LAPT San Jose: From San Jose to Hungary

At about 6pm today in Costa Rica, the heavens opened and it rained. And when it rains during the rainy season in a country covered in rain forest, it really, really, really, really rains.

Somewhere deep inside the Caliari Country Club, in the capital, San Jose, it had been raining poker chips, pocket aces, bad beats and bust outs for the best part of three days. And as we entered the final stages and the torrents began outside, our own deluge, LAPT-style, showed no sign of abating.

Wiping all these crypic droplets of information to one side, the man who has made the most significant splash in San Jose this week is one Valdemar Kwaysser, a PokerStars qualifier from Budapest, Hungary, who turned $200 into close to $280,000, when he took down the second Latin American Poker Tour event.

He bettered his previous highest win, a $133,634 score for third in the Sunday Million on PokerStars in May 2007, and did so with flair, aggression, humility and, by his own admission, the occasional moment of good fortune.

"I really wanted to win," Kwaysser said. "But I know I had a really lucky period today. Steven [Silverman] trapped me. But that's poker. You sometimes play perfect and you don't get the results. And sometimes it's different."

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The period Kwaysser was referring to was when he took over the tournament with three players remaining after cracking Steven Silverman's kings with 10-5 and then the same player's pocket fives with pocket deuces. On both occasions, he made a runner-runner spade flush on turn and river after trailing pre-flop.

After that moment, he never looked back, and was able to destroy Max Steinberg in the heads-up play, assisted by pocket aces on the final hand.

But few can begrudge Kwaysser this win because he's been a formidble force since day one, outlasting a field including Team PokerStars Pros Daniel Negreanu, Humberto Brenes, Isabelle Mercier, Andre Akkari and Victor Ramdin to come to today's final table.

And he was undoubtedly one of the most aggressive players at what was a super-tough final.

Just ask Steven Thompson, the PokerStars qualifier who was carrying the hopes of the home nation.

It was the first hand of the day when he shoved pre-flop and got a caller in Steven Silverman. He was in good shape with A-Q versus A-9 but Silverman made a straight and Thompson was off.

Joe "Ender555" Ebanks was the next man out the door.

The well-known online player had been beaten about last night by the deck, losing huge pots to significantly inferior hands. But when he got all his stack in the middle at the final table, he was the one trailing. His suited ace-king had found Max Steinberg with aces, and he never caught up.

The next departure was Ashton Griffin, from Florida. He had also been massively aggressive at the final table, and had watched his chips grow, shrink, grow, shrink until they finally disappeared into the stack of Kwaysser.

Valdemar moved in from the small blind, effectively putting Ashton all in, and he was ahead when he called with A-8 against Valdemar's 8-4. But the four hit on the board and Ashton was out. It was the start of Valdemar's charge.

Pawel Sanojca, the PokerStars qualifier from Poland, was the next player out. He'd played his short stack expertly, doubling up a couple of times, only to slide back small.

Eventually, his suited A-5 never caught up against Kwaysser's pocket threes and Pawel's day was done.

That left five players, and each of them had really been mixing it up; it was the kind of final table you expect from these experienced online MTT players, all of whom had had some sizeable score or another.

The next player out was one of the best known onliners -- traheho on PokerStars -- who ultimately paid the price for some power play. He'd been flying on the final table but was in trouble when he ran pocket threes into the aces of Max Steinberg.

Alec Torelli, as he's known in the bricks and mortar environment, never caught up and traheho was out.

He was soon followed by Alexander Soderlund, another PokerStars qualifier from Sweden, who had found himself short and made a move pre-flop with queen high. Bad timing.
Valdemar had found A-K and there were no miracles.

Indeed, the miracles had all been left for the final three, and they mostly benefited the Hungarian. Steven Silverman had been many railbirds' tip to take this one down, and he's translated his formidable online game to San Jose.

He played extremely cute with three players left and managed to prompt Valdemar Kwaysser to try an outrageous pre-flop bluff with a suited 10 high.

This was especially good for Silverman, who had kings and a bigger stack than Valdemar. But this can be a cruel game sometimes, and the river brought the third spade, which matched the two in Valdemar's hand, and doubled him up, taking a huge chunk out of Silverman.

Valdemar was visibly delighted at the outdraw, but was evidently embarrassed when lightening struck for the second time soon after. This time, he was all in with pocket twos, and Silverman had fives -- and the shorter stack. If a deuce had flopped, it wouldn't have been anything we hadn't seen before -- horrible, but strangely predictable. But watching your opponent fill a four flush to the two of spades is a really nasty way to get busted from a tournament.

Steven Silverman knows that feeling.

That left two -- a heads up battle between Max Steinberg and Valdemar Kwaysser -- and the Hungarian had the chips. It was something like a three-to-one lead at this stage, and these two players knew their heads-up play, hardly ever seeing a flop, and even more infrequently giving a walk.

Max managed one double up, when his king-jack outdrew Valdemar's A-10, all in pre-flop. But us observers knew there was something suspicious about the way each player began minimum raising one another on a flop of 9-8-8 and few were surprised when all the chips flew in.

That's because Max had top pair with his J-9. But Valdemar had pocket aces and that, as they say, was that.

It was another scintillating end to another spectacular tournament on the LAPT. Valdemar will now find his way to Uruguay in August for the final event on this embryonic tour. And I don't think I'm putting my neck too dangerously on the block to suggest that this week was just the first in a long, long series of events to be held in Costa Rica.

Good night -- and it's still raining, if anyone's interested.

A full list of prize-winners can be found HERE.

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The video blog team was in and around the tournament area for the whole of the three days in San Jose, Costa Rica. They were watching as intently as any of us as the final table play progressed, and brought us this round up of some of the key action, including the monster three-way pot that took a huge dent out of Ashton Griffin, and that five versus deuces hand between Valdemar and Steven Silverman.

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While the nine remaining players were doing battle, the video bloggers also caught up with Team PokerStars Pro's Daniel Negreanu, who gave his top five tips for final table play.

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Full video coverage is available at

All images (c) Joe Giron/IMPDI