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May 24, 2008 10:16 PM

LAPT San Jose: From San Jose to Hungary

At about 6pm today in Costa Rica, the heavens opened and it rained. And when it rains during the rainy season in a country covered in rain forest, it really, really, really, really rains.

Somewhere deep inside the Caliari Country Club, in the capital, San Jose, it had been raining poker chips, pocket aces, bad beats and bust outs for the best part of three days. And as we entered the final stages and the torrents began outside, our own deluge, LAPT-style, showed no sign of abating.

Wiping all these crypic droplets of information to one side, the man who has made the most significant splash in San Jose this week is one Valdemar Kwaysser, a PokerStars qualifier from Budapest, Hungary, who turned $200 into close to $280,000, when he took down the second Latin American Poker Tour event.

He bettered his previous highest win, a $133,634 score for third in the Sunday Million on PokerStars in May 2007, and did so with flair, aggression, humility and, by his own admission, the occasional moment of good fortune.

"I really wanted to win," Kwaysser said. "But I know I had a really lucky period today. Steven [Silverman] trapped me. But that's poker. You sometimes play perfect and you don't get the results. And sometimes it's different."

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The period Kwaysser was referring to was when he took over the tournament with three players remaining after cracking Steven Silverman's kings with 10-5 and then the same player's pocket fives with pocket deuces. On both occasions, he made a runner-runner spade flush on turn and river after trailing pre-flop.

After that moment, he never looked back, and was able to destroy Max Steinberg in the heads-up play, assisted by pocket aces on the final hand.

But few can begrudge Kwaysser this win because he's been a formidble force since day one, outlasting a field including Team PokerStars Pros Daniel Negreanu, Humberto Brenes, Isabelle Mercier, Andre Akkari and Victor Ramdin to come to today's final table.

And he was undoubtedly one of the most aggressive players at what was a super-tough final.

Just ask Steven Thompson, the PokerStars qualifier who was carrying the hopes of the home nation.

It was the first hand of the day when he shoved pre-flop and got a caller in Steven Silverman. He was in good shape with A-Q versus A-9 but Silverman made a straight and Thompson was off.

Joe "Ender555" Ebanks was the next man out the door.

The well-known online player had been beaten about last night by the deck, losing huge pots to significantly inferior hands. But when he got all his stack in the middle at the final table, he was the one trailing. His suited ace-king had found Max Steinberg with aces, and he never caught up.

The next departure was Ashton Griffin, from Florida. He had also been massively aggressive at the final table, and had watched his chips grow, shrink, grow, shrink until they finally disappeared into the stack of Kwaysser.

Valdemar moved in from the small blind, effectively putting Ashton all in, and he was ahead when he called with A-8 against Valdemar's 8-4. But the four hit on the board and Ashton was out. It was the start of Valdemar's charge.

Pawel Sanojca, the PokerStars qualifier from Poland, was the next player out. He'd played his short stack expertly, doubling up a couple of times, only to slide back small.

Eventually, his suited A-5 never caught up against Kwaysser's pocket threes and Pawel's day was done.

That left five players, and each of them had really been mixing it up; it was the kind of final table you expect from these experienced online MTT players, all of whom had had some sizeable score or another.

The next player out was one of the best known onliners -- traheho on PokerStars -- who ultimately paid the price for some power play. He'd been flying on the final table but was in trouble when he ran pocket threes into the aces of Max Steinberg.

Alec Torelli, as he's known in the bricks and mortar environment, never caught up and traheho was out.

He was soon followed by Alexander Soderlund, another PokerStars qualifier from Sweden, who had found himself short and made a move pre-flop with queen high. Bad timing.
Valdemar had found A-K and there were no miracles.

Indeed, the miracles had all been left for the final three, and they mostly benefited the Hungarian. Steven Silverman had been many railbirds' tip to take this one down, and he's translated his formidable online game to San Jose.

He played extremely cute with three players left and managed to prompt Valdemar Kwaysser to try an outrageous pre-flop bluff with a suited 10 high.

This was especially good for Silverman, who had kings and a bigger stack than Valdemar. But this can be a cruel game sometimes, and the river brought the third spade, which matched the two in Valdemar's hand, and doubled him up, taking a huge chunk out of Silverman.

Valdemar was visibly delighted at the outdraw, but was evidently embarrassed when lightening struck for the second time soon after. This time, he was all in with pocket twos, and Silverman had fives -- and the shorter stack. If a deuce had flopped, it wouldn't have been anything we hadn't seen before -- horrible, but strangely predictable. But watching your opponent fill a four flush to the two of spades is a really nasty way to get busted from a tournament.

Steven Silverman knows that feeling.

That left two -- a heads up battle between Max Steinberg and Valdemar Kwaysser -- and the Hungarian had the chips. It was something like a three-to-one lead at this stage, and these two players knew their heads-up play, hardly ever seeing a flop, and even more infrequently giving a walk.

Max managed one double up, when his king-jack outdrew Valdemar's A-10, all in pre-flop. But us observers knew there was something suspicious about the way each player began minimum raising one another on a flop of 9-8-8 and few were surprised when all the chips flew in.

That's because Max had top pair with his J-9. But Valdemar had pocket aces and that, as they say, was that.

It was another scintillating end to another spectacular tournament on the LAPT. Valdemar will now find his way to Uruguay in August for the final event on this embryonic tour. And I don't think I'm putting my neck too dangerously on the block to suggest that this week was just the first in a long, long series of events to be held in Costa Rica.

Good night -- and it's still raining, if anyone's interested.

A full list of prize-winners can be found HERE.

* * * * *

The video blog team was in and around the tournament area for the whole of the three days in San Jose, Costa Rica. They were watching as intently as any of us as the final table play progressed, and brought us this round up of some of the key action, including the monster three-way pot that took a huge dent out of Ashton Griffin, and that five versus deuces hand between Valdemar and Steven Silverman.

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While the nine remaining players were doing battle, the video bloggers also caught up with Team PokerStars Pro's Daniel Negreanu, who gave his top five tips for final table play.

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Full video coverage is available at

All images (c) Joe Giron/IMPDI

May 24, 2008 7:35 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table, level 24, updates

We're in level 24 of the LAPT event in San Jose, Costa Rica. Blinds are 15,000-30,000 (3,000). The tournament is heads up. Updates will appear in this post. Click Refresh on your browser for latest news.

Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, wins LAPT San Jose, earning $274,103


6.20pm: Max Steinberg, USA, is eliminated in second place, earning $144,773
Max had drifted down to about 700,000 when the final hand occurred. The action all happened after a flop of 9h-8s-8c when both players began all but minimum raising one another -- 50,000 here, 70,000 there, etc, etc. until Max shoved. Valdemar called and showed pocket aces; Max had J-9. There were no miracles on the turn or river and this title is going back to Hungary.

6.10pm: Another pot for the Hungarian, and a bluff gone awry for Max. Max bets 35,000 on a flop of 10c-3h-Ac, which Valdemar calls. The turn is the 5s and Max bets 80,000. Valdemar calls 80,000. The river is 6d and Max checks. Valdemar bets 250,000 and Max check-raises to 500,000. Valdear calls instantly, but might think he's behind with A-2, for top pair, no kicker. But Max is forced to show K-4 for nothing, and another 700,000 or so goes to Valdemar.

Valdemar has about 3.5million to Max's 500,000.

6.05pm: Double up for Max Steinberg and this time Valdemar gets a taste of his own outdraw medicine. They get it all in pre-flop with A-10 for Valdemar and J-K for Max. The flop is blank, but the turn is the king, which brings a roar from the rail. No ace appears on the river and Max doubles up to about 1.2million. Valdemar still has 2.8 million.


5.55pm: The first sizeable pot of the heads-up battle slides towards Valdemar Kwaysser. There was some small pre-flop action and a flop came Ad-5d-9c. Valdemar checked it, Max bet 70,000 and Valdemar called. The 2c on the turn seemed like a blank and Valdemar checked again, Max bet 140,000. Valdemar then asked for a count before just calling, and both players checked the 2d river, probably fearing the flush. Max showed pocket queens and Valdemar had A-8 for two pair, aces and deuces. It was worth about 540,000 by the end.

5.45pm: Call, raise, fold. Raise, fold. Raise, re-raise, fold. They're the only options available here and we've seen just one flop since heads up play started.

5.40pm: We're heads up in San Jose, with the following chip counts:

Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier -- 3,004,000
Max Steinberg, USA -- 985,000

May 24, 2008 7:35 PM

LAPT San Jose: A newbie's view

As they prepare for heads-up play, meaning loads of hand-shaking, strategy discussions, and photography, it seems like a good time to post the following. I'd intended to post it at the dinner break, but we might not make it that far. So, here it is.

Throughout the first couple of days here in San Jose, the PokerStars Blog team received some invaluable assistance in their reporting duties from Alex Villegas, a Costa Rica native and a journalism student at the University of Connecticut. The bilingual 19-year-old spent most of those two long, long days on his feet, buzzing around the room and getting us chip counts, interview snippets and biographical information from the players.


Last night, he took some time out to put pen to paper and describe his first experience of a major poker tournament. He called his piece "Major Virgin". Here are his thoughts:

Major Virgin at LAPT San Jose
By Alex Villegas

Having never attended a major event before, the LAPT: San Jose did the honor of deflowering me…and yes, it hurt. There aren’t many places where you can find a combination of celebrities, internet geniuses and masseuses in the same room, but the LAPT makes it seem commonplace.

This frenzy that we’ve come to call a sporting event started with a party. The party not only included the aforementioned characters, but added alcohol and nude cat women. I will never be the same.

Here the more outlandish characters shined, telling their crazy tales of how they qualified for former events. Some players socialized while others surveyed the final, sizing up their opponents. This day—at least for me—ended in a haze and I woke up to the first day of LAPT: San Jose.

Every player that sat down at his or her table had a different reaction. Some were happy and upbeat, others were star struck and a considerable number were nervous to the point of trembling—regardless of the broken air conditioner and near 90° weather. But the whole room tuned into one mode the second they heard “Shuffle up and deal”. Everyone entered their playing ritual and fiddled with their chips, causing a room-wide ‘chirping’ that became the heartbeat of the tournament.

As the tournament went on, the mood changed. As the button approached, there was less laughter and the room became tense. The ‘chirping’ became frantic and every all in was a spectacle.

Now that we have reached the final table, the tension from these nine players is enough to fill the original 398 seats. The viewers hold their breath, the media frantically takes pictures and someone is going home $275,000 richer.

As for me, I’ll go home jealous knowing that some people do this for a living.

Thanks again for your help, Alex. And a glittering career no doubt awaits.

May 24, 2008 6:16 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table, level 23, updates

We're in level 23 of the LAPT event in San Jose, Costa Rica. Blinds are 12,000-24,000 (3,000). Four players were left at the start of the level. Updates will appear in this post. Click Refresh on your browser for latest news.

5.20pm: Heads up chip count:

Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier -- 3,004,000
Max Steinberg, USA -- 985,000

5.15pm: Steven Silverman, PokerStars qualifier from United States, is eliminated in third place, earning $106,167Oh. My. God. Steven Silverman has clearly upset someone in a high place as he has just taken his second shocking beat and is now out of this thing. This time, he limps on the button and Valdemar raises from the small blind. Silverman pushes his entire stack of about 700,000 in, and Valdemar thinks for a while before making what he clearly knows is a crying call. Indeed it is: he has 2s-2c and is way behind Silverman's red pocket fives. But the board again favours the Hungarian as it comes 4s-8c-8s and then the killer turn and river of Js Ks to fill the flush with Valdemar's 2s.


Valdemar looks truly contrite, while Steven looks for a bucket.

5.00pm: That last hand in pictures. Surely no captions necessary.




4.50pm: Huge, huge hand here in San Jose as Steven Silverman takes a totally shocking beat and Valdemar Kwaysser gets out of jail in dramatic fashion. A raising war breaks out with Silverman on the button and Valdemar in the small blind. By the time of the third re-raise, Silverman is sliding in 175,000. Valdemar still doesn't believe it, though, and moves in for his whole stack, close to 800,000. Silverman insta-calls and shows kings. Valdemar has had his hand slammed in the cookie jar as he flips 10s-5s. But it doesn't get much sicker than this as the board comes As-8d-9d then 2s on the turn and the 7s on the river, to fill the Hungarian's flush. He goes pogo-ing to the rail, veins bursting from his temples. Silverman surely thinks about aiming a gun at his. Valdemar is back in the chip lead.

4.45pm: The first dent is taken out of Max Steinberg as he doubles up his fellow American Steven Silverman. Silverman starts the pot with about 775,000 and pocket eights, Steinberg has him well covered in chips but is well behind in cards, with pocket fives. The board bricks and Silverman is up to about 1.5 million. Silverman and Steinberg are now close in chips, with Valdemar third. They all have more than a million.

4.35pm: Steven Silverman takes a decent pot from Valdemar Kwaysser. He check calls flop and turn, which is Ks-8c-4d and 5h, and both of them check the Ac river. Steven shows A-8 for two pair and Valdemar mucks. It's worth about 180,000 total.

4.25pm: Alexander Soderland, PokerStars qualifier from Sweden, is eliminated in fourth place, earning $77,212
No sooner is the level started than Alexander Soderland is all in and all out. He had the short stack and shoved it in pre-flop. But he must have been fearing the worst when Valdemar Kwaysser also announced all-in from the small blind. In the event, he had two live ones with Q-2 against Valdemar's A-K. But a king flopped, an ace turned and Soderlund was on his way back to Sweden.

4.20pm We've just started the new level and a white chip has been introduced to play, worth 25,000. Max Steinerg is the only one with any of them at the moment and he is the chip leader.

Updated counts:

Seat 4 -- Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 518,000
Seat 5 -- Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 1,180,000

Seat 7 -- Max Steinberg, USA, 2,118,000
Seat 9 -- Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 235,000

* * * * *

We're in the thick of the final table action here in San Jose, and earlier in the day, the video blog team caught up with all of the final nine. These are the players who took a shot at the big time today (in two parts):

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You can see video footage from the whole tournament in three languages, as well as an archive of other clips from previous PokerStars events over at

May 24, 2008 4:59 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table, level 22, updates

We're in level 22 of the LAPT event in San Jose, Costa Rica. Blinds are 10,000-20,000 (2,000). Five players were left at the start of the level. Updates will appear in this post. Click Refresh on your browser for latest news.

4.05pm: Two two chip leaders tangle, with Max Steinberg edging it. Valdemar raises 50,000 pre-flop and Max, on the button, calls. The flop is As-Ad-Kd and both players check. That seems a touch suspicious from these two aggressive players, and then the turn is 5h, which is also suspiciously checked. The river is 10d and now Valdemar bets 80,000. Max bumps it up to 350,000 and sends Valdemar into the tank. He thinks for ages, forcing Max to call a clock, and eventually the Hungarian lets it go.


Max Steinberg cruises into the chip lead

Updated chip counts to come.

3.55pm: Alec Torelli, PokerStars qualifier from the United States, is eliminated in fifth place, earning $57,909
This is what happens when no player ever believes any of their opponents has a hand. From the cut-off seat, Alec Torelli makes a standard pre-flop raise of 45,000. From the big blind, Max Steinberg bumps it up to 150,000. Alec doesn't stand for it and shoves all in for 710,000 and Max insta-calls.


Steinberg shows aces and Alec's pocket threes don't get any help from the board. Traheho is out of here.

Max has moved into the chip lead with more than 1.5million. Valdemar is in second spot, with Alexander and Steven the shorter stacks.

3.35pm: The lack of posts represents a distinct lack of action here in San Jose, where we're rarely seeing a flop. Most pre-flop raises take the blinds and antes. All players, including Alec Torelli, below, are still eyeing up Valdemar Kwaysser.


3.20pm: With five players and five sizeable stacks in front of them, the rush of eliminations has ceased. Max has moved all in a couple of times to take down some pre-flop pots, while Alec and Valdemar have been bossing. Alexander Soderlund and Steven Silverman are the nominal short stacks, but they still have plenty of play and the patience not to shove unnecessarily.

3.05pm: Our dominant chip leader at the final table is Valdemar Kwaysser who has, well, this many chips:


3pm: We're starting level 22. The following latest chip counts are approximate:

Seat 1 -- Alec Torelli, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 990,000
Seat 4 -- Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 530,000
Seat 5 -- Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 1,300,000

Seat 7 -- Max Steinberg, USA, 775,000
Seat 9 -- Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 475,000

May 24, 2008 3:49 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table, level 21, updates

We're in level 21 of the LAPT event in San Jose, Costa Rica. Blinds are 8,000-16,000 (2,000). Eight players were left at the start of the level. Updates will appear in this post. Click Refresh on your browser for latest news.

2.40pm: Pawel Sanojca, PokerStars qualifier from Poland, is eliminated in 6th place, earning $38,606
We lose Pawel in San Jose, another victim of the increasingly dominant Valdemar Kwaysser. The Hungarian player, as usual, raises pre flop and Pawel, from Poland, makes it a battle of central Europe with an all-in shove for about 317,000. That at least prompts Valdemar to think for a while, but he eventually calls and shows 3-3. Pawel has a suited ace-five, but receives no help from the flop, turn or river and is out in sixth, good for close to $40,000.


Pawel Sanojca takes stock, above, then takes his cash, below


Valdemar, meanwhile, seems unstoppable.

2.30pm: There's been some crazy chip movement early in this level thanks to the two eliminations. Valdemar Kwaysser has emerged at the top of the pile and is closing in on a million in chips. The following counts are approximate:

Seat 1 -- Alec Torelli, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 690,000
Seat 2 -- Pawel Sanojca, Poland, PokerStars qualifier, 420,000
Seat 4 -- Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 400,000
Seat 5 -- Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 960,000

Seat 7 -- Max Steinberg, USA, 840,000
Seat 9 -- Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 600,000

2.15pm: Double up for Pawel Sanojca, through Alec Torelli. A fairly standard all-in pre-flop battle between the Polish and American players. It's queens for Pawel and jacks for Alec and the board bricks. Pawel doubles his 230,000 stack. Alec still has 650,000-odd.

2.10pm: Ashton Griffin, United States, eliminated in 7th place, earning $28,955
It's all gone off here. In a battle of the blinds, Ashton Griffin takes the walk. The hyper-aggressive Valdemar Kwaysser moves all in from the small blind, effectively putting Ashton's small stack of 199,999 under threat.


Valdemar Kwaysser, left, eliminates Ashton Griffin, right

Ashton makes a pretty standard call with A-8 and he's right to do so: Valdemar has 8-4. But the dominated hand becomes dominant on the turn, when a four appears, sending the Florida player out. The Hungarian is up to challenge Alec Torelli, Max Steinberg and Alexander Soderlund for the chip lead.

2.00pm: Joe Ebanks, PokerStars qualifier from the United States, eliminated in 8th place, earning $19,303
LAPTCR_FinalTable_0173.jpgLevel 21 starts with a major bang. Pre-flop, and from late position, Ashton Griffin opens for 32,000. Max Steinberg, clearly a little sick of this, shoves for 390,000(!) but he finds Joe Ebanks in the tank. Eventually Ender555 calls for his whole stack of 380,000 and Ashton gets out the way.
Max flips A-A, and Joe shows Ah-Kh. No one can quite believe that this is the action, but it's true. We all saw it. There are two hearts on board by the turn, but the river bricks and Max all but doubles up, eliminating Joe Ebanks.

1.45pm: Players take a break at the end of a frenetic first level of the day. The full, official chip counts going into level 21 are:

Seat 1 -- Alec Torelli, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 910,000
Seat 2 -- Pawel Sanojca, Poland, PokerStars qualifier, 231,000
Seat 3 -- empty
Seat 4 -- Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 533,000
Seat 5 -- Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 670,000
Seat 6 -- Ashton Griffin, United States, 237,000
Seat 7 -- Max Steinberg, USA, 389,000
Seat 8 -- Joe Ebanks, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 384,000
Seat 9 -- Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 621,000

A reminder that a full list of winner so far can be found HERE.

May 24, 2008 2:44 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table, level 20, updates

We're in level 20 of the LAPT event in San Jose, Costa Rica. Blinds are 6,000-12,000 (1,000). Eight players were left at the start of the level. Updates will appear in this post. Click Refresh on your browser for latest news.

1.35pm: Sizeable pot just before the break. Pawel bets 33,000 under-the-gun, and Alec Torelli calls from the big blind. The flop is an interesting 2c-Ah-2h, but Alec checks. Pawel bets 36,000 and here comes the check-raise. Alec bumps it up to 84,000 and Pawel calls. The turn is the flush card -- the 9h -- and Alec moves all in, which covers Pawel's stack of about 300,000. Eventually, the Polish player folds and Alec Torelli consolidates his chip lead.

1.30pm: Wow. A huge hand, three-way all in pre-flop. Alexander Soderlund opens from UTG. Pawel moves all in over the top for his short stack -- about 100,000 -- and then Ashton Griffin announces all in from the small blind. He has close to 700,000 after that last hand, which covers everyone else. Soderlund calls for his whole stack -- about 400,000 -- and they flip. Soderlund has kings, Pawel has aces and Ashton's A-Q is in trouble. The board is kind of exciting: 8s-6s-6d 6h 8h, but all it really means is that the aces are good for a triple up for Pawel, Soderlund doubles through Ashton and takes over the chip lead. Full counts to follow.


Pawel Sanojca, above, triples up with aces, while Ashton Griffin, below, watches towers of blues slide away


1.25pm Time for Ashton Griffin to rough up Steven Silverman a little. Silverman makes a standard raise from the button and Griffin re-raises 45,000 more from the big blind. Silverman calls. The flop is 3d-6h-8c and Griffin, first to act, bets 65,000. Silverman calls. The turn is the 6c and Griffin again comes out firing, this time 82,000. Steven Silverman folds.

1.20pm Pawel moves all in when it's folded to him on the button. It's "only" 94,000 but Steven Silverman and Valdemar get out the way in the blinds.

1.15pm Huge pot between Alec Torelli and Steven Silverman ends with a mighty double up for Alec Torelli. They somehow conspire to get it all in pre-flop nd Alec shows Q-Q against Silverman's 8-8. A queen flops, an eight turns, but that's all the drama and Torelli takes down a pot of more than 800,000. That puts him into the chip lead.

A full chip count will come at the end of this level in 20 minutes. Alec Torelli is out in front with about 800,000, with Steven Silverman second with about 650,000. Pawel Sanojca is the short stack.

1.10pm: Two of the big stacks flex their muscles and send out a warning to one another. Valdemar raises from late position, Ashton re-raises from the seat to his left, and by the time it gets back to Valdemar, he makes it 300,000 more. Ashton declines to go any deeper.

1pm: The players have just realised that the oldest player remaining in the tournament is just 24. Other than that, three of them are under 20. Alec Torelli, a relative veteran at 21, discusses it with his friends on the rail, then points out the two 24-year-olds -- Pawel and Valdemar. "They're practically dead," jokes Alec's supporter.

12.55pm: A sizeable pot brews between Pawel Sanojca and Max Steinberg, which ends with Max showing a bluff. Max raises to 24,000 pre-flop and Pawel calls. The flop is 4s-4c-Kh and Max bets 35,000. Pawel raises 50,000 more and Max makes it another 50,000. This time, Pawel believes him and lets it go. Max turns over Q-9. Media row decides that he was probably ahead.

12.45pm: Unsurprisingly, the big stacks are raising pre-flop and pinching the blinds and antes, while the small stacks are waiting for the chance to double up. The rail has gone slightly quiet with the elimination of the final Costa Rican, but it's only a matter of time until the big-time online players haul themselves out of bed to follow their bretheren in the live arena.

May 24, 2008 2:19 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table updates

The cards are in the air in San Jose for the final table of the LAPT Costa Rica. The day began with 12 minutes left of level 19, with blinds at 6,000-12,000 (1,000).

Updates will appear here. Press Refresh on your browser for latest news.

12.45pm: Double up for Pawel Sanojca. The Polish player is the short stack now, after the elimination of Thompson, and he gets it all in pre-flop with K-Jc. Ashton Griffin is obliged to call with his meagre pocket twos, but Pawel makes a flush by the time the turn is dealt and doubles up.

We've just entered level 20.

12.35pm: Steven Thompson, PokerStars qualifier from Costa Rica, is eliminated in 9th place, earning $14,477
First hand bust out!

The table folds to Steven Thompson in the small blind, who raises 105,000. Steven Silverman in the big blind pushes all in, and has Thompson well covered. Thompson barely thinks a moment before calling and flips A-Q. He's well ahead of Silverman's A-9 and is looking for an early double up. But the flop comes 10-8-7, giving an up-and-downer for Silverman. And when the jack rivers, that is that.

12.30pm: After introductions in Spanish, from Team PokerStars Pro's Humberto Brenes, and English from Team Tournament Director's Mike Ward, play begins.


May 24, 2008 1:41 PM

LAPT San Jose: Final table profiles

The tournament staff is unbagging chips as the function room of the Cariari Country Club, San Jose, Costa Rica, prepares to host the final table of the first LAPT event to reach these shores.


When the cards are in the air in a few minutes, these are the players that will be chasing the top prizes.

Seat 1: Alec Torelli, 21, Orange County, California, USA – PokerStars qualifier – 404,000
Known and feared around the online tables as "traheho", where he crushes the high stakes cash games, the young California says he actually prefers live Multi Table Tournaments, exclusively no limit hold 'em, the higher the stakes, the better. He's been playing the live circuit out of the USA since the 2006 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and has also found work as a poker coach online. He has a condo ready in Las Vegas for his first shot at the WSOP this summer and will go into the final table in San Jose brimming with confidence.

Seat 2: Pawel Sanojca, 24, Poznan, Poland – PokerStars qualifier - 134,000
Pawel has been playing poker for 2½ years. Apart from a few small €100 buy-in tournaments in Poland, he’s only played online and this is his first major live tournament. His best result before now was a $5 PokerStars tournament a year ago when he cashed $7k. He’s been playing for a living for a year but was studying economics and plans to go back to school in September. He said: “Reaching the final table is my greatest poker moment. “ He is getting a taste for playing live though: “Online, making decisions is based on maths but in live tournaments, being so close to people, you can feel the fear and use it against them. It’s allowed me to fold bigger hands and make better calls. I plan to play a lot more live tournaments including $2,500k at WSOP. I’ll play to win today but it will be very hard.”

Seat 3: Steven Thompson, 28, San José, Costa Rica – 195,000
Steven took up poker three years ago but has only been playing really seriously for two years - with the aim of being a full-time professional player. LAPT San José is his first big event. He tried to qualify on PokerStars but, after busting out with Aces, switched to a new tactic - he and his friends held a raffle for the seat. He said: “It’s been really important for me to get this far. My mother and step-father aren’t keen on me playing poker but I told them before the tournament that if I made the money, I’d call them and ask them to come down. So they have been here watching me, which has made me really proud. It’s given me the chance to show them that I am actually good at this.”

Seat 4: Steven Silverman, 19, Maryland, USA – PokerStars qualifier – 831,000
Steven Silverman is already a proclaimed full time professional poker player. At the end of his high school years, he started playing freerolls online and transformed those into 5 bucks, and then transformed those $5 into over $1,000, and would lose it all and start all over again. After switching courses several times at college, he decided to take poker seriously. He really threw himself into tournaments after winning the $20+Rebuys on stars for $10,000 which bankrolled him into most of his tournaments. Known online as “Zugwat”, Steven is going for Super Nova Elite, and recently had a 10th place finish at the WPT in Niagara, for $65,000. A bitter finish so close to the big prize, which he plans on avenging here in Costa Rica.

Seat 5: Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary – PokerStars qualifier – 594,000

Valdemar Kwayssser has been a full time professional poker player for three years. He qualified for the LAPT in San Jose in a $200 satellite on PokerStars and has also already qualified for the WSOP Main Event this year. This is his second major live tournament after he busted at the APPT Manila close to the bubble. His biggest cash so far was a third place in the PokerStars Sunday Million for $133,000. Usually, he plays live cash games in Vienna or Amsterdam, and plays MTTs online. On day two he had a fantastic start when he cracked aces and built a big stack with another double up. He played very aggressively during the bubble period and raised almost every hand pre-flop to apply the pressure on his opponents. It worked, and Valdemar finished the day with almost 600,000 in chips. “I am a little bit surprised, because the field here is very tough. The first place would be great for my bankroll, but I also would support my big family with the money”, he said. He has three brothers and four sisters in Budapest.

Seat 6: Ashton Griffin, 19, West Palm, Florida, USA –– 761,000

Ashton Griffin dropped out of college to focus on poker but after six months is now planning to return to his business studies course. Despite his slight build, Ashton is a keen wrestler and aims to carry it on further at college. His enthusiasm for one-to-one combat show up in poker as well – he mainly plays Heads Up at the $5/$10 level. He like HU because it involves more “thinking and psychology”. He’s been having a pretty successful time recently, having snapped up $85,000 for winning an online tournament only a week ago.

Seat 7: Max Steinberg, 19, Washington DC, USA – 284,000
Max and his identical twin brother Danny took up poker at the same time when their dad celebrated their 18th birthday by giving them each a poker baseball cap and $50 to open up an online poker account – which they shared. The two also both competed here in San José but it is Max who has reached both the money and the final table. Older brother Aaron is also here at the Cariari Country Club, cheering Max on from the rails. This is only Max’s second live event but he says he’s feeling calm and managing to keep an even temper.

Seat 8: Joe Ebanks, 23, Kent, Ohio, United States -PokerStars qualifier – 391,000
A college senior, majoring in psychology, Joe Ebanks is considering taking a year out to pursue a professional poker career. As well he might: Ebanks plays all the major online tournaments and won the $100 rebuy on PokerStars twice, most recently just a week ago, good for $24,000. "Ender555", as he is known online, won his seat in San Jose in a $200 Sunday night satellite, and he also qualified for the first LAPT event in Rio earlier this month. He could be sitting with around 950,000 at the final table if he hadn't taken a couple of rough beats late on Day 2, but is still in the game with 321,000.

Seat 9: Alex Soderland, 22, Stockholm, Sweden – PokerStars qualifier – 345,000

Alex has been playing poker for a living for the last three years. He mainly plays cash games, especially – like Ashton Griffin - $5/$10 Heads Up. The pair have played against each other often. He qualified for EPT San Remo and although he busted in the main event, he cashed in 19th place in the $2k side event. He also played the PCA in January. This is his best live result so far. He said: “it’s been quite exciting but you don’t make much if you don’t make the top 5 so I’ll be playing to win this.“ Alex is being supported here by girlfriend Josefine,23. She was actually back at the hotel sleeping when Alex made it to the final table yesterday but will be railing him today. The couple have already spent 10 days in Costa Rica, spending a week on Nicoya Island.

A reminder of the payouts and prize winners so far can be found .
Video footage of the event can be found at

We'll have full coverage of the final table action here.

May 24, 2008 3:19 AM

LAPT San Jose: We have a final table

It doesn't surprise any more, but it will always amaze.

No matter how many major tournaments are played in which countries and cities around the world, PokerStars online qualifiers will always seek them out and crush them, destroy any field no matter the size.


Here in San Jose, Costa Rica, the second stopping point of the Latin America Poker Tour, it has been no different. Take a look at the line up for tomorrow's final table:

Seat 1 -- Alec Torelli, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 404,000
Seat 2 -- Pawel Sanojca, Poland, PokerStars qualifier, 134,000
Seat 3 -- Steven Thompson, Costa Rica, 195,000
Seat 4 -- Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 831,000
Seat 5 -- Valdemar Kawaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 594,000
Seat 6 -- Ashton Griffin, United States, 761,000
Seat 7 -- Max Steinberg, USA, 284,000
Seat 8 -- Joe Ebanks, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 321,000
Seat 9 -- Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 325,000

That's six PokerStars qualifiers on a table of nine players. Not bad, huh.

And for those of you more likely to recognise screen names than "real" identities, you're also going to be impressed. Alec is more popularly known as traheho, a high-stakes cash player with a pretty startling record in online MTTs; Joe is often known as Ender555, twice a recent winner of the $100 rebuy on PokerStars; and our chip leader in San Jose is Steven "Zugwat" Silverman, who won the nightly hundred grand on PokerStars twice in March this year, good for more than $60,000.

The "real" world should be very afraid.

It all began in San Jose today with that real world making itself known in the form of booming thunder and teeming rain, reminding us that we had, after all, alighted in the rain forest in the middle of the rainy season. Yet despite these most inclement of outdoor conditions, so many of our players seemed intent on going out into the rain.


There were 85 in the room at the start of play, but soon there were considerably more in the lobby, as we raced down to the last 30-odd.

Among those to fall during this deluge was Andre Akkari, the final member of Team PokerStars Pro in the tournament, who had clung on last night when all his team-mates perished.


Akkari celebrated an early double up, but was knocked out before the money

But Akkari couldn't get himself going today, and missed the money. There's always Uruguay.

We had very high hopes for the PokerStars sponsored pairing of Max and Maria Stern as well. With four World Series bracelets between them, and plenty of chips here in their native Costa Rica, there was every chance that we'd have our first husband-wife pair in the LAPT money. But like so many before them, they also both just missed out. A real shame.

Still, there were plenty of interested observers and fascinating stories as the bubble approached. And when it popped in the face of Xavier Dutrieu, a PokerStars qualifier from France, those that remained were in for the big money.


Bubble boy: Xavier Dutrieu

Overnight, our leaders had been Andre Wagner and Andres Odeja. The latter had a torrid time and plummeted out of contention before the money. And while it was slightly better news for Wagner, he had aces cracked by sevens and never really recovered. He went out in 20th.

It was around this time that Ashton Griffin and Steven Silverman started showing their mettle. Ashton found aces and played them expertly to bust two Dutch players -- Marijo Cupic and Corrie Johannes Romate -- in the same hand.


Steven Silverman, above. Ashton Griffin, below.


Josh Prager, a big-time player from the United States, who had made the final table of the EPT Grand Final, soon followed. Prager went out in 16th, the victim of Silverman.


Josh Prager

Next to leave was Natasha Ellis, the lone representative of both Great Britain and the female gender. She played a spectacular game throughout and was unlucky to bust in 15th, when a paired board meant her two pair were counterfeited.


Natasha Ellis

The vocal Costa Rican contingent, led by Team PokerStars Pro's Humberto Brenes, found their vocal cords stretched to the limit during the pre-final table stage, as Don Stockwell, Luis Jaikel and Steven Thompson attempted to bring local flavour to the last day.


It all goes south for Don Stockwell

In the event, only Thompson made it as Stockwell and Jaikel fell to Silverman and Ashton, respectively.

But Thompson's delight was enough for the whole of the country.


So today was another bloody, brutal day on the LAPT, but pretty terrific too if you like this kind of thing.

With a whole bundle of reputation on the line around tomorrow's final table, it will be a thriller.

Play starts at noon, local time. You know the way to San Jose.

Here's a look back at today's action:

Level 19 updates
Level 18 updates
The race to the final table
A well-earned dinner break
Sharks supporting the sharks
Bursting the bubble
Ender555 rising to the top
Getting close to the money
The elements intervene
Day two begins

And a quick reminder to:

Click HERE for chip counts
Click HERE for prize winners to date
Visit for video footage

* * * * *

The video blog team have been sitting behind a sparking editing board all day to bring you the best animated footage from the LAPT. Here's their end of day wrap up:

And there's an extra dose of animation in this clip, where they catch up with Sam Simon, the co-creator of "The Simpsons", who played the tournament here in Costa Rica:

Video blogs and interviews from the 2009 PCA

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the LAPT San Jose Season 1 category.

LAPT Rio Season 1 is the previous category.

Life Ball 2008 is the next category.

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