Monday, August 08, 2011

Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Punta del Este, Day 4

LAPT Punta del EsteWe’re done in Punta. The last hand has been dealt, and now we wait to begin the long return trip home. Mine begins later this afternoon with a shuttle back to Montevideo to catch a redeye back to Miami. One more flight after that, and I’ll be home mid-morning tomorrow.

The poker went quickly yesterday, with the final table done in less than five hours. There was a decent crowd on hand to watch. Not as big as what I’d seen in Lima, but every player had a cheering section, and there were some chants and shouts that made the scene somewhat festive.

The most memorable moment of the entire day came early on when the Brazilian Nelson Neto doubled up, then amid his celebrating put on a ski mask (!) and ran down into the crowd. He shared a hug with his supporters, ran back up on the stage to his seat, then sat with the mask on for another moment or two before taking it off. (For pictures by our great photographer, Carlos, scroll to the bottom of our post from yesterday on the PokerStars blog.) He ended up going out in sixth, playing only another hour or so, and so we didn’t see the mask again.

The Uruguayan, Alex Komaromi, won. He entered the final table with a big chip lead, stayed in front until heads-up when he lost the lead briefly, then scored a big double-up and knockout to take the trophy and nearly quarter million U.S. dollars for first.

Punta del Este at nightSoon after we’d wrapped up our work we rode up the coastal highway a few miles to have a nice dinner at a restaurant called Isidora. Was good to break out of the small circle we’d been running in from our hotel to the Mantra and back and at least see a little bit of Uruguay. Along the way we stopped at Garry’s hotel, the Yoo, and rode up to his room on the 19th floor and looked off the balcony into the Punta del Este night.

Dinner was great. Lots of laughs, and good eats as well, including some especially good squid rings for an appetizer and a seafood dish including fish, prawns, and scallops for my main dish.

We drove back around 11 p.m., having the main highway that runs along the beach largely to ourselves. Indeed, all of Punta del Este -- at least what we saw of it -- was like a ghost town this week, it being the winter and thus largely bereft of tourists and others enjoying the beaches.

Brad in a handOn the way back we passed part of the beach called “La playa de los Dedos,” a.k.a. “Finger Beach.” There one finds these big sculptured fingers and a thumb sticking up out of the sand. We swung the car over, scampered up the sandy hill, and snapped a few photos. I took this one of Brad, which he tweeted later. “Sorry, I can’t talk,” he said. “I’m in a hand.”

Might’ve made a long night of it with card playing and further carousing, but I ended up hitting the sack around midnight, resting up as well as I could for today’s long day of waiting-slash-traveling. Woke this morning and as I’ve done each morning while here had breakfast with a new friend, a player named Luke from Australia who’d qualified for the tourney online.

Luke actually won his seat to the event over three years ago, but only now was able to fit it in his schedule to come play. He didn’t cash in the main or the one side event he also played, but I think he did quite well playing blackjack in the casino. Not a lot going on there at the Mantra, really, though again it is the middle of winter here. I understand things pick up big time from December through March.

Has been a good week, made especially so once again by the company and colleagues with whom I get to work on these things. Is fun to travel sometimes and I do feel lucky to have had the chance to see places I never would’ve otherwise if not for these poker writing gigs. Wouldn’t be worth it, though, if it weren’t for folks like Brad, Reinaldo, Sergio, Carlos, Donnie, Mickey, Will, Lynn, the LAPT staff, and other people who help make the trips not just manageable but a lot of fun, too.

The beach at Punta del EsteStill, as always, I’m now especially looking forward to getting back home. After breakfast this morning I went for a short windy walk on the beach, touching the water just to say I had. Not a soul in sight, which kind of added to the lonely vibe.

I watched the waves crash for a few minutes more, then walked back to the hotel. Soon the journey from winter back to summer will begin.

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