Shirley Rosario
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Latin American Poker Tour

Playing in the LAPT

by Shirley Rosario

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LAPTThe Latin America Poker Tour (LAPT) is a series of major live poker tournaments held throughout Central and South America. The first season had three stops: The Intercontinental Hotel in Rio do Janiero, Brazil, the Ramada Plaza Herradura in San José, Costa Rica and the final destination in Punta del Este, Uruguay (with the actual tournament being held at the beautiful Mantra Resort Spa Casino).

Playing in one of the LAPT events is a great way to be able to combine a passion for playing poker with a desire to travel. All of the stops on the LAPT tour were amazing destinations, but one of the things that sets Uruguay apart from the others is that it is probably not a place an average traveler would normally plan to visit.

PokerStars reserved rooms for their qualifying players from August 2nd-6th. The hosting casino/hotel could not accommodate 400 players, so many of the players were set up in neighboring hotels. All of the places were fantastic, but the Mantra stood out amongst the pack. The five star resort was incredible and the little desserts they put in your room twice daily were a nice added touch.

The first evening (August 2nd) PokerStars hosted a party where all players received two entry wrist bands, one for themselves and one for their guest. Pokerstars has always known how to treat their players and this event was no different. They provided entertainment, food, and beverages free of charge to all their guests. Many of the players mixed and mingled and talked about the common bond that most people shared, poker. After several hours, the room got less crowded with players heading to their hotels for a good night’s rest before the big event.

Latin America Poker TourThe tournament registration took longer than expected which delayed the starting time of the event, but once it got underway, things ran smoothly. The PokerStars staff and media were professional and handled all of their responsibilities like champs. The dealing staff (Uruguayan resident employees) was another story. The worst dealer in Las Vegas or Los Angeles would run circles around the dealers from Uruguay. They allowed players to make their own change from the pot (often before the action was completed – imagine blinds of $75-150 where the small blind has only $25 in front of him and the big blind has two $100 in chips in front of him because he already took his $50 change from the posted small blind before the hand was ever dealt). They also had difficulty pitching cards and would declare misdeals (without consulting a floorman) if a card was exposed accidentally. The dealers made so many errors that it would be impossible to list, but for the most part; the players were understanding and patient.

The structure of the tournament was better than most large tournaments and players got a lot of play for their money. The players started with 10k in tournament chips and each level was played for one hour. 10 levels were played on Day 1 and about ¼ of the field made it through to Day 2. While the remaining 95 players battled it out the following day, many of the players that were eliminated registered and played in the second chance tournament. The second chance tournament ran as smoothly as the main event and once again the players got a lot of play for their dollar.

One of the best things about poker is the diversity of its players. In South America, it was no different. Players from all over the country, speaking a variety of languages came together to accomplish the same goal – win the tournament. Even though the majority of players failed in their mission, they still managed to enjoy themselves and the South American nightlife. After Day 2 of the main event (the night of the second chance tournament), many of the players spent the evening sharing stories and drinks at the local bar. Once again, players from all over the globe had a common goal of having fun. This time however, they all managed to accomplish their mission.

Latin American Poker TourFilming of the final table began on Day 3 and it lasted for hours and hours. There were seats for family and friends or for anyone who just wanted to be in the audience. There was a lot of hooting and hollering for the final players and the audience seemed to be having as much (if not more) fun than the players themselves. After many hours of play, the champion was determined and the party began. Once again, players went out to the local nightclub for some drinking and dancing. Even though it was about 1am when the final table commenced, it was early for Uruguayan nightlife. The parties barely get started at 1am and at 4am they are really bumping.

The day after the final table, players go their own way for the most part. Four days is enough for some people, but for others it is only the beginning of their adventure. Many people that came for the tournament left Punta del Este and headed to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, or Montivideo to continue their journeys.

The Latin American Poker Tour is an amazing experience and is highly recommended to anybody that loves playing poker. PokerStars did an outstanding job sponsoring the event and making the players feel special starting with their plush accommodations, generous gift bags, the welcome party, and their superb handling of the tournament itself. Future seasons of the LAPT will have more stops than the first season and each will be worth visiting.

To read more about my first LAPT experience, read my August 2008 journal. Here is report on the Vina del Mar - Chile and Costa Rica LAPT stops. Also see Caribbean Poker Adventure, Asian Pacific Poker Tour and European Poker Tour.