BY RUSS SCOTT
JANUARY 8, 2008
FOREIGN FLAVOR SPICES RECORD-SETTING BAHAMAS TOURNEY
PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS — I’m going to have to brush up on my Spanish, French, Swedish, Vietnamese and a bunch of other languages if I ever make it back to this island.
The international flavor of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure this week is pervasive — from the Atlantis Resort hallways to the poker tables to the media center. That flavor is enhanced this year now that the tournament is an official event of the European Poker Tour, an international poker circuit.
Meanwhile, the surge in players to a record-breaking level here puts it just below the World Series of Poker as the largest of live tournaments ever. The full field of 1,135 was split into two “Day 1″ groups — and still filled the giant tournament area both Saturday and Sunday.
Last year’s event drew 938 players and yielded a $1.5 million top prize for Ryan Daut, the first U.S. winner here following victories in the first three tournaments by Gus Hansen (Denmark), John Gale (England), and Steve Paul-Ambrose (Canada). This year’s winner will receive about $1.8 million.
Many of poker’s biggest are here, but the hallmark of this event is that more than half of the field won seats online at the PokerStars site, pushing the prize pool to $9 million and putting an exclamation point on the popularity of online poker.
Greg Raymer, 2004 World Series champ and member of Team PokerStars Pro, described the event as “the most fun of any tournament we go to all year. My wife and daughter always come, and they look forward to the trip all year long.”
At the welcome reception Friday night, Raymer told me that big social shindigs probably weren’t his favorite thing, but judging by the fun his family was having and the flow of fans stopping by to say hello, there were lots of people who were happy he was there.
And what a reception it was — a huge crowd, tasty eats and treats, sightings of elite poker players, and a lively island band that had people dancing and tapping!
The show-stoppers, though, were the scantily-clad young women dancing with (and dang-near swallowing) fire sticks, plus an amazing young island man who limbo’d his way beneath long burning sticks set exactly the height of a tennis shoe. Blindfolded!
Other sights and happenings from the early stages of a week in the Bahamas:
* Panic set in at the Nassau airport when it appeared my suitcase didn’t make it. I was paranoid already, thanks to the passport checks and immigration documents. I walked around the luggage carousel 10 times, hoping someone had set my bag off to the side.
Since I clearly looked confused, an employee with a luggage cart asked if I needed help. I said yes, and he directed me to a woman with a clipboard. As soon as I told her which flight I was on, she pointed to where my suitcase would be — carousel No. 3, not No. 2.
I felt rather silly, but was really happy to find my bag intact.
* The ride from the Nassau airport to Paradise Island was breathtaking — and that doesn’t even count the scenery!
From my front-row seat on a 30-passenger van, I got a close-up view of how expert drivers win the game of chicken against other motorists on the city’s narrow, winding and congested two-lane roads.
Our driver somehow squeezed the van past everything without a scrape, including two vehicles blocking the road after their rear-end crash right in front of us!
* It seems like more than half of the 50-plus journalists covering the PCA are speaking English with a foreign accent or using their native language completely.
When multiple conversations are happening simultaneously, the result, to me, is a fascinating chaotic chorus of sound.
On Sunday, on of those conversations was between a reporter and Humberto Brenes about 10 feet from my work station. The reporter asked, in English, how the Costa Rican poker star wanted to be remembered, but Brenes didn’t understand the gist of the question. The reporter asked it again, but shied away from saying something like, “After you’re dead…”
With a frustrated look on his face, Brenes, who’s just 56, called Susan Lindner of Lotus Public Relations over to translate the inquiry for him. I didn’t catch his reply, but perhaps it was: “Hey, do you know something about my health that I don’t?”
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
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