PCA 2015: Everything you always wanted to know about tournament poker but were afraid to ask

If you're thinking of playing the 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event, you're too late. It's already into its fourth day. But don't worry: there will another one of these next year and online qualifiers will open very soon, allowing anyone to get in on the cheap.

You also shouldn't worry about asking any dumb questions -- such as, "Can I play the 2015 PCA even though it's four days in?" There are a lot of things that are weird about major poker tournaments, and not everything makes a lot of sense. It's only natural to be a bit confused by a lot of the rules and regulations that only tend to make sense in a poker context.

This week in the Bahamas, as we sat alongside one wall of the Imperial Ballroom, we realised that plenty of things that are taken for granted by regulars at poker tournaments may be the kind of question that a newbie would be dying to ask but was too afraid to.

So we present: All The Things You Wanted To Know About Tournament Poker But Were Too Afraid To Ask.

TOURNAMENT RULES AND REGULATONS
Questions answered by Luca Vivaldi, Senior Floor Manager for PokerStars Events

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And remember, the tournament director's decision is final

I suddenly got told to leave my table when I was in the big blind. Why?
During the tournament, to keep the tables balanced, we move players from a complete table to one that is short. For example, if a table has eight players and another one has six players, we move the big blind from the full table, which is the worst position for a player, and we put you in the worst position on the other table. That's the position closest to the big blind. It's just to keep the tournament balanced. We want all the tables to have the same number of players, or as close to it as possible.

I came back after a break and all my green chips had gone. What happened?
The green chips, they are 25-value chips, and after level seven or eight (the 300-600 75 ante level) we are not going to need the 25 value chips anymore. All of the bets and the antes, the minimum amount will be 100. So, the level where the blinds are 400-800 has a 100 ante. So the smallest denomination chip that we require at that stage will be the 100. So we remove the chips we don't need anymore by exchanging them, and doing the chip race for any left over. Then there are no more 25s left in play.

Where do my chips go at the end of the day?
At the end of the day in a multi-day tournament, you put your chips into a bag. You write down your name, your surname and your nationality and you seal them. Then they go into the chip room. In every tournament that we have, there is a secure area, which is the chip room, where we store all of our chips and our gaming equipment, alongside with the bags of the players that made it through to the next day in a tournament.

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Where did my chips go?

Why did the clock stop when we got down to 15 minutes left at the end of the day?
In the last level of the day, we stop the clock when it gets down to between 10 or 15 minutes left in the level. It is at a random time between 10 and 15 minutes. Then we draw a card numbered between three and six (in an eight-handed tournament) and three or four (in a six-handed tournament) to decide how many more hands we're going to play until the day is over. It is an anti-stalling rule. It is to prevent a player that is really short stacked, who is almost in the big blind, to tank enough for the clock to run down and skip the big blind. There is a redraw at the end of the day, so the next day he's going to take the chance to be in a good position.

How long do I get to make my decisions?
It's not a set amount of time. It depends on the situation. For example, if you're first to act and you're taking two minutes every hand, that's an unreasonable amount of time. You need to remember that there's a clock running down for the whole tournament and even if you don't know the cards you want to play, you should still try to make a decision in a "reasonable" amount of time. We'll give you the usual 30 seconds to a minute, but if every hand, consistently, you're taking too long, that's slowing down the game for everybody else at the table. It means they're getting considerably less time than people at other tables. Then we're going to ask you to speed up a little bit.

At the bubble, why did we go hand-for-hand?
When you get to the bubble, you have full tables, and we make sure we play the same number of hands at each table. We do this to avoid losing a player on different tables and not being able to determine which one we lost first. Also hand for hand speeds up the game. People are not going to stall anymore. In this situation, it might be tempting for someone to stall so that another table plays more hands.

Why wasn't I allowed to turn my hand over on the bubble?
If, on the bubble, when there's an all in and a call, you turn your cards over and you're the short stack, the other player might have you drawing dead. Somebody else, on another table, might realise that you're already out of the tournament and that could influence his or her decision. So if you turn them over, we'll just turn them back again until all the action has happened elsewhere.

How is it decided where I'm going to sit?
At the end of a day, as soon as you leave the table after you've filled in the information on the bags, the dealer fills in a sheet, copying the information on the bags. The floor staff collects and verifies the information and we import it to PS Live, which is our computer system. Then, let's say we have 160 players left, we open 20 tables in the system and then we hit a button and the system starts shuffling up the players at random, and it puts them in the different seats. It fills them in. And then we bring the seat draw up. And that's it.

What is this long number on the table in front of me?
That's your ID card, a random number again generated by PS Live. We ask you to keep that next to your stack. This event is of high importance and we have lots of media covering this event, and this allows the reporters to know your name, surname, nationality by looking at that number. It means they don't have to bother you. It also helps us to track players, where they have gone if needed.

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I am not a number! I am a free man!

Why do we keep changing dealers?
All of our dealers are the best in the business, so there should be no change in the quality of dealer whoever is at your table. But we change dealers for a number of reasons. They are on a rotation, every half an hour. So every half an hour, you get a new, fresh dealer. It's good for the flow of the game. We keep a rotation going of, say, four different dealers, and the dealer you got at first is going to go on a break, and you're going to get a new, fresh one in. It's just to keep the dealers fresh all the time and new at the table, instead of keeping the same dealer there for two hours. We keep moving them.

TELEVISION
Questions answered by Francine Watson (Executive Producer of the EPT):

Who gets picked to go on the the TV table?
The best, most interesting players, usually with the most chips, will most likely get picked for TV. Or the table that promises the best dynamic for a TV show. Also it's often important that the table isn't going to break soon. We don't want to put a table on TV that will be broken [according to the tournament rules] soon. That's often the reason that sometimes there is a really stacked table but it doesn't make it to TV. It might be due to break very soon.

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I want/don't want to be up there

If I don't want to be on TV what can I do?
If you've signed the bit of paper [the tournament Terms and Conditions] you kind of have to be on TV if the TV crew wants you. There's not really much you can do about it if you don't want to be on TV, but there's also no guarantee you are going to be on TV because there are so many people here. You have signed your life away! Sorry.

Are the cameras taking live pictures? Can my friends watch me?
Yes. They can watch you on EPT Live, every day that we're here. Some cameras are not live - there are about four of them out on the floor that are not live; they're for the TV shows. But the majority of the cameras here operating are live on the internet.

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Who is watching all this?

MEDIA
Question answered by Brad Willis, Head of Blogging for PokerStars

I don't want to appear in live updates from the tournament. What can I do?
Nothing. You're not allowed to do anything. When you actually walk into the tournament room, you're essentially saying, 'I give my permission for my name and likeness to be used. It's part of the Terms and Conditions that PokerStars puts up for the event. And as a result, if you sit down in a seat and buy in for chips, the media has every right to publish your name and picture.

MASSAGE
Questions answered by Sooki Hallberg, Owner of Thee Best Hands Massage company

How do I get myself a massage?
Just ask the massage therapists themselves, if you see somebody that you'd like, when they are walking around the tournament floor. Or you can always ask the floor person, who can send someone over. Third, you could always ask us, the Thee Best Hand owners, because we are always walking around. Those are the three options.

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I want massage!

How much does it cost?
It's $2 per minute. Right now, we don't have a minimum, and there's never a maximum amount of time on the massages. We have some guys who take all day, or all tournament.

Can the massage therapists see my cards?
No. I guess, if you really wanted them to see, then you could show them, but you're really supposed to protect your cards and the therapists won't be looking. Most of my girls don't know anything about poker anyhow, so they wouldn't know what to do with them anyhow, if they saw.

What happens if I bust within a minute of my massage starting?
Well, either you could move to a massage chair, or you could move to an empty table and continue your massage. Or you could stop the massage and probably, if you bust after a minute, the girl's not even going to charge you, because she's going to feel so bad that you got knocked out.

Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page; everything from the $25,000 High Roller is on the High Roller page, and there are moving pictures on EPT Live.