LAPT Punta del Este: Party time

A couple of hours ago at the Mantra Beach Club in Punta del Este, the President of the Latin American Poker Tour Glenn Cademartori picked up a microphone and tried to sum up his feelings about the opening year of the LAPT.

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"This season has been an unbelievable experience," he said, and the edges of the room, where the various LAPT staff members had gathered, became a sea of nodded heads. It sure has, was the general consensus, and that's even before the grand finale, which will take place here in Uruguay over the coming three days and continue to bring that unique PokerStars spirit to yet another part of the world.

Cadamateri was speaking at the now-traditional tournament-eve gathering at any PokerStars event. Be it the EPT, APPT or LAPT, when PokerStars qualifiers are in town, there's always a party. And tonight, the venue was a nightclub on a beach, gazing out over the expanse of the ocean and acres of golden sand. It was lit only by the flashing lights from the dancefloor inside, or from the glow of a vivid moon and a sky pricked porous by stars. There was a salsa party in Rio, painted ladies in Costa Rica, but here there was just the staggering sight of Punta del Este at night. And it worked.

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Inside, of course, was something else. We've learned to expect a high degree of opulence at these parties, as well as our hands to be full of as many glasses of something potent as we can handle, and our bellies to be full of food. So it was. Tonight in one room, canape waiters and waitresses floated among enthusiastic revellers, followed by their compadres carrying glasses of whatever we liked. Some partook, others demurred with game faces already frozen into place. Next door, some sat and chatted while others danced. We've seen it before, but the novelty never wears off.

Obviously the stars were out in full force too, with none gleaming brighter than those representing Team PokerStars Pro. Greg Raymer, Humberto Brenes, Andre Akkari, Chad Brown, Vanessa Rousso and Alexandre Gomes were all in attendance, ahead of tomorrow's opening salvos around the tables.

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There they will be joined by another mighty force of PokerStars qualifiers, hoping to make a splash in the big time. Estimates put the total field at somewhere close to 400, which could generate a million-dollar prize pool. It might be Uruguay in winter, but that's enough to warm any heart.

Back at the Mantra Resort, Casino and Spa, which will be hosting this week's tournament, a clutch of celebrities from Brazil and Argentina got together with Brenes, Akkari and Gomes to play a special single-table sit and go for the television cameras.

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Meanwhile, the assembled media from around the globe also joined their own tournament, with a token offering into their PokerStars account for whichever hack came out on top. (It wasn't this one.)

And even as all that was going on, the tournament staff were running satellites to tomorrow's main event, swelling the field even further. It was chaos, but the kind that we have come to know and love. Tomorrow, Friday and Saturday will be something we have seen before but also like nothing else we have ever known. Join us from noon tomorrow, local time.