LAPT San Jose: The Godfather welcomes his family

The Costa Ricans spend a currency they call the colon. It's a confusing bill that currently trades at 540 colones to every American dollar. Buy a beer with an American ten dollar bill and you will end up with coins worth 100 colones and a slightly off-putting 2,000 note. The slot machines in the Fiesta Casino at the Ramada Plaza Herradurra advertise their wager amounts in colones. Several feet away, though, the universal language of poker prevails. Walk by it at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon and a Scandinavian transplant to this lush, green country will call out, "Cash game!" and lure you into a $5/$10 half No-Limit Hold'em, half Pot-Limit Omaha game. It's a dangerous seat in an otherwise friendly place and the careful will exit the seat in short order for a different game. The man who fills that chair a couple of hours later is perhaps the reason the poker room--or for that matter, poker--is as popular as it is in this country.

It's just after dinner time when the rowdy poker room settle for two seconds, the decibels lowering out of respect for the man who has walked in with the trademark shark's smile on his face. Humberto Brenes, for the moment, is Vito Corleone walking down a New York street. People stand, shake his hand, and offer warm hugs. Brenes' sons, decked out in PokerStars' gear, follow behind, sure heirs to the Brenes family legacy. There is no question that Brenes helped build a poker empire in Costa Rica. There is no question he is the Godfather of this country's poker scene.

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The LAPT San Jose tournament room under construction

The Republic of Costa Rica looks like a terracotta speckled jungle from the air. With the Pacifc on its western border and the Caribbean Sea on the east, there is little here that doesn't smack of everything you've ever thought about the this part of the world. Every tree is green. Every bush is full. The rain-soaked mountains push rapid rivers in every direction. If it's not evident in simple pre-travel research, a quick breakfast of fresh fruit and native coffee make it clear that everything here happens in the extreme. The coffee is robust, the fruit is tear-inducingly sweet, and all matters of virtue and vice are catered to with innate Tico pride.

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The PokerStars Latin America Poker Tour begins its second season this week. It begins at what could arguably be called the seat of Latin American poker. The first stop in San Jose begins Monday at high noon. Team PokerStars Pro members Humberto Brenes, Andre Akkari, and Alexandre Gomes have already been spotted here at the casino.

It was only May of this year when Valdemar Kwaysser, a PokerStars qualifier from Budapest, Hungary, took his PokerStars satellite win and converted it to a $280,000 first prize in the Season 1 LAPT San Jose event. This year, the native Ticos and the rest of Latin America are bent on reclaiming the title for this part of the world.

Valdemar Kwaysser celebrates his Season 1 win

Dozens of PokerStars satellite qualifiers from all reaches of the world are descending on this Central American paradise today. PokerStars is treating them to a welcome party tonight in advance of tomorrow's main event start. The $3,500 buy-in event has a guaranteed prize pool of $1,000,000 and will stretch over three days.

The PokerStars Blog will provide full live coverage from beginning to end. You will also be able to find coverage in Spanish at the PokerStars Spanish Blog and in Portuguese at the PokerStars Brazilian Blog. The video blogging team is also on the case and will be providing coverage at PokerStars.tv.

In the meantime, we're going to go in search of more pineapple and coffee. There appear to be properties in both that will help the blogging team make it through three days of tough play.

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Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Latin American Poker Tour