Celebrity sightings aren't exactly unusual for PokerStars events at Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas, but one famous face onlookers can be almost sure they'll see is that of Sergio Garcia.
The famed golf pro made it a habit to show up for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for years, and that's no different with the event rebranded to PokerStars Championship Bahamas. He's back in action here once again in 2017, putting in some rare hours at the tables as he prepares for another long season on the links.
"I think it's a wonderful event," he said. "The venue's great. Obviously, PokerStars takes care of me and makes it easy for me to come and enjoy it every year."
The PokerStars Championship Bahamas is perfect for Garcia for a number of reasons. For one thing, it fits neatly into his schedule. As a professional golfer from Spain, Garcia participates in both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Both tours schedule an extended break from open events from mid-December to mid-January, so Garcia can jet down to The Bahamas without fear of slacking off from work.
Second, a golf course sits a mere mile or so away from Atlantis. Oftentimes, Garcia heads over to the links and gets in his requisite practice rounds to keep his main game on point before heading to Atlantis for a different sort of competition.
"For sure, I have to," he said when asked if he's getting in plenty of rounds. "I can't just let it go and hope the game's gonna be sharp when I get back in the tournaments. I have to practice a little bit and stay as sharp as possible. Then, I can come here and play poker to disconnect from golf."
Indeed, the word grind isn't in Garcia's vocabulary when it comes to poker. While he enjoys the competitive aspect of the game, he's anything but serious with his attitude toward the game.
"For me, playing poker is fun, it's enjoyable, and I get to see some of my friends in the poker world that I don't see very often," Garcia said.
For casual sports fans, it may seem like Garcia has been around forever since he debuted back in 1999, but he's just a couple of days away from turning 37. He's amassed quite a ledger in the golf world, racking up nearly $70 million in winnings between the two tours. He's still looking to capture that elusive first major title, although he did take down "the unofficial fifth major," The Players Championship, back in 2008.
Garcia laughed when asked if his poker game is aging better than his golf game.
"My golf game [is aging better] for sure," he said. "If not, I'd be a poker player and not a golfer."
The results bear that out, if his cashes in poker tournaments are any indication. Garcia has put up some results, most notably a $35,000 score for 51st place in the Main Event here back in 2012. However, his total of $42,590 represents a tiny fraction of even his leanest year on the golf course.
One thing he does take from the links to the felt is the mental aspects of the game. Patience, he said, is critical in both games. They also both require shrewd decision-making — players must know when to shift gears from conservative play to aggressive play. And perhaps most importantly, players must have short memories.
"Sometimes it comes through and sometimes it doesn't," he said of moves in both poker and golf. "You just have to move on, winning hands or losing hands."
While Garcia doesn't let his golf game get rusty, he can't say the same about poker. The last time PokerNews caught up with him, Garcia was at European Poker Tour Barcelona and fresh off of an appearance for Spain in the Olympics, which featured golf at the 2016 Rio Games for the first time since 1904. Golf dominated his days in the midst of the season, and he said he hasn't played much poker since then.
Given that, Garcia was looking to work back into "game shape" here at PokerStars Championship Bahamas. He was getting his feet wet with a satellite to the Main Event when PokerNews spoke to him for a few minutes on break. Poker-wise, his game of choice remains no-limit hold'em but the Open-Face Chinese Poker craze has gotten to the golfer as well, as he's been playing that with friends lately.
Asked if he has any poker goals, Garcia said it's not really something he thinks much about but he did say he's got his eye on one thing.
"Obviously, I'd love to win one of the spade trophies," he said.
Fun remains the main goal, though, and that's why you likely won't be seeing Garcia firing away in any of the $25,000 or $100,000 high roller events that populate the schedule of any number of poker festivals around the globe. Kevin Hart hopped into the $100,000 Super High Roller here at PokerStars Championship Bahamas, and other celebrities like Richard Seymour have occasionally dropped in to splash around with the pros in the nosebleeds.
But while $70 million can cover a lot of buy-ins, Garcia just doesn't feel he's ready for that caliber of competition.
"I feel like I play decent poker, but I don't play enough to get into those events," he said. I don't think I have enough experience. And if I get into those events, it probably wouldn't be as much fun unless I do really well.