Saturday, April 16, 2011

Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Day 2

Brazilian flag on Akkari's chairAfter a late night sitting up with Dr. Pauly, F-Train, and Reinaldo contemplating our collective futures in what appears to be a suddenly, sadly crumbling industry, I woke up early this morning, unable to sleep once the first hint of sunlight crept into my suite.

I decided to order myself some coffee. I got out of the bed, wincing a little as the sunlight hit my face. I realized everything is suddenly appearing undesirably metaphorical.

Our digs here in Peru are quite nice. Check out this short video Pauly shot soon after we arrived for an idea of what my room -- or, really, rooms -- look like. Two floors, actually, although if you watch that vid you’ll see how up top there’s an uncarpeted catwalk one has to traverse to get to the bed and back. It’s a bit treacherous, something you don’t want to move too quickly across in just socks or you could wind up falling 15 feet onto the kitchen table below.

Ah, I thought. Bountiful, but hazardous. Makes me think of online poker....

I decided to phone room service to see if I could just get a pot of coffee, and three minutes later I was drinking my first cup of the day. I remembered being in Atlantic City last month for the WSOP-Circuit event, where at Caesars I had tried to order just coffee but was told I couldn’t do that. Had to get a full meal for them to come up to the room. Here in Peru, there were no such restrictions.

Ah, I thought. Certain things are more difficult in America. Makes me think of online poker....

I drank another sip and decided I wasn’t going to let myself continue with such applesauce. We had found ourselves doing something similar last night. Oceans 12 was playing on the television, subtitled in Spanish, and a montage of arrests on screen made us think of the “Dirty 11” who’d been indicted. At one point Reinaldo had put The Cure on the music player while we played Big Deuce, and when “Boys Don’t Cry” came on Pauly had us all in stitches as he added lyrics to the chorus (“unless they have fifty grand on Full Tilt,” etc.).

Even though it had been more than 12 hours since the news first broke, I suppose you could say we were still in an initial phase of response, using humor to deflect the unkind reality we all instinctively understand lies ahead. After just three hours of sleep, though, I’m feeling a lot less like laughing.

I’m also not wanting to let all of the metaphor-making take over my existence. Not just now, anyway. It was an interesting day of poker yesterday at LAPT Lima, one from which I’d come away with an intention to tell one story in particular. And I’m going to go ahead and do just that.

We learned the news of the indictments shortly after play began at noon local time yesterday, and reports of the subsequent fallout understandably provided further distractions as the day wore on and the tourney played down to the final 24. (Here is my initial, late night reaction to all of that.) The day, however, had already begun on a sad note when we learned just before the first hands were dealt that Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari would not be returning to play his 118,000-plus chip stack (good for the top 20 of the remaining 116). His father had passed away the night before, and he was traveling home to be with his family.

Akkari's unopened bag of chipsAkkari is very well liked among the PokerStars folks and by many of the players here on the LAPT. All were saddened by the sight of his empty chair and unopened bag of chips. Soon after play began, João Neto was moved to Akkari’s table to the seat to the absent player’s right. Hailing from Brazil (like Akkari), Neto was in the top five in chips at the time, and I commented on the PokerStars blog that he’d likely be able to be more aggressive given that Akkari wouldn’t be on his left.

Neto had brought a Brazilian flag to the casino yesterday, and he draped it over Akkari’s chair where it remained all afternoon and into the evening while antes and blinds were taken from his slowly dwindling stack.

The top 48 players made the money in this event, and when the field had gotten down to 52 we noticed Akkari had 20,000 chips left. The blinds were 3,000/6,000 with a 500 ante, meaning he was good for no more than a couple of orbits. Suddenly three players were eliminated in rapid succession and hand-for-hand play commenced. Now it was looking like Akkari may actually cash despite not being here to play a single hand on Day 2!

Akkari in 49th of 49But his stack was down to 12,000, and it appeared the next-lowest stack in the room was at 35,000 or so. All the short stacks had to do was fold and they were guaranteed to outlast Akkari. Then something remarkable happened.

A hand arose in which Neto, who’d been opening nearly every hand on the cash bubble, raised again from late position. Then Roberto Brenes -- Humberto’s son -- reraised from the blinds, committing over half his remaining stack of 90,000 or so. Neto pushed all in, and “Robertito” called with his Js9s. Neto had pocket jacks, and despite two spades coming on the flop and a nine on the turn, Neto’s hand held up.

Neto’s excitement at winning was a little bit uncomfortable, as Roberto -- and the whole Brenes clan -- is well liked and no one much enjoyed seeing him go out in 49th. I know I didn’t, although I wondered if perhaps Neto’s outburst was related in some fashion to his having ensured Akkari had made the money. (Akkari would ultimately wind up in 43rd place.)

Akkari finishes 43rdIt was an odd, kind of eerie moment, and I’ll say at that instant I wasn’t thinking much at all about the U.S. Department of Justice. As much as everyone felt sympathy for Roberto for not cashing, all were equally glad Akkari did, even though we knew it would matter little to him.

There are more important things than poker. We all knew that before yesterday, although sometimes we managed to distract ourselves enough with the game to forget it for lengthy stretches.

Poker can do that. Something both good and bad about the game, I guess.

Day 3 begins this afternoon. Check back at the PokerStars blog where we’ll keep covering it all until the last card falls on Sunday.

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