Sunday, August 07, 2011

Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Punta del Este, Day 3

Day 3 at 2011 LAPT Punta del Este“They play differently here.”

That’s what Mickey Doft said to me after we watched yet another preflop all-in confrontation occur yesterday, this one involving a player with an average stack four-bet shoving with pocket sixes and getting called by one of the big stacks who held A-5-offsuit. The sixes held, and the big stack lost half of his chips.

Mickey was alluding to a willingness to gamble that those who spend a lot of time around the Latin American Poker Tour have grown accustomed to seeing.

Perhaps in part because of that readiness to take risks, yesterday went quite quickly, with the 27 players who returned getting whittled down to eight in about seven hours’ time. Alex Komaromi -- the lone remaining player from Uruguay -- will start today’s final table way out in front with something like a third of the chips in play.

Probably the most interesting story from yesterday involved Dr. Max Stern, the septuagenarian from Costa Rica with three WSOP bracelets who ended up finishing 21st. As it happened, Stern and his wife, Maria, were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary yesterday, so his busting by the late afternoon meant they would be able to enjoy a nice dinner together to mark the occasion.

I don’t think Maria minded her husband playing on their special day, though. In fact, she herself is an accomplished poker player, one of the few women to win a WSOP bracelet in an open WSOP event (1997, $1,500 seven-card stud).

All done and ready for dinner, our group headed back over to one of the two restaurants there in the Mantra Resort and Casino, necessarily a return visit as we’d already exhausted both options during the first two days of play. We arrived at 7:30-ish, but were told they didn’t begin serving the dinner menu until 8:30.

They eat differently here, too. So we left, loitered around a bit, then returned at the assigned time.

Our group consisted of Mickey and Donnie Peters (from PokerNews), Sergio Prado (from PokerStarsblog.la/br), Garry (Acting LAPT Media Coordinator), and Brad and myself (here writing for the PokerStars blog). We had fun reliving Garry’s deep run in the WSOP Main Event this summer. He made it all of the way to the end of Day 5, finishing 173rd for a nifty $47,107.

Garry also had a full day at Phil Hellmuth’s table (on Day 3), much of which was captured by the ESPN cameras. The pair had a number of memorable exchanges, and there’s little doubt their battling -- both verbal and poker-wise -- will be part of the story ESPN tells when they repackage things and air it a few weeks from now.

Garry told of one hand in particular versus Hellmuth. The pair had made it to the turn at which point Garry -- knowing of Hellmuth’s unwillingness to call off his chips in a tournament, no matter how small his stack -- put him to the test with an all-in shove despite only having a drawing hand himself.

Hellmuth reacted with extreme displeasure at the bet, eventually folding and then spending the next couple of minutes crazily berating Garry. That led us to recall other entertaining tirades from the Poker Brat we’d witnessed over the years, with Mickey eventually calling up some old PokerNews posts Change100 and I had written from 2008 reporting examples of classic Hellmuthian bluster. (Here’s one, chronicled here in a HBP post called “Laughs and Lightning Bolts.”)

Wonder how Hellmuth would do at a tournament like this one, where everyone -- it seems -- is so much more willing to gamble than he.

Just a theoretical exercise, of course. In fact, looking back at the list of 422 entrants for this tournament, there was exactly one U.S. player in the entire field, a fellow named Sean Nolan. I realize there would probably have been only a handful of Americans here prior to Black Friday, but still... just one!

That’s the way it is in the U.S. right now. Will be a long time before online poker provides American players the chance to win their way to seeing other parts of the world.

I guess we play differently in America, too.

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