LAPT Punta del Este: Star-studded field in the Southern Hemisphere
Over 300 players have packed themselves into our tournament room here at the Mantra Resort and with space at a premium, play has begun eleven-handed and will continue in this fashion until the field has been sufficiently thinned. A cadre of Team PokerStars Pros, past LAPT winners and the premiere poker players in Latin America have made their way to the sunny shores of Punta del Este in pursuit of an LAPT title.
In the field we have husbands and wives, brothers, and even a set of identical twins. Helen Prager, fresh off her runner-up finish at last night's (delayed) final table of the LAPT Mexico, is playing only one table away from her husband Josh, whom poker fans will remember from his final table finish at the 2007 EPT Monte Carlo. Josh came in 16th at the LAPT's Season 2 stop in San Jose, Costa Rica and is looking to improve on that finish here in Uruguay.
Max and Maria Stern, the Costa Rican husband and wife duo, are also playing today. Max currently has a seat in the main ballroom while his wife is shuffling chips upstairs in our overflow room in the casino, one table away from their home country's premiere poker superstar, the ever-gregarious Humberto Brenes. Brenes' brother Alex, who finished eighth at last night's LAPT Mexico final table, wandered in about halfway through the first level to take his seat at Table 13. Word on the street is that he engaged in a bit of "celebration" last night after his final table appearance.
Three of Latin America's top female players are clustered close together. Argentina's Veronica Dabul and LAPT Mexico sixth-place finisher Martha Herrera are seated together, while only a few tables away, Maria "Maridu" Mayrinck has Team PokerStars Pro Dennis Phillips to contend with at her table.
Identical twins Aaron and Derek Lerner have made the lengthy trek from their native Montreal to play in this event after winning their entries via satellites on PokerStars. The two first appeared on our radar at the 2007 WSOP, when both of them made deep runs in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event, becoming the first twins to cash in the same WSOP event.
The duo of Rory Cox and Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari rounds out another "table of death" in our tournament room. Cox, as you'll remember, won the LAPT Mexico last night after a four-hour heads-up battle with Helen Prager.
Some more familiar faces on the LAPT playing today include LAPT Vina del Mar champion Fabian Ortiz, Vina del Mar runner-up Vincenzo Giannelli, Leo Fernandez, Felipe Ramos, Melina Villegas, Jesus Bertoli, Jose Perez, Christian Kruel, Paul "X-22" Magriel, Christian de Leon, and Jaime Ateneloff. Team PokerStars Pro, of course, is well represented with the likes of Greg Raymer, Victor Ramdin, and J.C. Alvarado joining the aforementioned Team Pros in the field.