By Martin Harris and Paul "Dr. Pauly" McGuire
Welcome back to the Atlantic City Casino located in the scenic Miraflores district of Lima, Peru. We're getting close to the start of Season 4's LAPT Lima $2,500 buy-in Main Event. We're done with the planes, the partying, and all the other pregame. Time for some poker!
Without a doubt, our favorite part of the Latin America Poker Tour is the infamous welcome parties, and were not saying this because we're suckers for free booze and sampling the local delicacies. This year's welcome party was hosted at Restaurant Huaca Pucllana, located in the same Mariflores neighborhood where we're playing the tournament. The festivities distinguished itself from other previous parties because it was held adjacent to the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid and allowed us to have a brief history lesson about some of the earliest settlers in the area. Plus, it's not every day where you can feast on savory ceviche, knock back Pisco Sours and discuss "marginal hand raises on six-bet shoves" at a site of ancient Peruvian ruins.
A lovely guide gave us a tour of the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid. She explained that the pyramid and adjoining structures were comprised out of adobe and clay around 400 A.D. The area was used as a center of commerce and ceremonial worship. Rituals were performed at the base of the pyramid to appease the gods and their ancestors, which included gruesome human sacrifice and eating shark meat. The area had been abandoned and covered up. In the 20th century, locals referred to the area as a large hill where they often had picnics.
We also discovered that Pucllana is derived from the word pucllay, which translates into games or ritual. Somewhat fitting that 1,500 or more years after the original construction of the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid, a group of international poker players converged in a social setting on the eve of a mighty contest. We have to assume that a few players also payed their respects to the ancient gods and ancestors, in hopes of a little "run good" over the next four days.
When we left Lima last June, our heads were filled with memories of a riveting final table from which Team PokerStars' own Jose "Nacho" Barbero had emerged the victor. It was a wild, exciting finish, as we recall, with not one but two recent winners on the LAPT tour -- Amer Sulaiman and Barbero -- still in contention with less than two tables to go.
Sulaiman eventually fell in 13th, while Barbero went on to repeat his success at Punta del Este, Uruguay to take his second straight LAPT trophy and a handsome prize of $250,000. In the battle to create a new catchy moniker for Barbero to commemorate his triumph at Lima, "Nacho Nacho Man" was a contender, but our colleague Brad "Otis" Willis ultimately went for the broader appeal in his recap of that thrill ride of a final table: "Back-to-Back Barbero Claims Second LAPT Title."
Barbero is back and will be among the field of hopefuls trying to build up their 20,000-chip starting stacks when cards go in the air for today's Day 1. Can Back-to-Back Barbero defend his title and give new significance to that nickname? Not that the Argentinian needs any inspiration, but his Team PokerStars Pro teammate Vanessa Selbst provided plenty yesterday by incredibly taking her second straight title at NAPT Mohegan Sun.
We'll soon see how many others choose to battle with Barbero for the LAPT trophy here in Peru's capital city this time around. Last year saw an impressive field of 384 take seats here at the Atlantic City Casino, creating a total prize pool of nearly $1 million, despite the fact that the WSOP in Las Vegas was well underway. From what we're hearing, tourney officials are prepared for that many and more today.
The plan for Day 1 will be to play 10 one-hour levels. We'll be live blogging all the action here from the first hands to that final all-in push.
Poker in Peru starts in a few!