Shirley Rosario
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LAPT Mexico

Poker in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

by Shirley Rosario

Nuevo Vallarta, MexicoDecember 5, 2008
When I arrived at LAX International airport and walked through the doors, I saw Pauly and Change100. It has been months since I have seen them. As a matter of fact, the last time I saw them was at the World Series of Poker in July. I wondered what they were doing there, but they immediately knew that we were all there for the same reason. We were all flying to Mexico for some tournament poker, a little fun in the sun, drinking and probably even more drinking.

PokerStars has many tours around the world and one of my favorite things about the way they run their tournaments is they hold them at fabulous locations so each player is guaranteed a great experience regardless of how they do in the tournament. Once again, it looked like they didnít disappoint. The Marival Resort in Nuevo Vallarta was beautiful and the welcoming staff was very friendly. When we went to the check-in counter, things got a little weird. The staff asked us to sign a badly interpreted, badly photocopied piece of paper that said we wouldn't be gambling on property. I didnít really know what that meant. We were obviously there for a poker tournament, so gambling was going to be involved. Were we not supposed to make side bets or play in cash games? I didnít have a clue, but I signed the waiver and went on to my room.

The room was decent, but it smelled a little musty. I knew the smell was a combination of humidity and running the air conditioner so I just had to accept it. The view was spectacular which made up for the smell. I could see the pools and the ocean at the same time. I could have stayed there looking at the beautiful view, but I closed the drapes and went to bed because I need rest for the PokerStars party.

The Stars party was typical of what I have come to expect when playing in these types of tournaments. There was entertainment, food, alcohol, and a lot of players from all over the world mixing and mingling. I spent my time visiting with the people I know, but havenít seen for awhile. The first people I saw were Pauly, Change100 and Brad (Otis) and I spent some time catching up with them. Before long, my buddies (Melina, Alex, and Thomas) from Costa Rica showed up. They were completely star struck when they met Pauly because they were all readers of his blog, but have never actually met.

There was one thing that was different with this party and it was a nice fun added touch. There were girls with whistles who put peer pressure on people to tilt their head back and drink the tequila they were serving. One of the girls approached Alex and even though he was reluctant, he gave in after a little persuading. His comment to me was, "I am such a bitch to peer pressure" and that was my inside joke for the whole trip. Anytime I wanted him to drink a shot, I would just say "Hey bitch. Drink this tequila." and he would.

After the party, people made their way to the hotel bar. After about an hour, they told us there was no more beer. Marival is an all-inclusive resort so the beer was flowing at a rapid pace and it is easy to understand that they would run out at that particular bar. They suggested tequila or whiskey instead of beer, but I declined. Pauly took the tequila and so did Otis (he was celebrating his birthday) and after they had their shot, we went to the patio bar. They still had cerveza there and we sat there drinking and talking until about 3 in the morning. The great thing about hanging with the writers is that all of them have such a great sense of humor (I think they have to) and I find them witty as hell. Because of this, I spend much of my time with them laughing. Unfortunately, one of the reasons we were all laughing so hard was because I had a true blonde moment: While walking out of the party, I noticed the vendors next to the building and said "What's the deal with the bondage masks? Why do they sell them everywhere in Mexico?" I had no idea that they were actually Mexican wrestling masks. This caused them to laugh hysterically and make fun of me for a good portion of the night.

December 6, 2008
The tournament started on time and without any problems. I was feeling great that day and was ready to kick some ass. Within an hour, I eliminated one player over the course of three hands. The first pot I took from him was when I semi-bluffed with a flush draw and check-raised him and he mucked. The second hand, I raised in first position with pocket queens and he called on the button with KT. The flop was king high with three hearts (I had the queen of hearts). I made a 2/3 pot sized bed. The turn was a blank and I checked to him, he bet a small amount and I called. The river was a heart and I checked to him again. He overbet the pot which was strange to me. After a quick thought, I called. He showed KT with the ten of hearts and I was awarded the pot with my queen of hearts. The final hand against him, we got all of our chips in preflop with me holding KK and him holding TT and my kings held up.

I was feeling good. I had chips. And the best part was I was playing a lot of hands, but only showed down pocket queens and pocket kings. I didn't look like I was getting out of line and the players gave me respect which was awesome because I took down a lot of pots with my tight image including when I came over a guy who made a weak river bet against my 9 high. My chips eventually dwindled when I lost two hands. One of the hands was a race with my AK to my opponentís 99 and the other hand I lost was when I made an eight high flush against my opponentís ace high flush. At break, I only had $8,800 which was still enough to work with, but less than the 10k we started with. We had a nice long break, but I failed to make a reservation at the restaurant and had to eat at the shitty patio buffet. This ended up being a problem during my whole trip and the food at both buffets was horrible.

When I got back from break, I stayed afloat for awhile and then made a move when one player raised to $1600 (the blinds were 300-600 and $1600 was a standard raise at my table) and got one caller. I was on the button with AJ and I pushed. The original raiser mucked quickly and the other guy thought for awhile before calling with pocket sevens. I flopped a jack and the guy never improved which seemed to piss the guy off. A few hands later, I raised in early position with AK and this one guy in middle position called. This guy always always CALLED (never raised) and managed to take some pots away from people when he floated and made a bet on the turn or river when his opponent would release the lead to him. This really worked for him because the players kept folding to his bets. He didn't showdown hardly any hands at all. Once he called my raise, the guy who lost with the 77 reraised to 5k. I thought he might be steaming still and is probably still pissed at me. He certainly seemed like he was steaming, so I pushed with my 18k. The next guy CALLED again, but this time I was thinking "oh shit" and then the other guy loudly said "I knew it!!" and mucked his QQ face up. I turned over my hand and the caller turned over his pocket kings. I could only sit there and hope, but it didnít do any good and I was eliminated.

I was so happy with the way I played the tournament and really went for it. In the two LAPT events I have played so far, I busted out the last level of day 1. This time I wanted to get some chips and make it to day 2 with a fighting chance. I can honestly say that I played better than I have in 3 years and was more like the aggressive player that I used to be years ago. It is amazing what a raise and/or a reraise can do. I left the tournament area satisfied with my play, but disappointed that things hadn't worked out for me. I went to the bar outside the tournament area to have a drink with Sos.

About forty-five minutes later, Change 100 walked into the bar area and said "I have covered tournaments in 21 different countries and I have never seen anything like this." We asked what happened and she informed us that they stopped the tournament because poker is illegal in Mexico. WHAT? Our heads were spinning. The whole bar (players had made it out by this time) was abuzz. What was this going to mean? Eventually, the staff confirmed that they were suspending play for the night and told the players who were still in the tournament to come back at noon the following day. There was a lot of talk and a lot of speculation about what was going to happen. None of it stopped the players from drinking and having a blast. Once again, a group of twenty of us ended up at the patio bar and spent the remainder of the evening laughing.

The following day, Sos and I went downstairs to check out what was happening. We were told the players were asked to come back at 5:00pm because they still didn't know what was going to happen. We weren't going to waste our day waiting around to find out what happened especially since we weren't in the tournament anymore. We went out and did the canopy tour. The zip lines were a lot longer than the ones I did in Costa Rica and were a little scarier. In Costa Rica, we ziplined over jungles which didnít make it seem as high because we couldnít see the bottoms. In Mexico, we went from one side of the river to another. It was beautiful, but scary at the same time and the guys insisted that I let out 2 screams while I was taking my turn (I refuse to believe it).

When we got back to the resort, it was a little after 5 and the tournament was being chopped up 89 ways. They had decided to not continue with the tournament. Each player got a base rate of 5k and then the rest of the money was divided based on chip counts. The remaining players also got $500 added to their prize money by Stars for the trouble. Some players who had been eliminated before the tournament was stopped insisted on getting their money back. Most of us thought it was ridiculous, but that didn't stop them from creating a huge scene. One of the women from the PokerStars staff got knocked down, one guy fell into the little pond next to the waiting area and a lot of angry Venezuelans were saying things I couldnít understand. Rumor has it that the angry Venezuelans got arrested because they called the police and demanding their money back. The police said "Gambling is illegal. You were gambling?" and then took them away to jail. Moral of the story is - Don't be a douchebag.

December 9, 2008
The rest of our LAPT trip was a lot of fun despite the chaos regarding the poker tournament. I have met so many new friends on this tour and every time I go to one of the events, I am grateful that these wonderful people are now lifelong friends.

On Saturday night, Bluff Magazine hosted a party at a nightclub called Christine's. A handful of us went there, but I wasn't enjoying myself at all. The live mariachi music was so loud and I was feeling extremely claustrophobic which doesn't normally happen to me. Sos and I went outside and two minutes later, the whole gang joined us and we jumped in taxis and went to another bar down the street called the Zoo. The bar had great music and we all had a blast drinking tequila and flaming shots of cinnamon flavored alcohol. Most of us stayed until about 5 in the morning and half of the crew left the zoo and went to another bar afterwards. I wasnít up for that. Getting back to the hotel at 5am was the maximum I could handle and it took me until about 3pm the following day to recover.

I finally got up out of bed and showered because we wanted to go into town. We ran into Thomas on the way out and he said that he and Melina wanted join us. We waited a bit for them to get ready and when they came back into the lobby, Alex also was with them. The five of us went into town to have an authentic Mexican dinner (remember I wasnít a fan of the Marival Resort food).

Before dinner, we stopped at a jewelry store and Thomas and Melina did their usual bargaining. I have never seen anything like it. Thomas is great at getting good deals and Mel is almost as good. The two of them combined could talk a blind man into selling them their cane for a penny. They worked the salesman as I laughed on the sidelines, but they got the last laugh because they got a great deal.

Dinner was okay at best, but the company was fantastic. Thomas started working his magic again and tried to get good deals on bottles of tequila from our waiter. The bottles of tequila were expensive, but they weren't higher than the prices in a liquor store. I was surprised that the bottle markup wasn't higher in the restaurant and was also a little shocked that buying bottles of alcohol was common practice in the restaurants in Mexico. I have waitressed (and cocktailed) for many years and can't remember selling a bottle of liquor ever. I donít even remember being asked about it more than once. Thomas got a little deal on the second bottle, but the guy was pretty firm on the price of the first bottle. Thomas bought them both anyway and then tried to buy this ugly wicker pig they had displayed in the restaurant. The waiter tried selling it to him for $120, but Thomas passed on it.

Mexican Wrestling MasksWe all made our way to the streets and found a stand where they sold the wrestling masks (or as I thought, bondage masks). Everybody bought a mask except for me. The gang almost had me convinced, but I declined because I couldn't find one with an open mouth hole (it was hard to breath through the mesh). I got a great picture of the four of them in their wrestling masks standing in front of the church. Thomas, Melina, and Alex continued to wear their masks when we got back to the hotel. They thought it was hilarious when they would stop people and talk to them. Of course, the people couldnít tell who was behind the masks until they said something that would reveal their identities. They then decided that they were only going to grunt when people came over to talk to them. When nobody was around, the five of us would have normal conversations and they would determine how they were going to mess with people even more. The decided that they were going to see if the waiter would understand them just by making grunting noises and signals with their hands. The waiter ended up getting the message right and brought them all shots of tequila and ice cold beers. This group of people is awesome and I canít wait until the next LAPT event which is scheduled to be Vina del Mar, Chile in January.