LAPT San Jose: We have a final table
It doesn't surprise any more, but it will always amaze.
No matter how many major tournaments are played in which countries and cities around the world, PokerStars online qualifiers will always seek them out and crush them, destroy any field no matter the size.
Here in San Jose, Costa Rica, the second stopping point of the Latin America Poker Tour, it has been no different. Take a look at the line up for tomorrow's final table:
Seat 1 -- Alec Torelli, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 404,000
Seat 2 -- Pawel Sanojca, Poland, PokerStars qualifier, 134,000
Seat 3 -- Steven Thompson, Costa Rica, 195,000
Seat 4 -- Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 831,000
Seat 5 -- Valdemar Kawaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 594,000
Seat 6 -- Ashton Griffin, United States, 761,000
Seat 7 -- Max Steinberg, USA, 284,000
Seat 8 -- Joe Ebanks, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 321,000
Seat 9 -- Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 325,000
That's six PokerStars qualifiers on a table of nine players. Not bad, huh.
And for those of you more likely to recognise screen names than "real" identities, you're also going to be impressed. Alec is more popularly known as traheho, a high-stakes cash player with a pretty startling record in online MTTs; Joe is often known as Ender555, twice a recent winner of the $100 rebuy on PokerStars; and our chip leader in San Jose is Steven "Zugwat" Silverman, who won the nightly hundred grand on PokerStars twice in March this year, good for more than $60,000.
The "real" world should be very afraid.
It all began in San Jose today with that real world making itself known in the form of booming thunder and teeming rain, reminding us that we had, after all, alighted in the rain forest in the middle of the rainy season. Yet despite these most inclement of outdoor conditions, so many of our players seemed intent on going out into the rain.
There were 85 in the room at the start of play, but soon there were considerably more in the lobby, as we raced down to the last 30-odd.
Among those to fall during this deluge was Andre Akkari, the final member of Team PokerStars Pro in the tournament, who had clung on last night when all his team-mates perished.
But Akkari couldn't get himself going today, and missed the money. There's always Uruguay.
We had very high hopes for the PokerStars sponsored pairing of Max and Maria Stern as well. With four World Series bracelets between them, and plenty of chips here in their native Costa Rica, there was every chance that we'd have our first husband-wife pair in the LAPT money. But like so many before them, they also both just missed out. A real shame.
Still, there were plenty of interested observers and fascinating stories as the bubble approached. And when it popped in the face of Xavier Dutrieu, a PokerStars qualifier from France, those that remained were in for the big money.
Overnight, our leaders had been Andre Wagner and Andres Odeja. The latter had a torrid time and plummeted out of contention before the money. And while it was slightly better news for Wagner, he had aces cracked by sevens and never really recovered. He went out in 20th.
It was around this time that Ashton Griffin and Steven Silverman started showing their mettle. Ashton found aces and played them expertly to bust two Dutch players -- Marijo Cupic and Corrie Johannes Romate -- in the same hand.
Josh Prager, a big-time player from the United States, who had made the final table of the EPT Grand Final, soon followed. Prager went out in 16th, the victim of Silverman.
Next to leave was Natasha Ellis, the lone representative of both Great Britain and the female gender. She played a spectacular game throughout and was unlucky to bust in 15th, when a paired board meant her two pair were counterfeited.
The vocal Costa Rican contingent, led by Team PokerStars Pro's Humberto Brenes, found their vocal cords stretched to the limit during the pre-final table stage, as Don Stockwell, Luis Jaikel and Steven Thompson attempted to bring local flavour to the last day.
In the event, only Thompson made it as Stockwell and Jaikel fell to Silverman and Ashton, respectively.
But Thompson's delight was enough for the whole of the country.
So today was another bloody, brutal day on the LAPT, but pretty terrific too if you like this kind of thing.
With a whole bundle of reputation on the line around tomorrow's final table, it will be a thriller.
Play starts at noon, local time. You know the way to San Jose.
Here's a look back at today's action:
Level 19 updates
Level 18 updates
The race to the final table
A well-earned dinner break
Sharks supporting the sharks
Bursting the bubble
Ender555 rising to the top
Getting close to the money
The elements intervene
Day two begins
And a quick reminder to:
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The video blog team have been sitting behind a sparking editing board all day to bring you the best animated footage from the LAPT. Here's their end of day wrap up:
And there's an extra dose of animation in this clip, where they catch up with Sam Simon, the co-creator of "The Simpsons", who played the tournament here in Costa Rica: