LAPT7 Brazil: Welcome to the (Urban) Jungle
No matter how many of the world's great cities you've experienced, Sao Paulo's urban sprawl will take your breath away. As the clouds parted 1,500 meters above Guarulhos International Airport, it came into focus like a great mirage, tightly clustered hillside homes giving way to miles upon miles of skyscrapers, stretching to the horizon. The density of the central business district rivals New York or Tokyo and its relentless vehicular traffic conjures images of my hometown of Los Angeles, 10,000 kilometers to the north.
Sao Paulo is the 11th-largest city in the world with nearly 21 million Paulistanos residing in the greater metro area, 11.3 million of them in the city itself. And now, for the fourth time, it is a stop on the seven year-old Latin American Poker Tour.
Since I last reported from Brazil over three years ago, poker has exploded into the mainstream in a most unprecedented matter. Footballer Ronaldo Nazário, the country's most revered athlete from it's most beloved sport, is a PokerStars ambassador. The media room is packed with newspaper reporters from all over South America. In 2008, the LAPT Brazil drew 314 players. By 2013, that number was up to 753 and judging by the sea of poker tables crowding not one, but two ballrooms here at the Holiday Inn Parque Anhembi, that number should be easily surpassed over the next two days.
This season's LAPT Brazil Main Event carries a R4,400 buy-in (about $1,970 USD) with unlimited re-entries. We'll play two starting days - 1A and 1B - where players will be able to re-enter anytime during the first seven levels. And if you happen to bust at the end of Day 1A? No worries. Come back on Day 1B and do it all over again.
Day 1A will begin today at 5 pm local time (ET+1) and play will continue for ten levels. Why the late start? Well, it's not just because poker players are adverse to early hours (though it certainly helps those of us who are). As BSOP tournament director Devanir "DC" Campos explained it, the later start caters to the huge number of local recreational players, many of whom work regular jobs and cannot take the day off to play poker. With an early evening start and seven levels of late registration, they can easily have it both ways.
Of course, in addition to the hundreds of amateur hopefuls and tour regulars, Team PokerStars Pro will be well-represented in this field. I don't have an official list yet, but have already spotted Andre Akkari, Nacho Barbero, and Christian De Leon lurking around the hotel lobby. Hometown hero Akkari came in fifth in last season's LAPT Brazil Main Event and is no doubt hoping to improve on that finish.
Coverage will kick off at 5pm today and we'll have all the details, from "Shuffle up and deal" until we crown a new LAPT champion. Until then, I'll be exploring this magnificent urban jungle.
Kristin Bihr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.