LAPT8 Panama: Panamanian Expansion

Even if you were at LAPT Panama last year, the event might be hard to recognize.

Aside from having one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas, Panama has one of the fastest-growing skylines in the world.

Since the LAPT made its debut in Panama back in 2012, players have been greeted by brand-new buildings, construction cranes skyscrapers every year they've returned.

Today, they get to live and play in one of the fancy new Panamanian buildings.

The Sortis Hotel --which opened just seven months ago-- is the new home of LAPT Panama. The hotel is an Autograph Collection Hotel --whatever that means-- by Marriott. One thing we do know about this fancy new building is that it's a 391-room hotel high-rise with one of the largest casinos in the country and a delicious, complimentary breakfast buffet.

The hotel, which describes itself as "ultramodern," also includes flair of Panamanian culture. The hotel's main restaurant, Manabi, is named after the Panamanian straw hat and includes a number of typical Panamanian dishes.

The iconic hat, ironically, is made in Manabi, Ecuador.

The world is a beautiful interconnected place thanks to hats and the internet.

The LAPT is also one of those beautiful connecting forces.

Now in its 8th season, the LAPT had a large opening event with the $3,000 LAPT Bahamas. That event drew 736 players and created a nearly $2 million prize pool. Josh Kay took down that event, along with $367,928, to become the first LAPT champion of the season.

Josh Kay- Ceremony and Trophy-LAPT-Monti-1228.jpg

Josh Kay

A few months later, Oscar Alache joined him after besting a field of 410 players in LAPT8 Chile.

Soon, another champion will join their ranks.

The reigning LAPT Panama champion is Fabian Ortiz, who won his second LAPT title last year.

Ortiz won the inaugural LAPT Chile back in 2009, his first-ever tournament cash. After that, Ortiz vanished from the poker scene and then came back with a vengeance in the past few years. Ortiz started last year by finishing 8th in the PCA Main Event and then won LAPT7 Panama in July.

fabian_ortiz_pca_2014_final.jpg

Fabian Ortiz at the 2014 PCA

Then, in October, Ortiz finished 3rd in LAPT7 Peru. Ortiz also cashed in LAPT8 Chile a few months ago and will be returning to defend his title here in Panama.

But a few things will be different for the reigning champ. First, the new venue has a 24-hour spa, pool and fitness center, offering more distractions. The buy-in is also slightly bigger. Last year's event was a $1,700 buy-in but players will now fork up $2,500 for each bullet they fire at the title this year.

For their buy-in, players will get 20,000 in chips and a shot at one of Latin America's most prestigious poker titles.

If that's not enough for poker thirsty players --it's fairly hot and humid in Panama-- there are a total of 13 events throughout the next few days. These events include satellites, a $200 H.O.R.S.E. freeze-out and a $5,000 High Roller event.

The economy isn't the only thing expanding in Panama.

So stay tuned for coverage from LAPT8 Panama, which is set to kick off at noon local time. If you want coverage in Spanish or Portuguese and somehow found yourself on this page, check out our Spanish PokerStars Blog or Portuguese PokerStars Blog.

If you're more of a watcher than a reader, we have something for you too: LAPT Live.

Facebook? I heard someone ask about Facebook. We got one of those Facebook pages too.

We'll also bring you more stunning visuals in the form of Carlos Monti photography.

LAPT-PANAMA2015-6159.jpg

Alexander Villegas is a freelance reporter for the PokerStars Blog.