A late holiday present or a fantastic start to the new year -- however you look at it, the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean adventure is the winter highlight for poker players across the globe. For the ninth year running, swarms of players flocked to Paradise Island for 10 days of poker and fun in the sun -- and plenty of tweeting and hashtagging, naturally.
As the clock ticked over into 2012, the Team PokerStars family was making their final preparations for the trip. Randy "nanonoko" Lew had record-setting reasons to come to the Bahamas, and his preflight tweet went like this: "My flight for the #PCA is tonight! World Record here I come!" But more on that in a bit.
Excitement flooded our stream as players continued to make their way down to the lower latitudes. Victor Ramdin doesn't tweet all that often, but this event certainly qualifies as a special occasion. "I am about to leave home for my most fav events of the year @PCABAHAMAS," Ramdin told us. "This is where my RUN GOOD usually starts. Can't wait to get there!!"
A resident of South Florida, Jason Mercier was just one short flight away from the PCA. "Leaving for Bahamas tomorrow," he tweeted. "Was hoping it was going to be 75 and sunny. Unlikely tho ... 100k on thursday #gobigorgohome#2012mashfest."
Oh the hash tags. He wasn't the only player pessimistic about the weather, either. Eugene Katchalov tempered his PCA excitement with a climatic tag in his first tweet from Paradise Island. "Just arrived to Bahamas, will be here until the 15th. First event is the 100k on the 5th, time to defend the title. #WeatherSucksAgain."
Even though his hometown is thousands of miles to the frigid north, Pat Pezzin is no stranger to the sandy shores of Atlantis. "Cab driver asked "First time in the Bahamas?" Nope its my 12th time, & 7th PCA. Time to make it count." No complaints about the weather from Pezzin, either.
Super High Roller
Fortunately, the "sucky" weather that some feared was short lived, and the sunshine was plentiful for the duration of the festival. First up on the schedule was the $100,000 Super High Roller, and 32 entries put a huge prize pool up for grabs.
The night before, ElkY and Eugene Katchalov prepared for battle with some sushi and socializing. "2 weeks without Poker, it's time to stop the streak with the 100k SHR," ElkY tweeted. "Workout and healthy dinner @nobu with @eugenekatchalovdone! #ready."
Katchalov had to field hundreds of congratulations after winning the Bluff Player of the Year award, but his 2012 started in a six-figure hole after an early exit from the Super High Roller. He tweeted: "Couldn't get much going today in the 100k and busted towards the end of the day. Many more tournaments left but will be hard to get even lol".
Well, lol indeed. His dining partner, ElkY, came into the day optimistic: "#PCA let's do it again! I never cashed in a buy in >25k#timeforchanges but feel amazing about 2012 already !#regularityiskey."
Unfortunately though, he too was eliminated on Day 1 to leave himself $100,000 lighter in the pockets. "Card dead all day to bust AJ vs J8... #ragingtilt but I guess I'm due to run good in the one million $ for one drop now lol." It's going to be an expensive year.
Jonathan Duhamel could only last for a couple levels of Day 1 before we found this tweet in our stream: "100k Tourney,went up to 280k from 250k starting stack, then 170k, then 215k, but then lost a huge flip AK vs QQ...thinking about if I reload."
He did indeed take a rebuy -- a very expensive one -- so he was suddenly stuck $200,000 on the day. A few minutes later, he confirmed: "Ok ok Im back, same table same seat #iwantmymoneyback."
Things went well from then on for Duhamel, though, and his end-of-day tweet went like this: "Finished Day 1 of Super High Roller with 729k, avg is 444k, 18 players left! 5 will be paid."
Soon enough, the field was reduced to eight, and Duhamel managed to stick around long enough to earn a paycheck to get back in the black. "In the money now in the 100k Event at PCA, yeah that was a good rebuy," he told his followers.
Duhamel went on to finish fourth in the Super High Roller, but he recognized the good omen. "Lost a huuuuge flip to Viktor to finish 4th," he tweeted after busting. "Oh well good start to 2012 anyway, very happy with the way I played! Big year incoming."
Duhamel wasn't the only Team Pro at the final table. Daniel Negreanu finished as runner-up to Katchalov last year, and that result was on his mind as he took off for the Bahamas. "I'd take another second this year," he tweeted. Well, duh.
Despite some technology tilt, things went well on Day 1 for Kid Poker, and he finished the day with this tweet: "End day 1 of Super High Roller w 346k restart tmr at noon. Very happy with how I played. Blinds will be 3k-6k when we return." A day later, another promising update: "Final Table 8 left I have 1,230,000 resume 12pm EST. 1st place is 1.25 million and I want it. #DNegsgrind2012."
Negreanu worked his way into the money, but his run ended three spots shy of a repeat second-place finish. "Out in 5th my AK vs Blom's 88 lost the race." Fair enough, and Negreanu wasn't done playing poker for the day. "Jumping into the 5k PLO Turbo immediately. #DNegsgrind2012".
The Main Event
On Saturday, the $10,000 Main Event kicked off, and everybody had their sights set on the $2 million top prize. A few of them have never cashed a Main Event paycheck at Atlantis, and one of the surprise names on that list is Jason Mercier. Still, he was optimistic on his Day 1: "Table looks soft. Hoping this is my 1st time making day 2 in the pca main#fifthtimesthecharm". Duhamel was thinking along the same lines: "@JasonMercier thats my goal too, 0 for 3 in making day 2 at pca..#onestepatthetime". That hash tag thing is contagious.
Vanessa Selbst had no room for optimism in her early Main Event tweets. "Starting PCA day 1B at the feature table," she said, adding, "let's see if I can avoid bluffing off my chips!" She managed to double her starting stack up over 60,000 before her self-fulfilling prophecy sparked this follow-up tweet: "Lost a big one. Tried to run a huge bluff on some kid who just came to the table and didn't look like he wanted to fold. Silly me. 45k."
She wasn't the only one running bluffs, though, and Mercier would end up becoming a victim of his own foreshadowing, too. "Down to 16k," he tweeted early in the day. "Bluffed off bout half my stack. Woulda worked if he folded...#pleasedontcommentonthatstatementimonlykiddingaroundthanks."
The Team Pros would be whittled out of the field over the course of the grueling week, but one of them was still going strong with 25 players left. Barry Greenstein bagged up 106,000 chips after Day 1, though that shrunk to 102,000 after the second day. Things went well to start Day 3, though. "Early surge," he tweeted. "Won every hand I've played. Up to 180k. Average is 202k. We're just in the money with 160 left. 45BB."
He ended up mounting a big charge and cresting a half-million chips before things began to unravel toward the end of play. "Lost a two outer to Faraz when he hit an 8 on the river," he relayed. "64 left. Average is 505k. I have 360k. 36BB. Done for the day."
Greenstein struggled early on Day 4, too, tweeting his pessimism: "It's looking bleak. 45 left. Average is 715k. I have 120k. 8BB #PCA." The next tweet wasn't much cheerier: "I'm expecting to go out 38th. I think I've done that three times before in 10k events." He underestimated himself, but he would ultimately be unable to survive the fourth day. It was his elimination that reduced the field to three tables and ended play, and Greenstein was tweeting about it as he walked off the set. "Out 25th. Moved in from small blind with 10 7ss. Faraz called with A3o. I flopped a 7. He turned an Ace." #ggbarry.
While the Main Event is everyone's dream title, the side action at the PCA has been equally intense. Nearly everyone who busted the Main went straight across the room to grab a new stack in a different event. As long as registration was still open, that is. After a disappointing Day 1 in the Main, ElkY got more bad news from the registration clerk. "Busting from PCA main event must be one of the worst day, and I run so bad I busted 10 mins after 5k late reg closed lol.#betterlucknextime."
Jason Mercier picked up his first cash of the new year by making the final table of the big $5,000 side event that drew 158 players. It was Duhamel who finally snapped off Mercier in a coin flip: "Out in 3rd. 44 < A9 vs duhamel. Good game and good luck to them heads up #ontothenextone."
Duhamel was the one doing the #mashing in that event, and we picked up the updates as things got serious: "3rd Final Table this week! 5th/8 in chips for now in the 5k Event#letsgoooo."
Soon, there were five players left, then four. Then Mercier fell, and it was heads-up for the win. More than a quarter-million dollars were up for grabs, and Duhamel did indeed snag the big prize. "Boom. Win it :-)"
Adrienne "talonchick" Rowsome knows her way around the felt and the Twitter machine, and she was fervently updating her deep run in the Omaha/Stud Hi-Lo event. Things were looking good as she bagged up the big stack after the first day, tweeting, "Chip leader (slight) headed into the last bit of #pca18 tomorrow. Seven players left, top 4 getting $$$." Within a few orbits, they were on the bubble, and she was still doing good work. "Five left and I coolered someone with my hidden 444," she said. "Up to 90k.#pca #bubbletime." And then, "Up to 124k on the bubble still....scoop-a-licious :)"
She was soon in the money in her first-ever PCA tournament, and at next glance, we saw her tweet, "Heads up!!!" The next tweet was the one we were waiting for, the self-explanatory, "I woooonnnnnnn #pca18."
Randy Lew Sets a World Record
Nobody played more hands of poker in the Imperial Ballroom than Randy "nanonoko" Lew. Staffers from Guinness World Records were on hand as Lew attempted to play more hands of online poker than anyone on record. "I'll be starting the World Record Attempt for most hands played in 8 hours while showing a profit soon!"
You can read much more about Lew's record-setting performance here on the PokerStarsBlog, and Lew took to Twitter again afterwards to spread some love.
"Thanks everyone for supporting me in setting a new Guinness World Record for poker! The support is what keeps me going so thank you again!"