LAPT8 Uruguay: A new home on the eastern front
The Latin American Poker Tour is back for its penultimate event of the season and we're as east as American time zones get.
After a one-season hiatus, the LAPT is back in the UTC-3:00 country of Uruguay.
Once again, the tournament is being held in the beautiful tourist haven of Punta del Este. This tiny city of about 11,000 people attracts tens-of-thousands of visitors each year with its pristine coastline, whale sanctuary and numerous landmarks, which includes a funky hand in the sand.
We've kept our eyes on this hand since 2008 and we assure you that it hasn't moved or given any indication that it's just the tip of some subterranean beach-dwelling titan.
What has moved is our view of the hand.
Since the birth of the LAPT, the Mantra Hotel had been home to the tournament here in Punta del Este, but now it has a new host.
For the first time, the Conrad Hotel is hosting LAPT Uruguay.
The venue is the only Conrad Hotel in South America and is therefore the first Conrad Hotel to host Latin America's largest poker tournament.
The Conrad seems to be up to the challenge though, the building seems aptly prepared to handle all the poker that will run through its veins and ballrooms throughout the week.
The tournament area has around 30 LAPT-felted tables, one feature table, three rows of media tables and small snackbar area.
The tournament tables currently just have one occupant apiece, black-clad dealers with nine stacks of 20,000.
The snackbar has two occupants furiously loading up a fridge with drinks and a heater with snacks before poker players come to furiously devour them.
The media tables have a handful of sorry-looking folks, all working out the South American internet kinks before the tournament kicks into gear.
Right now though, it's all calm on the eastern front; an hour from now, it won't be.
When the tournament starts, the room will be abuzz with riffling chips until we crown a new champion.
The defending LAPT Uruguay champion is Carter Gill, who defeated a field of 508 players in Season 6 to take his first LAPT title and $218,692.
While it was his first major tournament victory, it was his second-consecutive LAPT final table after finishing 4th in LAPT6 Panama.
While there's still no sign that Gill will return to defend his title, there's a whole new batch of hopefuls looking to win their first.
Alexander Villegas is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.