In the far corner of the main tournament room of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, it looks like a hockey game could break out at any moment. Eight men and one woman are lined up in front of media row, all of them decked out in hockey jerseys from all over Canada. We’re told, absent a freak ice rink forming in the middle of the room, there will be no hip-checking. Instead, it will be check-raising for a $250,000 prize pool.
A couple of months ago, Canadian Poker players faced off on PokerStars for a national battle. The $530 online poker contest ended with nine players remaining, all of whom who have made their way down to the PCA for free for the live final.
“It’s amazing,” said final table player Andrew Virgo. “PokerStars is really taking care of us.”
Virgo is short-stacked at the table, but feels like he already won. Not only did he get the free trip and a chance at big money, but he is guaranteed $4,100 even if he busts out first.
“My family just arrived,” he said. “They wanted to go somewhere, so we’re making a vacation of it.”
Despite competing on this big stage and in front of the TV cameras today, the 24-year-old from Toronto considers himself a casual player. He spends most of his time working as a financial consultant for the government. Today the only numbers he is thinking about involve his chips.
“I’ve got about 12 big blinds,” he said. “I’m going to be looking to make a move.”
Meanwhile, standing in line with Virgo is Team PokerStars Online’s Adrienne Rowsome.
“I’m not nervous enough yet,” Rowsome said.
Rowsome stood on the periphery of all the hubbub looking around the room. Like Virgo, this is Rowsome’s first trip to the PCA. Despite that, she looks like a veteran of the event. It was beginning to worry her. Like many people, she needs a little anxiety to focus.
Asked how much money went to first, her eyes narrowed. “It’s $47,000 and a seat to the $25,000 High Roller,” she said. At that moment, she seemed to find that elusive nervousness, and turned to accommodate a fan’s request.
Virgo and Rowsome are joined at the table by Benjamin Leblond, Sarvesh Pershad, Qi Hu, Travis Wigle, David Labchuk, Luc Lafontaine, and Karamjeet Singh Shergill. At the moment, they are all being treated like royalty. No fewer than six members of the catering staff are setting up coffee, tea, soda, and sandwiches just outside the television stage. Before the day ends, the final table players will all be handed enough money to make this vacation a rich one, and one of them will be moving on to the $25,000 PCA High Roller later this week.
For now, they’re sitting down to play in their hockey jerseys. If a fight breaks out, we’ll be sure to let you know.