From Mexico Master to Brazil World Cup

The summer is coming, and while most poker players will be going to the WSOP, I'm going to be playing a lot of poker, too, over the next few months, but not in Las Vegas.

The poker scene here in Mexico has really started to grow lately. The Master Tournament poker room in Mexico City is currently the most popular poker room in the country, and it has been getting even more popular lately. The cash games are really good, with pros now starting to come from other countries to play here. There are lots of tournaments, too, and I'm seeing the fields growing and new faces showing up all the time.

A short while ago there was a fun knockout bounty tournament sponsored by "-KO-" brand watches. The owner of the company is very connected with poker and backs a few Mexican players for EPTs. He had this idea of organizing a knockout tournament with bounties, which kind of went along with the brand name (standing for "knockout"), and so the tournament was staged with the winner getting a special watch in addition to first prize money.

J.C. Alvarado ended up winning the tournament -- he crushed it. He was down to about five big blinds during the first level, but he came back to win. There were no re-entries, either, which made his comeback even more impressive.

Besides the live poker scene heating up, I also am encountering a lot more players online playing from Mexico, too -- not just poker refugees who've come from the U.S. to play, but Mexicans. Meanwhile I think PokerNews is relaunching a site in Mexico, and Codigo Poker, which is the biggest poker site in Latin America, have become big in Mexico now as well.

It's all exciting. I love going to the Masters Tournament poker room and always finding lots of action. There's a lot of hold'em and pot-limit Omaha, of course, and another game that people outside of Mexico might not know about called Mata Aces which means "kill aces." People love this game -- in the poker rooms here everyone is playing it, but I don't think it is known outside of Mexico yet.

The game kind of combines elements of several different poker games. You get two cards -- one face up, one face down -- and there's a round of betting. Then there are three cards in the middle, but it's not really a flop because you can only use one for your hand, then comes another round of betting. Then you get another card and bet again, and so on.

It's a little like five-card draw... and stud and hold'em, too! It probably sounds like one of those crazy games you play when you're a kid with jokers and so on, but it's not that. But it's actually a very good game and people are really crazy about it -- everyone who plays it falls in love with it instantly.

So I'm playing poker in Mexico right now and for the next several weeks. Then I'll be traveling to Brazil where I'll be playing a lot as well.

It's a World Cup year, and it will be held in Brazil and I'm going. I'm getting there early, though, because the LAPT will be in Sao Paulo at the end of May, a couple of weeks before the World Cup begins.

deleon_Brazila.JPG

Expecting my friend Akkari to greet me in Brazil!

I'm so excited. I've never been to a World Cup. I'm generally not a huge fan of soccer, but whenever the World Cup comes around I turn into one. I love the excitement and ambience and I'll be screaming for my teams.

Mexico will be there, and I think they'll compete well and I'll be pulling hard for them. I think Belgium is going to be kind of a dark horse to do well this year, and Brazil is going to be difficult to beat, too. My prediction is actually for Germany to be the world champion.

If Mexico gets knocked out before the finals -- which is likely -- I may still get to Las Vegas and play the WSOP Main Event. It'll be a busy summer regardless, and a fun one, too.

Christian de Leon is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

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