Atlantis Hosts PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

Editor's note: will have complete coverage of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure through January 14.

There are perks to this job.

It is 16 degrees Fahrenheit outside as I write this column on Sunday afternoon, buried under blankets, sweaters and my thickest socks in the dead of Toronto winter. That measurement comes before factoring in a wind chill that has to be pretty fierce considering the snow seems to be 'falling' at an upwards incline. Last night, I spilled a cup of water as I got into my car and it froze on contact with the dashboard. It's pretty miserable here.

Tomorrow I'll be getting on a plane. It is 70 degrees in the Bahamas. Yes!

On Tuesday morning, I'll wake up, splash a little water on my face and immediately put on my bathing suit. I'll step out the back door of my ground floor hotel room, walk some 50 steps and then run 20 more before diving into the Atlantic Ocean. I'll be far from the only one. After all, the poker world will be congregating at what has undoubtedly become one of poker's majors and a great way for its players to start the year, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. PCA has become one of the pillars of the poker year because of the poker, the weather, the luxury and the community feeling it brings. Where continental North America doesn't offer anything in the way of live tournament opportunities for online pros ages 18-20, it's legal for youngsters that age to compete in the Bahamas. That plus an unparalleled satellite system that qualified 741 players as of 11:40 a.m. ET on Sunday the 3rd (with more to come) has made the tournament the official unofficial family reunion for the online community. That status is evident everywhere you go at the Atlantis resort.

Throughout the duration of the event, when you venture outside the confines of your room, all you'll see are poker playing bodies strewn about the resort. With the hotel lobbies featuring free wireless and constant drink service, it's no wonder you'll find 50 some bodies huddled around any given laptop as one of their number runs deep in some tournament or another. For these players, who know one another by login name for 51 weeks of the year, it's an opportunity to gather and celebrate their collective lifestyle in person.

PCA is a strong indication of the shifting winds in the live tournament scene. Once upon a time, the world's biggest tournaments all fell under different abbreviated banners like that of the WPT. While those events have seen a decline in attendance (and therefore prize pool) over recent years, the January annual held at the Atlantis Resort just outside Nassau has seen its numbers balloon.

In 2006, Steve Paul Ambrose put the performance of a lifetime, his triumph over 724 players netting him $1.3 million and leading to a spot on Team PokerStars Pro. 2007 saw Ryan Daut win a memorable final, coming back against Isaac Haxton heads-up to win $1.535 million after outlasting the field of 937. Another team pro, Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier, added to his quickly growing legend with a $2 million score over a field of 1,136 in 2008, while last year it was Canadian Poorya Nazari walking away with $3 million when the event attracted a record 1,347 players.

As the field sizes have grown, so too have the main event buy-ins and the diversity of events. The six-day, $10,000 + $300 main event begins on January 5, the third of 47 total events spanning January 4-14. Other features on the schedule include a $25,000 high roller hold 'em tournament, the World Cup of Poker (which will crown a team champion from one of USA, Germany, Canada, Italy, Finland, Norway, Croatia, Taiwan and Chile -- the last nine nations standing from a starting field of 54), the PCA's signature $5,000 battleship event (a live heads-up tournament played online through paired terminals) and a plethora of smaller events for those who aren't inclined to spend quite so much on their tournament experiences between ocean swims, club forays and tall beverages.

In addition to the thongs on online qualifiers, this is a field that will boast its share of faces in the poker world. The PCA media kit takes no shame in promoting the impending presence of celebrities Jason Alexander, Orel Hershiser, Boris Becker and Mats Sundin, all of whom have established connections to the host site. In addition, world champions Chris Moneymaker (2003), Greg Raymer (2004), Joe Hachem (2005), Peter Eastgate (2008) and Joe Cada (2009) and Team PokerStars Pro members Grospellier, Daniel Negreanu, Chad Brown, Dennis Phillips, Vanessa Rousso, Victoria Coren and Maridu Mayrinck will be amongst those present.

Of course, most of those in attendance will take all their stargazing as just another in a string of remarkable events that will make up a remarkable week. Between the world famous aquariums, Stars' famous parties, the local fish fry and assorted culture, blue waters, white beaches, Atlantis' famous waterslides, bad beats, good times and good friends, spotting a famous player is the kind of event that can actually fade into the woodwork. In fact, the celebs are as likely as not to fade into the crowd, finding themselves lounging like the rest in intense conversations and roaring laughter, focused on the one great game we all have in common.

Yes, my enthusiasm is greater for this event than it is for most poker trips. After all, it's colder than cold outside and getting away from all that sounds like a pretty good thing right about now. Still, the temperatures don't make or break the experience. In the end, it'll be the poker and the people that will do that. Dips in the ocean can't hurt though. What a way to start the year.

Gary Wise is a poker columnist for