Friday, June 04, 2010

Travel Report: LAPT Lima, Day 2

Preparing for the LAPT Lima final tableAn especially long one yesterday -- about a 16-hour workday, all told. Still a little tired this morning, but ready to get back over to the Atlantic City Casino to see how the story of LAPT Lima continues to unfold.

There were 197 players returning for Day 2 of the $2,700 buy-in Main Event. The plan was to play down to 24. (That picture to the left shows the main feature table starting to be constructed at the far end of the poker room.) After ten one-hour levels there was talk of just stopping things after two more levels (at the end of Level 20), regardless of how many players were left. As it happened, the elimination of Costa Rican player Luis Jaikel in 25th place happened just a few minutes before the end of that level, and so we’ll have the three eight-handed tables as planned when play restarts today.

As the day wore on, I began more and more to notice differences in the way the players interacted and what might be called the “culture” of the LAPT event when compared to, say, the World Series of Poker or U.S.-based tourneys.

As happens at the WSOP, there have been occasional displays of emotion as players react to various situations, most often during the all-ins when a player’s tourney life is on the line. And there have been a couple of dust-ups about rulings and such, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary.

I’ve found it interesting, however, to witness what seems like a lot of genuine human interaction at the tables as well, with much conversation and smiling. You’ll see that at the WSOP, too, now and then, but not with as much frequency as I have here, I don’t think.

For example, another player from Costa Rica, Steven Thompson, is one of the 24 coming back today. He has been kind of a gregarious type, talking and laughing quite a bit. And his tablemates seem often to be following suit. Even a simple blind-vs.-blind hand between Thompson and another player in which one bets the other out of a pot seemed always to elicit a lot of grins and good-natured back-and-forthing.

There was one particularly funny moment yesterday when there were just 51 players remaining. The top 48 spots paid, and so the tension had risen somewhat (and play slowed down a lot). Suddenly I noticed a player at Thompson’s table -- Leandro Csome of Argentina -- standing up with a piece of paper. He had written the number “48” on the paper, and with a huge grin was holding it up over the “51” on the electronic board indicating players remaining.

Csome let out a cheer, and Thompson immediately joined in the celebration, hugging Csome and drawing huge laughs all around. A very funny moment. Felt bad for Csome when he in fact went out soon after, just missing the cash, but he still had a smile on his face as he left.

There were other interesting stories yesterday. American player Martin Mathis started the day with 20,075 chips -- just 75 more than the starting stack for the tourney -- but survived multiple all-ins early on, then showed a lot of savvy to make it into the money before getting knocked out in 42nd.

There were a couple of other huge comebacks yesterday, too. Probably the most remarkable was that of U.S. player Ben Barrows. Sporting a t-shirt that said “Dazed and Confused,” Barrows started the day with just a little over 18,000, but is still in the sucker, currently in 11th place.

Also -- and this is kind of a wild one -- the last woman in the event, Pamela Espinosa of Chile, went out in 31st place, and was followed in 30th place by her husband, Mauricio Zeman! Not quite the Mizrachi brothers both making the final table of the $50K Player’s Championship at the WSOP, but remarkable nonetheless.

The big story as we ended the night -- told by my blogging partner Brad “Otis” Willis over on the PokerStars blog -- is the fact that the two previous winners of this season of the LAPT are first and second in chips heading into Day 3.

Amer Sulaiman, the chip leader, ran especially well during the last hours of play on Day 2, picking up pocket aces at least twice, and seemingly always having the goods when short-stacked players were pushing all in against him. The Canadian Sulaiman won the LAPT Playa Conchal event in Costa Rica last November which kicked off this Season 3 of the LAPT.

And Team PokerStars pro Jose “Nacho” Barbero of Argentina is second in chips. Barbero is an especially tricky player whom I remember covering at last summer’s WSOP when he made a final table in the $1,500 limit hold’em shootout (won by Greg Mueller). Barbero won LAPT Punta del Este in Uruguay this past February.

Both Sulaiman and Barbero had vocal supporters on the rail yesterday, and indeed the scene was pretty raucous at times with a lot of cheering and singing as more than 100 spectators crowded the action.

A news crew shooting a segment in the Atlantic City CasinoIncidentally, there wasn’t too much talk yesterday about the Joran van der Sloot situation. We heard he’d been arrested in Chile, but that was about it.

The only other evidence of the story was the fact that a couple of times during the day there were news crews -- not covering the tourney -- shooting segments there near and in the poker room. On the left is a picture of one such segment being shot as I walked in early yesterday.

We expect there will be more excitement today as they play down to the final eight. Check in on the PokerStars blog to see the next chapter of the story.

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