LAPT San Jose: Shuffle up and chatter

Latin America has a reputation of being a lively, friendly place. Based on the micrcosm that this poker tournament offers, that reputation is well-deserved. There has been non-stop chatter at the poker tables, mostly from Spanish-speaking players. Smiles and laughs are in abundance, even when players are in a hand against each other. Leading the charge, as is his wont, is Humberto Brenes.

"Nunca!" Brenes admonished Ryan Flynn with a laugh, after beating him in a hand. Brenes showed Ah-Qh for top pair as he scooped the pot. "I never bluff!" There was a pause before Brenes corrected himself. "I only bluff to my wife." Everyone laughed.

One table over, a member of the media approached Natan Wager Vainer after he folded and conceded a pot to Andre Akkari on a dry flop of 2d-3h-Qs. Vainer exchanged a few whispered words with his acquaintance, then told Akkari, "He's going to tell me exactly how to get your chips!" Akkari grinned behind roughly 12,000 chips and pointed at Stephen "stevie444" Chidwick sitting two seats to his left. "This guy alreadys knows."

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Andre Akkari will not be beaten easily.

Some of the Americans are warming up to the idea of non-stop table chatter. Eddie Sabat and Carter Gill are seated at back-to-back tables and have been keeping score throughout the proceedings, shouting their chip counts back and forth to each other. Sabat is winning the race so far, with 21,000 chips to Gill's 8,000.

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APPT Macau Champion Eddie Sabat

But this is tournament poker. It's not all puppies and sunshine. One player had his pocket queens cracked -- and his day ruined -- by a player with 6c-5h after three raises pre-flop and a large bet on the flop. The chips all went in on the turn, with the board showing 8h-7c-8d-4c. When the river fell 2c, it was off to find something else to do for the player with queens.

There's no lack of ideas. Two online qualifiers were swapping stories of what they've been up to since arriving in Costa Rica. Apart from the obvious of "four-tabling online poker from the casino bar", players have: toured a coffee plantation; visited a wildlife conservatory; and gone to the beach. The beaches are about two hours from San Jose, quite manageable as a day-trip, and boast waters that are reknowned the world over for their excellent scuba diving.

That won't be our lot today. We're diving headfirst into this tournament, with a complete starter list now available on the chip counts page. Blinds are still manageable at 50 and 100, but the action's going to start progressing rapidly in short order.

Dave Behr
@PokerStars in Latin American Poker Tour