LAPT San Jose: All the way to San Jose
An online dictionary service describes the word "tour" as follows:
1. a traveling around from place to place.
2. a long journey including the visiting of a number of places in sequence, esp. with an organized group led by a guide.
By the strictest definition of the word, therefore, this week is when the PokerStars.net Latin America Poker Tour (LAPT) really comes of age.
After the fun and frolics of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, two weeks ago, the whole kit and kaboodle has traveled from place to place, taken its long journey, and landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, for the second date on what is now officially a tour. No sooner were the sun-hats and visors packed away than they were hauled out again, ready for another airing in beautiful Latin America.
And if what happened in Rio is anything to go by, then we are certainly in for a treat. There, we had the usual mix of poker stars and poker novices, online qualifiers and Team PokerStars Pros, each stumping up $2,500 to create a prize pool of close to $8 million. The 19-year-old Julien Nuijten, from Holland, took first prize, and rumour has it that he's reinvesting some of the winnings here in San Jose.
He'll also be joined in this field by some of the most established and recognisable names in the game. Representing Team PokerStars Pro in Costa Rica are the Canadian duo of Daniel Negreanu and Isabelle Mercier, neither of whom needs any introduction; Andre Akkari, from Brazil, who enjoys similar celebrity status in Latin America; Victor Ramdin, who made the money in Rio; and Humberto Brenes, who's personality is larger than life wherever he goes but this week is on home turf. Anything could happen.
There are also some instantly recognisable faces from other pursuits: the American chat-show host Montel Williams will be swapping his microphone for a stack of chips as he takes to the felt. Meanwhile, the former baseball players Orel Hershheiser and David Wells are stepping up to the plate, while Sam Simon, one of the men responsible for introducing us to The Simpsons, is jetting in from Springfield. Gualter Salles, the Brazilian stock-car racer, is also stopping by.
At last count, there were already more than 180 qualifiers from the PokerStars virtual cardroom, and it's fairly safe to expect we'll hit our target of 300 players by the time registration closes tomorrow.
In the meantime, we have a welcome party to attend this evening at the Cariari Country Club, which has, I am told, a "rainforest theme". While some will no doubt be swinging from tree-to-tree until the last shuttle bus arrives at 2am, others will no doubt be hard focused on the poker as a super-satellite for the main event is also running.
We'll be back later today with all the photos and stories from the party. And join us from tomorrow until late on Saturday for the best coverage of the best tournament this country has ever seen.