For several years PokerStars-sponsored tournaments across the globe have introduced us to numerous fresh faces in the game. And some players who earned their first bricks and mortar wings courtesy of PokerStars online satellites have gone on to become established "names" in both environments. They, to coin a phrase, found the poker star in them.
None fit the profile of online qualifier made good quite as snugly as Greg Raymer. Although his team-mate Chris Moneymaker has that name and that rags to riches story, it was Raymer who really catapulted the game into the stratosphere when he took down the World Series main event in 2005. He did it when the whole world was watching and he did it when people were questioning whether these online guys could really cut it for real. Sure they could: Raymer's paltry online satellite fee earned him five million bucks.
Since then, Raymer has proved it was no fluke with a catalogue of high-profile successes. He's also become one of the best ambassadors for both PokerStars and the game of poker in general, always on hand for an interview, always ready to sign memorabilia or pose for photos. And this week, he's made the long trip down from the east coast of the United States to the south coast of Uruguay. And what do you know, he's got a bunch of chips.
"I had one huge hand before the break," Raymer said moments ago. "I had about 34,000 and I took out the second chip-leader on the table, who had about 24,000. I had kings, she had ace-king." He then went on to describe how the two-club, straightening flop gave his opponent plenty of outdraw possibilities, but that all the outs missed and sent him to the chip lead, with 60,000, "there or thereabouts."
Raymer is the star attraction here in Punta del Este, although his table is among the more star-studded at the event. His fellow Team PokerStars Pros Vanessa Rousso and Andre Akkari are also in attendance, and the trio have attracted a huge flock of railbirds, especially with half the field on their dinner break. Raymer is captain, though, a role he fills with some glee. After a lean World Series and a disappointing 2008 in general, there are high hopes in Uruguay that he can get himself back on the winners' rostrum.
Unfortunately, Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein has seen his chances of success ended in Punta del Este. The vagaries of the transportation to this part of the world conspired against Greenstein and deposited him in Uruguay about half an hour before the off-time of the tournament.
He half-played, half-napped his way through the opening levels, keeping something close to his original chip stack of 10,000 in front of him. But they were all in just after the dinner break, with Greenstein holding 10-10. The mandatory call for his opponent, the PokerStars qualifier Teddy Peterson, who was holding aces, and that was that.
Humberto Brenes is also suspiciously on the peripheries of the tournament room, suggesting the worst for him.
We'll confirm whether he's in or out as soon as we get the chance. Team PokerStars Pros Alexandre Gomes and Chad Brown, as well as Raymer, Rousso and Akkari, are still in the mix.
And a special word too about Gualter Salles, the PokerStars player from Brazil, who has traded indy car for poker chip in the past few years.
Salles made a huge play with pocket jacks on a queen-high board shortly before dinner, getting an opponent to lay down king-queen and give up a massive pot. Salles is up to 40,000-odd and cruising.
A full chip count will be coming very soon.
Back when the day was still young -- and Barry Greenstein was still involved -- he spoke to our video blog team about how things had been progressing to that point.
Watch LAPT Punta del Este: Barry Greenstein Day One on PokerStars.tv
More video blogs, including an archive of previous footage, can be found over at PokerStars.tv.
Update: In the past couple of minutes, we've just established that Humberto Brenes is, actually, still in, with about 10,000. But Andre Akkari is out and Greg Raymer is now up to about 84,000. Those two last facts may well be related.