Postcard From Nassau
Saturday, 9 January 2010
The Bahamas aren’t as hot as they were last year. The place hasn’t ground to a halt under a blanket of snow, as Britain apparently has, but there is a coolness in the air and, in the evenings at least, Phil Collins’ diktat on jackets would not be advisable. Is it cold all over the world? Is this the dawn of a NEW ICE AGE? I do hope not, I hate the cold. I’d be rubbish in a new ice age. I’d just have to spend it in bed.
Nevertheless, this is a great place to be in January. The PCA is so much better than the new WSOP. (For non-poker players, that’s the “PokerStars Caribbean Adventure” vs. the “World Series of Poker”). This year there are 50 side events - hi-lo, badugi, mixed games and Omaha as well as Holdem - so it has that festival feel. The weather in the Bahamas at New Year (at best warm, sunny and beachy; at worst cool, sunny, light-jacket weather) is much easier to take than the searing desert heat of Las Vegas in July. Everyone is staying at the Atlantis resort, so it feels villagey, like the World Series did before 2005, when everyone stayed somewhere on Fremont Street and you bumped into friends all the time, before Harrahs took over and everyone fled screaming from the Rio to disperse all over town. Plus, as much as I love Las Vegas, none of it looks like this:
Oh. Damn. The server won’t upload the picture. That’s one of the down sides: with 3000 devoted poker players in one hotel, all determined to get room service and play online however many dolphins are swimming in the pools outside, the internet can be a little glitchy. The other down side is that everything in the hotel is pretty expensive. Those things aside, a couple of weeks here beats a month at the World Series into a cocked hat. You’ll just have to imagine the picture (it featured palm trees, a blue lagoon and a twinkly ocean behind it); in fact, if you’re trapped shivering in some grey and slushy part of the UK, imagining it is probably preferable to looking at it. Sorry if it sounds like I’m boasting. I didn’t come here to brag about being near palm trees, I came to brag about cashing in this tournament for the second year running. Last year I managed 30th place for $40,000; this year, only 174th for $17,500 but I’m very happy anyway. It was proper hard work to make the money; in three days’ play, I only found four pairs: KK, JJ, 99 and 44. And I folded the jacks, rightly or wrongly, after a suspicious raise and reraise. There were 1530 runners and it’s a super-tough field. The big names are all here (everywhere you look there’s a Phil Ivey, a Mike Matusow, a Daniel Negreanu or a Roland de Wolfe), plus all the names you don’t know, the secret online pros who are, these days, probably harder to beat than the big TV faces.
What’s interesting is that, in this community, the TV poker players are the only ones who everyone recognizes as being celebrities. There are “real” celebrities here, but their fame is regionally specific. I met a man in the hall way called Orel something, Orel something, Hershberger? Hellscheiser? Herschenbergscheise? Meant nothing to me, but to the Americans he’s a huge football hero. The Brits had a laugh when the announcer was calling names for a $1000 tournament and struggled with “Teddy… is it Shring-Ham ? Shearing-Hame ?” And then, when a completely anonymous blonde woman walked past my table in the main event, a Dutchman in the two-seat nearly fainted. Apparently she’s massive over there. But, here, only Ivey and Negreanu are famous to all.
Speaking of recognizable, readers of my book might be interested to hear that yesterday, just by the pizza stand in the tournament area, I met Huck Seed again, for the first time since our fateful encounter thirteen years ago. I wrote a whole chapter about that formative day, and referred back to it throughout the rest of the story. Roland de Wolfe told Huck, “Vicky wrote pages and pages about meeting you.” Huck looked me up and down, shook his head and said, “I have no memory of that at all.”
Story of my life. (Quite literally, it’s the story of my life, now just £6.80 on Amazon ;-) )
I know I’m rambling. Hard to concentrate when the sun’s out and I’ve got a $5000 Heads Up match at lunchtime. Sorry, it sounds like I’m chirping again. There’s only another few days; by the weekend I’ll be freezing my arse off in Cardiff, don’t worry about that.