LAPT Punta del Este: Tension mounting

Poker tournament reporters are really no different from anyone else who has to work for a living. They try to enjoy what they can from a day in the office, but all they really want to do is go home. As a result, they are acutely aware of any looming obstacles that can keep them at the coalface for longer than they want, and in poker, the longest possible delay is often associated with what's known as the bubble.

No one really knows the origin of the phrase, but the "bubble" refers to the moment in a tournament's progression when they have played down to one place from the money. It is the moment when just one more player needs to be eliminated to burst the bubble, meaning anyone left in is guaranteed some cash for their hours upon hours of toil. In this tournament in Punta del Este, 32 players will be paid. That means that the player going out in 33rd is the "bubble boy" who will go home with precisely nothing after a day an a half of hard work.

PokerStars qualifier Kory Kilpatrick saw dreams die earlier in the day

Needless to say, no one wants to be the bubble boy. It's infinitely better, in fact, to bust in the first five minutes of the tournament than to bust on the bubble; at least then you haven't spent so long struggling for the same gross reward. To ensure that everyone gets the same chance of avoiding being the bubble boy, the tournament officials usually begin a period of what's known as "hand-for-hand" play, pausing the action in the entire tournament until each table has completed the hand they are on. This safeguards against players stalling for unnecessary lengths, in the hope that someone is eliminated on the other table.

This. Can. Take. Hours.

Currently, we're approaching bubble time. There are 40 players left, meaning six more need to be eliminated until we enter that hand-for-hand purgatory. The tension ramps up, the spectators close in and although it seems frantic it's actually incredibly painstaking. Something seems to be happening, but often nothing is.

PokerStars player Jamal Kunbuz, still fighting as the bubble approaches

Of course, the moment the bubble bursts is full of excitement and relief. It's like lancing that blister on your big toe that's been causing all the misery for so long. Big cheers usually go up, big sighs are heard the room around. It usually drowns out the silent sobbing of the poor bubble boy, who shuffles out of the room, usually to the bar, before making off into the night.

All this is by way of preparation for the next post on PokerStars blog, which will surely have the details and the photographs from the bursting of the bubble. Naturally we'll be hoping to see the likes of Team PokerStars Pros Humberto Brenes, Greg Raymer, Alexandre Gomes and Vanessa Rousso the other side of that explosion. But someone has to take the fall, and there are really no guarantees. It could be anyone.

At the top of day two, our video bloggers took a trip around the tournament room to set the scene for this second day of poker action:

Watch LAPT Punta del Este: Day 2 Starts on

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