LAPT San Jose: A newbie's view

As they prepare for heads-up play, meaning loads of hand-shaking, strategy discussions, and photography, it seems like a good time to post the following. I'd intended to post it at the dinner break, but we might not make it that far. So, here it is.

Throughout the first couple of days here in San Jose, the PokerStars Blog team received some invaluable assistance in their reporting duties from Alex Villegas, a Costa Rica native and a journalism student at the University of Connecticut. The bilingual 19-year-old spent most of those two long, long days on his feet, buzzing around the room and getting us chip counts, interview snippets and biographical information from the players.

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Last night, he took some time out to put pen to paper and describe his first experience of a major poker tournament. He called his piece "Major Virgin". Here are his thoughts:

Major Virgin at LAPT San Jose
By Alex Villegas

Having never attended a major event before, the LAPT: San Jose did the honor of deflowering me…and yes, it hurt. There aren’t many places where you can find a combination of celebrities, internet geniuses and masseuses in the same room, but the LAPT makes it seem commonplace.

This frenzy that we’ve come to call a sporting event started with a party. The party not only included the aforementioned characters, but added alcohol and nude cat women. I will never be the same.

Here the more outlandish characters shined, telling their crazy tales of how they qualified for former events. Some players socialized while others surveyed the final, sizing up their opponents. This day—at least for me—ended in a haze and I woke up to the first day of LAPT: San Jose.

Every player that sat down at his or her table had a different reaction. Some were happy and upbeat, others were star struck and a considerable number were nervous to the point of trembling—regardless of the broken air conditioner and near 90° weather. But the whole room tuned into one mode the second they heard “Shuffle up and deal”. Everyone entered their playing ritual and fiddled with their chips, causing a room-wide ‘chirping’ that became the heartbeat of the tournament.

As the tournament went on, the mood changed. As the button approached, there was less laughter and the room became tense. The ‘chirping’ became frantic and every all in was a spectacle.

Now that we have reached the final table, the tension from these nine players is enough to fill the original 398 seats. The viewers hold their breath, the media frantically takes pictures and someone is going home $275,000 richer.

As for me, I’ll go home jealous knowing that some people do this for a living.

Thanks again for your help, Alex. And a glittering career no doubt awaits.