Monday, January 12, 2009

PCA Afterthoughts: Midnight Ravers

By Pauly
New York City

"Never let a Scandi cokehead do a pot deal in the Bahamas for you," he said.

Getting your gambling fix on the tournament trail is easy. There's always a juicy side game or some sort of casino to heal your daily jones for action. If you have particular tastes for pharmaceuticals, powders, or herbal supplements, then finding those luxury items on the road in foreign lands can prove to be a overwhelming exercise.

But the Bahamas was different. The 200 islands and several hundred cays that comprise the Bahamas are a haven for bootleggers. Centuries ago, it was rum. These days, it's drugs. One of the first things I noticed was the disclaimer letter that I found moments after I checked into my room. The management encouraged their guests to not rent from the jet ski guys because they were not affiliated with the property and to avoid them due to insurance reasons. Although that was true, the main reason was that the jet ski guys were the black market entrepreneurs. Whatever your vice, they either had it or knew where to get it. After all, it's a small island. And it went on everywhere on the islands. Of course, if the Atlantis could properly regulate the drug trade on Paradise Island, then it would totally be kosher to buy from anyone. You'd be able to buy a bag of overpriced shitty ditch weed with your hotel room key but they'd hit you with a "deforestation surcharge" and a 15% gratuity.

No matter what country you visit (including America) the majority of cabbies are often immigrants to that country. Despite that fact, I have discovered that cab drivers hold the most knowledge about the local vice scene; drugs, sex, rock and roll. They know where to take you because they cross to the other side of the tracks quiet frequently. Some are even pimps, hustlers, and drug dealers thinly veiled as a cabbie and those are the mast dangerous to encounter.

Otis and Benjo had interesting cab rides to Atlantis. Benjo's driver was pouring himself a stiff cocktail while he drove, while Otis' cabbie dispatched sagely advice on double dipping and the scams that the working girls often pulled on unsuspecting johns like the "you're hurting me because you're too big routine." The locals might move and work slow, but they can roll you in the blink of an eye.

Mine were not as effervescent. The guy who drove me in barely said a word to me. On my departure, the driver wanted $30 to take me to the airport and I got her down to $20 plus a tip. She was short. Very short. And looked like the mother from What's Happening. She wore a bright green jacket and matching skirt and drove a big van with four rows of seats. I hopped in the back row with a couple from France who sat in the second row. We lazily made the trek off of Paradise Island over the eyesore slab of concrete that makes up two bridge expanses that connect the main island to Paradise.

Traffic was heavy on Elizabeth Street, a two lane winding road that was cluttered with limousines and airport vans. It was rush hour for tourists since it was peak checkout time and hordes of tourists needed to be herded to the airport. We eventually converged on Bay Street, the main drag on Nassau.

My driver pointed out Anna Nicole Smith's grave. The French couple gave each other a bewildered look, like they should know who that is, but don't. Hey, it's not like ANS was Simone de Beauvior. She was a tramp, a famous one at that, and unleashed a karmic path of doom. The gold digger dug her own grave and became a tourist attraction for the ravenous appetite of the many visitors who got bored of swimming with dolphins. Alas, her end was in the Bahamas and we whizzed by on the way to the airport. Aside from pointing out the grave, my driver was silent.

* * * * * *

The Costa Ricans have to be my favorite group of international media. The amicable bunch always traveled in a pack and you rarely saw them standing around solo. They were always in pairs. And they were everywhere clad in blue and white bowling shirts. I never saw one without either a cocktail in their hand or a camera dangling around their necks. Sometimes, they had both. They wore headsets and used walkie talkies, which made them look even cooler. They had a fondess for Jagermeister and Jim Beam and consumed them at a rapid pace until the wee hours of the morning, yet they were always on the ball. If something big was happening in the Imperial Ballroom, they were on the scene. Two of them, of course.

One of my favorite parts about the EPT is the collection of international media from various countries. I wrote for PokerStars and the expanded team included bloggers from the UK, Italy, German, Poland, Sweden, Brazil, and Spain. The PCA used to be a part of the World Poker Tour and now it's the most popular spot on the EPT.

The Bahamas has become a Mecca for online players, particularly those who are under 21. The PCA is often marks the debut of the latest prodigy that nobody has met or see play live before. Most of those players cannot set foot in a Las Vegas casino so they have flown under the radar of traditional poker media. That's why stops on the international circuit (where the playing age requirement is 18 years instead of 21 in most US casinos) have become widely popular destinations. And the PCA is sort of like summer camp and the WSOP rolled into one event.

The PCA also gave players the opportunity to meet their friends and nemesis for the first time. They might hav played together for years but never met face-to-face until they crossed paths in the Bahamas. That exchange was a frequent happening so it was not uncommon to witness a first-time meeting between players.

"What's your screename?" seemed to be a popular question.

And the lobby of the Coral Towers was the nesting spot for the majority of the players. A small bar hugged the corner and that's where Otis and I spent the evenings away our per diem with bottles of Kaliks. Poker players were spread out all over the lobby. The wifi connection is the strongest in the lobby and it was a who's who of online poker legends. Even season pros like Erik Seidel and Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler frequented the lobby, along with Gavin Smith who was a fixture at the bar.

On the other side of the room, the tables were peppered with twenty-something kids on their laptops playing online poker. Gobboboy and his friends sat at a different table and played Magic: The Gathering for cash. A couple of guys were engaged in a high stakes beer pong match for $2,000 a game, while Stevie "I Won 100 Seats to the 2008 WSOP" Chidwick was bogged down in a high stakes Chinese Poker game with the Scandis.

We frequently held court at one table in the corner of the lobby, the same table with a marble top where one of our Costa Rican colleagues snorted a line of crushed up Smarties... for free.

"Next time, don't do it for free," said Otis who offered him up some quick advice on unusual prop bets.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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