LAPT Rio: Nuts in Brazil

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, or so the saying goes. But you can't send a PokerStars blogger to a party in Rio equipped only with a notebook and ask for anything other than a samba about a Baroque cupola.

They like their music out here in Brazil, and they like their dancing too. Countless poker players learned that they weren't averse either, if only as an excuse to get closer to the procession of Coke-bottle bodies shakin' their way through the Intercontinental Hotel tonight.

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All this is shorthand for welcoming one and all to another PokerStars event, the first on the LAPT, and a traditionally bombastic party for players, friends and assorted hangers on ahead of tomorrow's high-stakes action in Rio.

In fact, it all began rather sedately with an exquisite buffet, a glass of wine, and the chance to renew old aquaintances, else forge friendships anew. But an hour or so in, there came a sultry croon over the gentle mingling, then a rustling of brushes across a drum skin and fingers plucking on guitar stings, while others danced across the ivory. I believe they call this bossa nova, and although it hushes past, it screams "Brazilia" as loudly as any canary-yellow soccer shirt.

Soon enough, this sonic pleasantry yielded to the event proper, ushered in by the presence on the stage of Glenn Cademartori, President of the LAPT, who seized the microphone to understate: "Pretty exciting stuff," in response to a video displaying all the many record-breaking facts and figures associated with tournaments such as the EPT, APPT and now the LAPT.

For those statisticians among you, this amazing tour will feature three events with a $2,500 buy-in in Brazil, Costa Rica and Uruguay. There are already 295 signed up for the action here, and we're expecting to go way over the original 300-player projection. There will be players representing at least 28 countries in the mix, 120 of whom come from this wonderful nation. Nine PokerStars Team pros will be adding their inimitable flair to the proceedings.

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A one-outer at the LAPT welcome party

One of them, the home star Andre Akkari, took the microphone from Glenn when the introductions were done. He welcomed us to Brazil, then loitered long enough to be swept away in the carnival of stars that made their way to the conference room to provide our entertainment.

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Andre Akkari bags first prize at the welcome party

This began with a capoeira, a traditional blend of dance and martial arts from Brazil. Think graceful fighting performed in jest by strapping Latin Americans in trousers fashioned from Brazilian flags. They kicked, they stood on their hands, they tumbled, often at least two of the above at the same time. Sound impressive? It was. But it got even better.

Aficionados will no doubt condemn me for my layman's observations about the ensuing percussion show. But to translate for the uninitiated, we were then assaulted by people hitting things with sticks. Tambourines, cow bells, guiros, played by men in white pants and floral shirts and accompanied by an MC and two singers with bongos. One of them even had some kind of cylinder that he rubbed to produce a sound somewhere between a squigy tackling a particularly stubborn stain on a window, and a puppy trying to escape a plastic bag.

They asked for volunteers to join them on stage, and although three were reluctant* they probably wouldn't have been, had they known what was coming next.

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Nick Mylotte harnesses the luck of the Irish

Within moments, the percussion instruments were downed and replaced by four beauties in what by the strictest definition probably qualifies as a skirt, although the belt lobby definitely has a case. There was a good deal of shimmying and shaking before the cavalry arrived.

A battalion of dancers then turned up with plummage on their heads to make a peacock cower. They seized the moderates in the audience and swept them away. It all ended with a conga that I expect is still going now -- never underestimate the stamina of your average male when he is following, bewitched, the scantily clad.

Let's hope the train passes somewhere close to the tournament room at around 1p.m. tomorrow afternoon to drop them off in their tournament seats.

*The fourth, Nick Mylotte, from Ireland, fairly bounded onto the stage, and took the audience prize for best dancer.

* * * * *

After all the fun of the welcome party fare, Team PokerStars Pros Andre Akkari and Humberto Brenes drilled the assembled media in a half-hour poker masterclass.

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Humberto Brenes: "Do as I say, not as I do!"

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Andre Akkari: "And every time I say 'Raise,' you say 'Fold.'"

Both turned out to be better teachers than students as their proteges soon polished them off before the final table, leaving gleeful Brazilian media to find their PokerStars accounts swelled by a couple of hundred dollars.

Humberto and Andre will be playing for more than that tomorrow. It's less than 12 hours away now.