UKIPT IoM III: The show that never ends...
Phish has nothing on the Villa Marina and PokerStars. If you're not into jam-band music, you might not be aware of the cult-attracting (and South Park parodied) group that brings trance-dance jams and mind-bending light shows to for-the-moment hippies around the globe.
Well, Trey Anastasio, have a look at this:
That's right - a couple of thousand people from the Isle of Man got to enjoy this each night of the UKIPT, courtesy of PokerStars. And the soundtrack was, honestly, quite danceable.
Which was, perhaps, thematic of the whole extended weekend. We call our big poker tournaments "festivals", but nowhere is the term more apt than when the Isle of Man hosts the UKIPT.
161 PokerStars employees (2/3 of the entire office) turned out on Wednesday evening, along with a handful of PokerStars pros and local celebrity ringers, to create the biggest live staff tournament in PokerStars history.
And that was before the whole thing officially kicked off - though Toby Stone and his team managed to squeeze in a satellite to the main event that evening.
From then on, the party never seemed to end. The cash games kicked off and ran until 4:00am; the next morning everybody would be back at it (modulo, perhaps, those who closed the cash games at 4:00 in the morning), ready to play more poker, greet new and old friends, walk along the prom, or enjoy an ice cream cone while watching the Irish Sea roll into the beach.
Maybe it was the Villa Marina with its theater seating that just begged people to sit with a pint or a cup of coffee hard on the edges of the poker action, kibitzing and chatting about the most recent bad beat.
Maybe it was live traditional Irish music in the foyer on Saturday that caused the manager of the Villa Marina to come out, near tearful with joy, to offer a free round of drinks to the musicians.
Maybe it was the "Build Your Stack" event, where PokerStars and Full Tilt employees who had won seats to an official final table played it out on the top stage of the Villa with the whole room watching. With Chris Moneymaker, Fatima de Melo, and yours truly taking short turns dealing to them.
Or maybe... maybe it was the giant crowds of PokerStars employees and Manx locals gathered shouting around the final table of the main event as Manx poker stalwart John Lawson and PokerStars staffer Paren Arzoomanian both battled for the title. Ultimately, John busted in 5th place, but Paren went right down the wire, finally succumbing to Daniel Stacey in a brilliant heads-up match.
Actually, I think I've hit the point of it right there. You know, when we first fired up the UKIPT on the Isle of Man two years ago, there was great consternation about the idea of having PokerStars employees play in the main event. People wondered, "What will happen if a PokerStars employee wins?"
Well, we came within a handful of outs of a PokerStars employee winning. Having seen the rail as Paren and Daniel contested for the trophy, I'm prepared to make a prediction: the place will go berserk. But, the thinking goes, will the larger poker community accept the idea of a PokerStars employee winning a major PokerStars-sponsored main event?
I'm prepared to make a prediction on that too: hell, yes. Certainly not to my surprise, the poker community expects PokerStars people to know a thing or three about poker and to take the game seriously. They love playing poker with us just as much as we love playing poker with them. They totally get that the cards don't give a damn if their recipient is wearing a PokerStars staff patch. What the people want is great poker, on a level playing field, and may the best player, regardless of affiliation, win. They got all of that.
And oh by the way, could we please have that great poker in an awesome turn-of-the-20th-century seaside venue, with live music, ice cream, a massive charity event, with celebrities and PokerStars Team Pros in attendance?
And a wicked 3-D lightshow. Gotta have a lightshow.
With thanks to Marina Corkhill from PokerStars for some of the images included in this post.
Lee Jones is the Director of Poker Communications at PokerStars and has been part of the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.