Sunday, June 06, 2010

Travel Report: LAPT Lima, Day 4

LAPT Lima winner's trophy“That was the most exciting final table ever!”

So said Reinaldo last night about seven o’clock, just after Jose “Nacho” Barbero had won his second straight Latin American Poker Tour title at Lima. Reinaldo reported on the event for, the Spanish-language blog.

“You always say that!” responded Sergio with a grin, and we laughed on media row. Sergio was writing this week for PokerStars’ Portuguese site.

It had been a wild, at times electrifying final table, made more so by the large, vocal group of spectators that had amassed in the Atlantic City Casino poker room on Saturday afternoon. The final table had been set up on a stage at one end of the room, we were set up over on the side, and most of the space was filled with seats for those interested in watching the action up front and on the several big screens.

Of course, most didn’t bother using those seats, standing instead as they primarily cheered on Erick Cabrera, the lone Peruvian of the final eight. Cabrera grabbed the chip lead with four players left and appeared primed to take it down, but ended up getting pushed out of a few pots, then going out in third.

In Cabrera’s bustout hand, it had been a limped pot (blind-vs.-blind) between him and Barbero, and “Nacho” ended up flopping a ten-high straight while Cabrera had top pair-top kicker. Barbero played it well, checking the blank turn card and letting Cabrera shove all in drawing dead. “Very Erik Seidel-Johnny Channish,” was LAPT media coordinator Thomas Koo’s comment on the hand.

Martin Mathis as Pooh & Chris Conrad as Tigger at the LAPT Lima final tableAt that point Barbero had a commanding lead -- more than 5-to-1 -- over the American, young Ben Barrows who had made this event via a qualifier on Stars.

Two other U.S. players -- Martin Mathis and Chris Conrad -- had shown up an hour or so earlier dressed as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger to cheer on Barrows. Both Mathis and Conrad had played LAPT Lima, with Mathis making the money in 42nd and Conrad just missing the final table and ending in 11th. Both played well, and Conrad in particular probably deserved better, having endured some unfortunate hands late on Day 3. Very funny stuff, and it actually fit right into the festive atmosphere of the place. Eventually a third fellow (I’m not sure whom) joined the pair dressed as Mickey Mouse.

Barrows had too steep of a hill to climb against Barbero, though, and was out in just a few hands. Click here to see Barbero's post-tourney interview. A really likable, humble guy, although he doesn’t deny he played well, and makes a reasonable point that winning back-to-back titles like this indeed helps make the case that poker involves skill. (Of course, there was that one hand on Day 3 where a little bit of luck was involved!) Barbero now definitely becomes another player to watch at the WSOP this summer, where he is soon headed.

The reporting went well yesterday, although at first it appeared it was going to be a challenge given that we were too far from the table to see chip stacks, the suits of the cards weren’t that clear on the TV monitors, and the announcing of the action was in Spanish. But Melina, the announcer, started adding English to her calls early on, and was very good throughout. Indeed, I thought she added some excitement to the proceedings when she would sometimes turn to the audience to announce a player was all in.

Carlos, our photographer, got some great pics along the way which you can see on the Day 4 live blog and in Otis’ end wrap.

After the event we ended up hanging out with the PokerNews guys and a couple of fellows from the television production crew, Mark and Seamus. That’s right -- Seamus! I did a double-take when he introduced himself to me, and of course had to explain my nick.

While we chatted, the server came over to tell us a gentleman in a red hat was buying a round for everyone. A little confused, we looked over and saw Dennis Phillips chatting with a group nearby. All got Pisco Sours (the new fave which Otis tells about here) while I just got a Coke. We thanked Dennis after, and he shrugged and noted how he knows we work hard reporting on him and everything else and it was the least he could do.

Afterwards some among us shared a couple of other anecdotes about Phillips’ support of those who cover him. I know it’s becoming an increasingly unoriginal observation to say Phillips is a good guy, but he is. So are a great many of the poker players we cover, actually -- even those who don’t buy us drinks.

As those stories about Phillips were being passed back and forth, I couldn’t help but think some afterwards about that recent blog post of Daniel Negreanu’s in which he complains about the WSOP coverage. I could obviously write a long response to what Kid Poker is saying there, but I’m going to refrain. For now, anyway.

I ended up calling it a night around midnight. Went back to the room and slept like a rock for ten hours. Don’t think I even turned over once.

Gonna do a little exploring of Lima today, but time is limited. There is actually more poker happening at the Atlantic City Casino today -- the final of the America’s Cup of Poker. We aren’t covering the event, but I might just stick my head in one last time to see what is happening with that.

Like I say, though, I won’t be messing around too much today, as I will be heading back over to Jorge Chávez International Airport in the early evening to catch the red-eye back to Vegas.

The big screen, LAPT LimaWas definitely a good week and, as Reinaldo proclaimed, an especially exciting final table.

Back in the northern hemisphere soon. Y’all keep holding up yr end of things until I return.

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