Isle of Man: Three feet to stand on

I'm at Gatwick airport outside London, and my feet hurt. It's a long layover, one endured after a transcontinental flight in coach where the food was as you'd expect and the movie was worse. I've chosen a particular ray of sunshine in which to wait out the hours before my next flight, and that light is currently casting an embarrassing glow on my stockinged feet. This is England. It's a proper place, and taking off my shoes in public seems like the kind of faux pas I should avoid. I'm ignoring this intuition, and my feet are grateful. Also, the couple next to me just changed seats. It's a double win.

It's been 24 hours since I saw a bed, and I don't expect to see another one for at least 18 more. There's a reason for this, and it's one I'm fortunate to have. The fine folks at PokerStars have invited me to come to the UK & Ireland Poker Tour's first-ever event in the Isle of Man. The little island of 84,000 people in the Irish Sea is home to PokerStars' headquarters, and this week-long festival is being billed as PokerStars first home game. I was honored to make the guest list.

Over the past several weeks, my friends and family have asked about the trip, and the most popular question was, "Isle of Man? Where is that?" My ready answer is, "It's in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain." I've said it enough that I was thinking I should just have this Wikipedia screen capture tattooed on my back. My wife might think it's sexy (or, more likely, send me to a dermatologist to "have that looked at").

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If I were to get some Isle of Man ink, though, it wouldn't be the map. It would be the flag. It's bright red and has three connected legs at its center. It's probably one of the top five flags I've seen in my life. What it represents is even more important.

The Isle of Man's motto is Quocunque Jeceris Stabit. That can be translated a lot of ways, but the most accepted is "Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand."

And so, I look at this flag, and I think someone throwing the three-legged circle and watching in fascination as it stands, no matter where it lands and no matter how many times you throw it again.

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This is not the sum total of what I know about the Isle of Man, but it is the foundation on which I'm setting my expectations for the next week. Ostensibly I'm there for a big poker tournament, and though I intend to see a lot of that, I'm counting on my friends at PokerStars to show me what their home is all about. In the days leading up to this trip, I've seen these folks' distinct pride in their home, and I'm excited to share it with them for a week.

The simple fact is, I'm headed to a place with the kind of history I've never seen. People have been living on the island since 6500 B.C. No matter what's been thrown at them, no matter where those people have been thrown, they have stood. If I needed some perspective on the duration of my flight or my own two feet, that little statistic helped.

And now, some 8,600 years later, we're turning to an historic PokerStars event, the first of its kind on the island. I wrote about everything that's happening in this post. If you're going, you'll need to come say hi, and if not, I hope you follow along here. Tonight, PokerStars is hosting one of its famous VIP Club Live parties in advance of tomorrow's Main Event. I'm going to try to sneak into that and see if I can pass for a VIP (I'll wear my shoes).

As always, the PokerStars Blog will have live coverage of the UKIPT Main Event. Rick Dacey and Nick Wright will being providing live coverage of the tournament from beginning to end. Meanwhile, I'll be doing my best to learn as much as I can about the Isle of Man, its culture, and its people. In the middle of all of that, I've been promised an inside look at PokerStars and how it operates. What's more, I've been told I can write about it here.

So, now I throw myself at the Isle of Man. I'm hoping a little of the local history helps me stay on my feet.

Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in UKIPT