LAPT Vina del Mar: The Tables of Death

There are more than a few bleary-eyed faces in the field this afternoon after last night's welcome party-- a raucous fiesta that left the bar completely out of Cristal (not the premium champagne, but rather the name of the local brew). As our 215 starters made their way through the first level, a few "tables of death" emerged, with many of our notable players paired up on the same slice of felt.

Veronica Dabul, the Argentinian backgammon champion-turned poker pro found herself seated across from Ylon Schwartz, a man who took a similar path in life, moving from the chessboards of NYC's Washington Square Park to the green felt. Schwartz, of course is coming off a phenomenal year where he finished fourth in the 2008 WSOP Main Event, banking over $4 million.

Another November Niner in the house is Dennis Phillips, decked out in his now-infamous St. Louis Cardinals cap, albeit not the one covered in poker pros' signatures that he wore at the WSOP Main Event final table. Also donning famous headwear are Humberto Brenes' two sons, both of whom are playing today. Both young Breneses are wearing their father's signature visors, adorned with the Costa Rican flag.

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Roberto Brenes, wearing his father's signature hat

Perhaps the most talkative player in the room at the moment, though is Mexico's J.C. Alvarado. Splashing his chips around, mugging for the cameras and chatting up his tablemates, Alvarado is in great spirits and playing a lot of hands here in the early going.

Also seated together are Andre Akkari and Paul "X-22" Magriel. Magriel took down a few early pots and has already built his stack up to 13,000, giving him a bit of freedom to walk the room and chat up the players.

Only a few minutes into the 50-100 level, the all-ins are already starting, the players at risk more often than not leaping from their seats and pleading for their river card en espanol. For now, our 215-strong field remains intact... but not for long

Kristin Bihr
@PokerStars in Latin American Poker Tour