Ole Schemion's balloon

EPT Player of the Year Schemion clutched a yellow balloon to his chest throughout almost three days of the Main Event. We asked him what it meant, but he wasn't about to tell us. We subsequently learned it was called 'Buzz', and had the words 'Cos I Can' written on it in pen. And that's still all we know.

Schemion and Buzz PCA 2015.jpgSchemion and 'Buzz': cos they can

12. Unorthodox table talk

I overheard this nugget during the $2,200 Turbo Bounty tournament, as a player who had just raised turned to the player next to him - who wasn't involved in the hand - and said: 'Can you please stop staring at me? You're pushing me out of my comfort zone!'

13. A player abandoning his hand

"Call", he says, and turns over pocket kings, while his all-in opponent shows an ace-high. An ace hits on the turn and he immediately stands up and quickly paces away. Five minutes later he's back. "What came on the river?"

14. Poker players getting up early

Actually, make that poker players getting up early...to go outside to the beach...for a punishing physical training session...with Mixed Martial Arts legend Tito Ortiz.

Tito Training PCA 2015.jpg"And THAT'S how you play A-Q in middle position!"

15. Ronaldo asking Steve O'Dwyer for a selfie

One of them has earned a fortune by taking on the best players in the world, and proving themselves again and again as a world-beater. The other has won the World Cup, twice.


Just another example of the topsy-turvy world of the PCA, where the unexpected happens every day. There's nowhere like it in the world, and nowhere I'd rather be. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off for a beer pong rematch with Chris Moneymaker. Gotta make that apple money.

Tourney Room PCA 2015.jpg

Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page, High Roller live updates are here, and the live stream is on this PCA Live webcast.

Adam Hampton is a copywriter for PokerStars