Most of those who gathered at the felt at noon Atlantic time were sporting the trademark yellow bracelets, indicating that they'd made the trip at the courtesy of one of the myriad of poker sites offering online qualifiers to the event. That meant that, along with easily recognizable players like Kathy Liebert, Dave Colclough and Jean-Robert Bellande, the field was comprised of skilled players who'd already proven their worth by wading through untold schools of fish to get to the island.
This is in stark contrast to many of the brick-and-mortar events on the professional poker circuit, where the pros in attendance are able to chew their way through the weaker, self-fashioned poker stars who make up the majority of the field.
The Caribbean Poker Classic, then, is an unusual tournament. Beyond the caliber of play, the tournament structure also lent a certain uniqueness to the proceedings. Play began at nine-handed tables with $15,000 chip stacks, and will proceed as such until the money bubble has burst. At this point, the tables will be reduced to six players apiece, which will no doubt have a drastic effect on the style of play as players are forced to loosen up with only five opponents to beat.
In addition to the table assignments, the structure of the blind levels is somewhat eccentric in that Day 1 began with 50 minute levels, which will change into 60, 70, and 90 minute levels as the tournament progresses through Days 2, 3 and 4.
On that note, it will be interesting to see whether the tournament can sustain itself for a full four days, as action on Day 1 has seen more than half the field fall by the wayside. Seasoned pros like the aforementioned Liebert, Colclough, and Bellande all fell victim to lesser-known counterparts, with Simon "Aces" Trumper, Marc Goodwin, Paul Jackson, Thomas Wahlroos and both Robert and Olga Varkonyi also hitting the beaches early.
At the end of the day, there are 59 players remaining, of which the most notable names are Kristy Gazes and Todd "Dan Druff" Witteles. Not exactly a stacked field on the surface, but please believe there's plenty of skill in this room.
There are also plenty of spectators. Tournament organizers have eschewed the traditional velvet ropes to separate onlookers from players and media, so the aisles between tables are choked with curious bystanders and supportive family members alike, many of whom have taken up positions directly behind their beloved chip-slingers so that at times it seems like a mixed-doubles tournament. In reality, it's simply a tournament with an atmosphere befitting the islands - laid-back, fun-loving and more than a little out there.
The top 30 finishers in this event will see their bank accounts augmented by the experience, with a total prize pool of $902,100 and a first place prize of $221,000. 30th place pays $7,220, and that combined with the Marriott's open-bar and all-meals-included policy will make for a planeload of happy poker-tourists by the time the tournament concludes.
We should reach the money by tomorrow evening as the quick blind levels catch up with the shorter stacks, and with any luck the first of the money-finishers will be able to enjoy a few hours of sunlight on the beautiful Caribbean beaches before taking advantage of the open bars to help lubricate their victory celebrations.
Action resumes from St. Kitts tomorrow at noon Atlantic time (that's 11 a.m. EST and an ungodly 8 a.m. PST), and as usual PokerListings will have the comprehensive coverage from the first shuffle to the last sounding of the theme song from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - which happens to be the alarm tournament organizers have chosen to denote a level break. Hey, life's different in the islands.
Anyway, get some rest, log some beach-time and tune back in tomorrow morning for what promises to be a thrilling Day 2 of the Caribbean Poker Classic.