LAPT San Jose: Final table profiles
The tournament staff is unbagging chips as the function room of the Cariari Country Club, San Jose, Costa Rica, prepares to host the final table of the first LAPT event to reach these shores.
When the cards are in the air in a few minutes, these are the players that will be chasing the top prizes.
Seat 1: Alec Torelli, 21, Orange County, California, USA – PokerStars qualifier – 404,000
Known and feared around the online tables as "traheho", where he crushes the high stakes cash games, the young California says he actually prefers live Multi Table Tournaments, exclusively no limit hold 'em, the higher the stakes, the better. He's been playing the live circuit out of the USA since the 2006 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and has also found work as a poker coach online. He has a condo ready in Las Vegas for his first shot at the WSOP this summer and will go into the final table in San Jose brimming with confidence.
Seat 2: Pawel Sanojca, 24, Poznan, Poland – PokerStars qualifier - 134,000
Pawel has been playing poker for 2½ years. Apart from a few small €100 buy-in tournaments in Poland, he’s only played online and this is his first major live tournament. His best result before now was a $5 PokerStars tournament a year ago when he cashed $7k. He’s been playing for a living for a year but was studying economics and plans to go back to school in September. He said: “Reaching the final table is my greatest poker moment. “ He is getting a taste for playing live though: “Online, making decisions is based on maths but in live tournaments, being so close to people, you can feel the fear and use it against them. It’s allowed me to fold bigger hands and make better calls. I plan to play a lot more live tournaments including $2,500k at WSOP. I’ll play to win today but it will be very hard.”
Seat 3: Steven Thompson, 28, San José, Costa Rica – 195,000
Steven took up poker three years ago but has only been playing really seriously for two years - with the aim of being a full-time professional player. LAPT San José is his first big event. He tried to qualify on PokerStars but, after busting out with Aces, switched to a new tactic - he and his friends held a raffle for the seat. He said: “It’s been really important for me to get this far. My mother and step-father aren’t keen on me playing poker but I told them before the tournament that if I made the money, I’d call them and ask them to come down. So they have been here watching me, which has made me really proud. It’s given me the chance to show them that I am actually good at this.”
Seat 4: Steven Silverman, 19, Maryland, USA – PokerStars qualifier – 831,000
Steven Silverman is already a proclaimed full time professional poker player. At the end of his high school years, he started playing freerolls online and transformed those into 5 bucks, and then transformed those $5 into over $1,000, and would lose it all and start all over again. After switching courses several times at college, he decided to take poker seriously. He really threw himself into tournaments after winning the $20+Rebuys on stars for $10,000 which bankrolled him into most of his tournaments. Known online as “Zugwat”, Steven is going for Super Nova Elite, and recently had a 10th place finish at the WPT in Niagara, for $65,000. A bitter finish so close to the big prize, which he plans on avenging here in Costa Rica.
Seat 5: Valdemar Kwaysser, Hungary – PokerStars qualifier – 594,000
Valdemar Kwayssser has been a full time professional poker player for three years. He qualified for the LAPT in San Jose in a $200 satellite on PokerStars and has also already qualified for the WSOP Main Event this year. This is his second major live tournament after he busted at the APPT Manila close to the bubble. His biggest cash so far was a third place in the PokerStars Sunday Million for $133,000. Usually, he plays live cash games in Vienna or Amsterdam, and plays MTTs online. On day two he had a fantastic start when he cracked aces and built a big stack with another double up. He played very aggressively during the bubble period and raised almost every hand pre-flop to apply the pressure on his opponents. It worked, and Valdemar finished the day with almost 600,000 in chips. “I am a little bit surprised, because the field here is very tough. The first place would be great for my bankroll, but I also would support my big family with the money”, he said. He has three brothers and four sisters in Budapest.
Seat 6: Ashton Griffin, 19, West Palm, Florida, USA –– 761,000
Ashton Griffin dropped out of college to focus on poker but after six months is now planning to return to his business studies course. Despite his slight build, Ashton is a keen wrestler and aims to carry it on further at college. His enthusiasm for one-to-one combat show up in poker as well – he mainly plays Heads Up at the $5/$10 level. He like HU because it involves more “thinking and psychology”. He’s been having a pretty successful time recently, having snapped up $85,000 for winning an online tournament only a week ago.
Seat 7: Max Steinberg, 19, Washington DC, USA – 284,000
Max and his identical twin brother Danny took up poker at the same time when their dad celebrated their 18th birthday by giving them each a poker baseball cap and $50 to open up an online poker account – which they shared. The two also both competed here in San José but it is Max who has reached both the money and the final table. Older brother Aaron is also here at the Cariari Country Club, cheering Max on from the rails. This is only Max’s second live event but he says he’s feeling calm and managing to keep an even temper.
Seat 8: Joe Ebanks, 23, Kent, Ohio, United States -PokerStars qualifier – 391,000
A college senior, majoring in psychology, Joe Ebanks is considering taking a year out to pursue a professional poker career. As well he might: Ebanks plays all the major online tournaments and won the $100 rebuy on PokerStars twice, most recently just a week ago, good for $24,000. "Ender555", as he is known online, won his seat in San Jose in a $200 Sunday night satellite, and he also qualified for the first LAPT event in Rio earlier this month. He could be sitting with around 950,000 at the final table if he hadn't taken a couple of rough beats late on Day 2, but is still in the game with 321,000.
Seat 9: Alex Soderland, 22, Stockholm, Sweden – PokerStars qualifier – 345,000
Alex has been playing poker for a living for the last three years. He mainly plays cash games, especially – like Ashton Griffin - $5/$10 Heads Up. The pair have played against each other often. He qualified for EPT San Remo and although he busted in the main event, he cashed in 19th place in the $2k side event. He also played the PCA in January. This is his best live result so far. He said: “it’s been quite exciting but you don’t make much if you don’t make the top 5 so I’ll be playing to win this.“ Alex is being supported here by girlfriend Josefine,23. She was actually back at the hotel sleeping when Alex made it to the final table yesterday but will be railing him today. The couple have already spent 10 days in Costa Rica, spending a week on Nicoya Island.
We'll have full coverage of the final table action here.