Bahamas, Bikinis and the Importance of the Jan-Tan

While half of the country is covered in snow, enduring blizzards and filling their extracurricular time shoveling driveways, my latest (unpacked) suitcase is overflowing with bikinis and beach cover-ups. Do I feel bad? I plead the fifth. Am I tan from my recent excursions? Hell freakin’ yeah!

Maria HoNot to brag, but maybe you don’t understand the significance of a poker player being tan in January. A Jan-tan, as I will henceforth call it (copyright pending), means that I’ll be able to sail through the next four months of being stuck indoors playing tournaments (LAPC in February, Bay 101 in March, EPT Monte Carlo in April, APPT Macau in May) and still come out the other side looking a little better than the star of “Powder,” or that freaky bad guy in “The Da Vinci Code.” I’ll emerge with just a touch of leftover Bahamian glow (enough to keep me from looking like a scary albino) in time to replenish my color while in Las Vegas for seven weeks, during the dead heat of summer. Sigh. No matter how you slice it, my mental and, now, physical calendar never cease to revolve around the WSOP.

I may occasionally complain about traveling the poker circuit, but when January rolls around and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas calls my name, I shake off the grumpies and excitedly haul my swimsuits out of winter storage. Now that I primarily reside in Vancouver, the PCA’s location and timing is even more welcomed than before. Except my January, post-holidays-feasting bikini bod isn’t something to be proud of, but anything that gets me the eff out of Canada in January, is a go. This Ho don’t do snow!

My Bahamas trip started off with a final table … not my own. A day or two after my arrival at PCA, I was sweating Vanessa Selbst at the final table of the $25,000 High Roller. Surprise, surprise.

At this point, it’s becoming a regular occurrence for Vanessa Selbst to final table at least one event at every tournament series she attends. (Apparently, it’s also becoming a regular occurrence for me to mention Vanessa Selbst, at least once in every BLUFF column I write). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, when she goes out to dinner back home in New York, the restaurant hostess says to her, “Right this way, Mrs. Selbst. We have a final table in the back for you.” At least, that’s how I imagine it going down — will have to confer with Selbst to verify legitimacy.

Although there is no lack of things to do at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas (host of the PCA), I always welcome a good final table sweat. If I can’t be the one sitting at a final table then the next best thing is rooting on a friend from the rails, with multiple cocktails in hand, of course.

A day later and it was my turn to “Vanessa Selbst” my way to a final table (verb copyright pending). The Main Event got 1,031 entries. A few days, and 816 eliminated players later, I was still in as we commenced on Day 3 of play. I had a lot of chips and felt a deep run coming on as we encroached on 100 (remaining) players, but … poker happens. As the story goes, things spiraled downhill quickly and just as quickly, I was exiting the tournament area and headed to the beach to do some upkeep on my Jan-tan.

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t parlay my chip stack into a deeper run but it’s always motivational to start the tournament year off on the plus side — can never be too upset about that. It’s also preferable to retreat to a loser’s lounge that boasts of an ocean view and provides a comfy inner tube, which soothingly rocks you back and forth as if you were back in your mother’s womb as it transports you down a lazy river. Those are the bust-out perks of playing a tournament at The Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas. Their water park was, literally, the perfect place to drown my tournament sorrows … or maybe just “dampen” them (to be more politically correct).

From seaside to seaside, I flew directly from The Bahamas to join my HPT crew and CardPlayer Cruises in Florida, as we embarked on a seven-night Eastern Caribbean Tournament at Sea cruise. This was the second year that HPT teamed up with CardPlayer Cruises to host a poker tournament on board. Shout out to Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher and Mark Tenner from CardPlayer Cruises for making my first poker cruise a memorable one! And that’s coming from someone who fancy’s herself a cruise pro!

My family has made it somewhat of a tradition to take a cruise every year for the last few Christmases. Maybe it’s their way to ensure we spend time together because unless you’re prepared to jump overboard, there’s nowhere to run! And I have to admit I really enjoy the cruising experience. I like how cruises are organized, with something to do every hour of every day. You merely have to choose what you’re in the mood for and they make it happen. Not to mention, a cruise ship is the ideal to place to work on one’s Jan-tan — mine was severely lacking after I spent the majority of my PCA Bahamas trip at the poker tables, going deep in the main event.

From our embarkation in Port Canaveral, Florida, we spent two days at sea before arriving at our first destination, Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The St. Maarten airport was unlike anything I have ever seen. It is, literally, located just feet away from the beach, which means that every few minutes an airplane (on approach to the airport) flies overhead, seemingly close enough to reach up and touch from your beach towel on the sand. They almost look as if they’re going to crash into the beach before they reach the runway. I’m not sure if that is awesome and exhilarating or absolutely terrifying, but the photos I snapped from the experience were bar none.

Our final stops took us to St. Thomas and The Bahamas (Hey, wasn’t I just here?!) before our ship, Freedom of the Seas, safely returned us to port in Florida. Alas, that is where my Jan-tan adventures conclude and my weepy snow diaries commence.

Bon voyage Jan-tan. Ugh … hello, Vancouver. !@#$#@% *&*#! It’s cold here.

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March 2014