As an online poker player, going to the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure has been on my bucket list for years. In 2016, I finally got my chance to attend. As usual, I have to do these poker trips on a budget. Staying at the Atlantis is incredibly expensive, and with no way of driving the Nitmobile to an island, I had to get creative. My original plan was to take an inexpensive cruise to the Bahamas and spend a day railing my friends who were playing.
This idea fell through because I waited too long to book the trip and the prices went up. Luckily for me, my buddy Killingbird from Tournament Poker Edge already had a room and invited me to crash on his couch. This worked out better for me as it gave me a full three days at the PCA as opposed to the half day that I’d planned for with the cruise. Here’s how it went.
My flight landed at the Nassau airport literally minutes before Killingbird’s did. We met up at security and split a cab to the hotel. After checking in, we went straight to the tournament area. The first thing I noticed were the legendary prices I’d heard so much about. I pushed right past the poker celebrities so that I could take a picture of these insane prices. My favorite had to be the $9 cupcakes. Anyone who buys that has to be out of their mind. Speaking of being out of one’s mind, I noticed a table in the hall that had lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles for the players to dress their $10 hamburgers. I half-jokingly referred to it as a “free salad bar.” In a pinch, I would have had no qualms about hooking up a healthy lunch for myself using these complimentary condiments.
Later that night, Killingbird and I met up with TPE pro-Danny Noseworthy, who had just taken 15th in the LAPT main event. The three of us went to rail fellow TPE pro Justin Ouimette on the feature table of the PCA main. As a card carrying rail bird, I can say that the production value of the PCA coverage is world class. The shots that their cameramen get are absolutely stunning. Like everyone, I dream of playing on a TV table at some point in my career, but if that never happens at least I can say that I got a lot of face time on the rail during the 2016 PCA coverage. You can see me waving to the camera here.
In addition to this, Jason Somerville mentioned me a number of times as he commentated on the PCA footage for the Poker Stars Twitch channel. Overall, this first day had me smiling like a kid in a candy shop. Moments like these remind me to never become a jaded poker player. It’s ok to still be a fan of the game.
The next day, Danny, Killingbird, and I decided to play a $300 side event. The tournament started with a 200bb stack, but only had 20 minute levels. A few levels in, I was able to pick off a bluff and get a cold 4-bet bluff through. In spite of this, I was still unable to out pace the blind increases. Before I knew it, I was in push-fold mode and busted shoving pocket fives into pocket tens. My buddies had already busted before me so we decided to just hang around for a bit before leaving the tournament area.
While strolling through the room, I got a chance to see many of my friends from online. I ran into Martin Harris from the Pokerstars blog as well as fellow Twitch streamers Gripsed and The Assassinato. I also saw Jcarver and Jeff Gross, but I missed Kevin Martin who had gone home the day before and Jaime Staples who was in his room sick.
In fact, PCA felt sort of like a Twitch Poker convention to me and meeting these guys was my primary reason for attending. I also met Andy, who is JCarver’s production assistant. He played with Danny, Killingbird, and I in a live SNG. Despite the tough competition, this was one of the most fun SNGs I’ve ever played. Luckily, I came out victorious and afterwards the three of us headed back to the room to record a podcast about how the trip was going so far.
The third and final day of my PCA experience was the best of them all. I started the day by getting up early to walk around the resort. I saw the Atlantis ruins and the famous shark tank that I read about in the Ship It Holla Ballas book. I casually walked past Vanessa Selbst and Scott Clements on my way back to the hotel while thinking to myself how cool it is that I get to be here. even though I’m not a professional like these players. I joined my friends Alex Fitzgerald and his wife Naty for lunch where I tried to stuff my face with enough conch fritters to last me til PCA 2017. I love those things and this is the only time of year I can get them. We agreed to meet up at the Poker Stars party that night and that is when things really got awesome.
After pillaging the free conch sliders at the party, I had a conversation with Alex during which I experienced a full circle moment in my poker career. We were joined by Jonathan Little, who was one of the first people I learned poker from 10 years ago through his SNG videos back in 2006. Alex introduced us and Jonathan said “Wait. You’re THE Carlos Welch? You’re the man!” I almost died laughing. He was familiar with my “Homeless Poker Player” story and was excited to see me. I’m sure I was more excited to be having a conversation with him, but the fact that he knew me made me smile. Afterwards, I hung out with Alex and Killingbird talking about hardcore metal and underground hip hop for hours.
If you’re still a fan of the game like I am, I highly recommend taking the trip down to PCA at some point in your life. I enjoyed it more than the WSOP because everything was confined to one room, which made it easier to rail. If you’re interested in getting some camera time, the PCA feature table is much more crowd friendly than the one at the WSOP. Plus, the interactive Twitch chat makes it easier to get a shout out from the commentator. Yes I admit that I am a fanboy and these things still make me happy. I hope they always will.