PCA 2015: A slow start, but a start at least
"If there's nothing happening, you write about nothing."
This forgotten* tenet of journalism has come to define much in the world of new media, where an average of 40,000 words per minute** are published on personal blogs (and the Huffington Post) despite a combined value of absolutely nothing. Joseph Pulitzer would be proud.
It is, however, an important rule to bear in mind at the beginning of a Super High Roller tournament, where a scheduled starting time does not necessarily mean that there will be anything happening at the published hour. Far from it, in fact. With registration open until the beginning of Day 2, none of the players in a $100,000 poker tournament are exactly keen to get started at the crack of noon. It means that any reporters eager to get started on their coverage of said event need to find a way to write about nothing, it being all that is happening.
Such was the case this afternoon at the 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, where this two-week festival kicks off with the biggest buy in event of them all. At 11.45 a.m., however, the cavernous Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis Resort was devoid of the one type of person the event most requires: poker players.
Six tables had been allocated in the tournament area, around which sat six dealers and two floor staff. Four of them were bald; four were not. There was nothing to be read into the fact, but it was, as I said, difficult to find an angle.
As the clock ticked to 11.50 a.m., little had changed. The four follicly challenged members of the crew now gathered around the same table, although it seemed to be coincidence rather than a convention. But I vowed to keep watch. At 11.55 a.m., there was a clear sighting of a poker player, but it was Jason Wheeler, whose name is not on the Super High Roller player list. Wheeler ambled through the tables, took a photograph of the room, and ambled away again.
At 11.56 a.m., we received tacit confirmation that this tournament might actually take place by the arrival of Stephen Chidwick, carrying a slip of paper between two fingers, which confirmed his $100,000 buy-in to the event. Chidwick, accompanied by his girlfriend, took a seat at a table that was not allocated for the Super High Roller event and began hammering out a couple of text messages on his phone.
At 11.58 a.m., Bill Perkins wandered into the room and had a chat with James Hartigan and Neil Johnson. Perkins was certainly here to play the event, but did not have his tournament ticket as yet. He idled the time in conversation and did not approach the tables.
On the stroke of noon, it was quite clear: we would not be starting on time. A member of floor staff wandered over to find Mike Ward, the PCA tournament director, presumably to ask him what was the contingency plan if nobody showed up. As those six dealers perhaps allowed themselves to dream of the possibility of an afternoon on the waterslides, Steve O'Dwyer arrived.
O'Dwyer was another certain participant, but he was also reluctant to get too close to the playing arena. He dumped his bag on a chair beside Chidwick and went to fetch a glass of water.
At 12.02 p.m., Andrew Robl showed up. The American pro went to stand with Perkins and exchanged some pleasantries, just at the point that Pratyush Buggiga swelled the ranks some more. Buddiga, who recently won a High Roller event at the Aria, is in good form but was not in the mood for conversation. He found another empty table and sat down.
Dani Stern arrived. He looked around. He saw that nobody was playing. He sat down. And then Paul Newey entered the building. Newey, who was flanked by his four-man entourage, is more keen than most to begin playing at the earliest opportunity, but even he sat away from the tables where the chips were.
All of a sudden, however, there was an announcement: "Attention please for the Super High Roller!" The inaction was breathtaking. "We are going to do the seat draw."
Nobody moved. The announcement came from a table just in front of the main tournament area, where a member of the floor staff laid out cards. But despite the entreaty, nobody moved. The announcement repeated, and Newey stepped up.
"The one who goes first, comes first," he said and drew his card.
It was a good move. Shortly after, Buddiga headed to the table. Then Stern, O'Dwyer and Chidwick. Perkins had now been handed his tournament ticket, so he joined the line.
And he was followed by Roger Sippl, a player unknown to those of us who report primarily in Europe, but who has nonetheless earned $1.6 million in live tournaments, including victory in a Super High Roller event at the Aria, Las Vegas, in September.
In his "other" life, Sippl is a software pioneer and partner in Sippl Investments LLC, a private venture capital partnership. He's the kind of guy for whom Google's predictive search suggests you look up "net worth" when you type his name into the search box.
All of a sudden, there was a relative rush to the tournament area. Mohsin Charania, Zach Hyman and Sam Greenwood showed up, closely followed by Vladimir Troyanovskiy. David Carrion, PokerStars' director of operations, Latin America and PCA, added "valet" to his long title and steered the newcomers to the seat draw table.
As if by magic, Scott Seiver also appeared.
"Attention dealers and players in the Super High Roller," came another announcement. They drew for the button and were told to shuffle up and deal. At almost the precise moment, we were suddenly inundated with Germans in shorts as Fedor Holz, Ole Schemion and Max Altergott joined the fray.
With that, action was under way. It was 12.16 p.m. They will play eight one-hour levels today.
**also invented, but approximately right
Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at PokerStars Blog. Head to the Super High Roller page to see hand-by-hand updates and chip counts in the panel at the top of the page, with feature articles below. Action starts soon on EPT Live.