LAPT Mar del Plata: The Happy City

They call Mar del Plata "The Happy City" and after only a few hours here we can see why. Sparkling, sunny weather. Wind-swept dunes that flatten out into wide sandy beaches. And plentiful, savory steaks matched with local wines in the restaurants that line the streets of this seaside city. In Mar del Plata, an enormous slab of "chorizo" (the local term for a sirloin strip) and a nice bottle of vino tinto will run you about $20 USD. Couple that with a vibrant nightlife and one of the grandest casinos in the country and you can see why Mar del Plata was a natural choice to host the LAPT's Season 2 Grand Final.

Mar del Plata is the most popular beach resort town in Argentina. A breezy, 45-minute flight will take you over 400 kilometers of rolling hills and vast farmland that separates this seasonal enclave from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. While in the summer months, the beaches are packed person-to-person with vacationing Argentinians, the onset of autumn in the southern hemisphere has cleared away the crowds, setting the stage for today's invasion of poker players from the world around who have come here not only for the sun and the steak, but in pursuit of an LAPT title.

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Over 115 online qualifiers will join Team PokerStars pros Joe Hachem, Leo Fernandez, Maria "Maridu" Mayrinck, and tennis legend (and friend of PokerStars) Boris Becker in Mar del Plata. This is the first time the city has played host to the LAPT, the vast Casino Central our home base for Season 2's $5,200 buy-in Grand Final.

Adjacent to the casino is the luxurious Gran Hotel Provincial, where many players will be resting their heads after a long day on the felt. Built in 1939, the Hotel Provincial recently underwent major renovations and re-opened to the public only a little over a week ago. The lobby's high ceilings are ordained with ornate murals that look down over shiny marble floors and grand, curved staircases. And from this humble reporter's room, there is a gorgeous view of the Atlantic. Right next door is the Casino Central, boasting similarly stately architecture.

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Tonight, the Hotel Provincial will host one of PokerStars' legendary welcome parties. After a few cocktails and a night's slumber, half of our players will cross the street and settle in at the Casino Central for Day 1A of the "tourneo de poker."

Of course, we will be there for wall-to-wall coverage of the LAPT Mar del Plata. Live reporting will commence at noon local time (EDT+1) on Thursday and continue until Sunday night when we crown a new champion. We do hope that you'll join us.