LAPT Grand Final: Carnival of poker set to begin

lapt-promo.gif"Look! Look!"

Our driver's eyes were off the road as he he pointed. Whatever he wanted us to see was far more important than the certain death about to happen on the highway in front of us.

The Sao Paulo traffic was like something out of a video game. Motorcycles flew by on the right and left, their riders oblivious the the lane markers on the road. It was as if a simple beep-beep from their little horns would serve as a forcefield against the walls of moving steel on either side of them. Every lane of traffic was packed ahead and behind as far as the eye could see. It was 10am on a Wednesday morning and traffic was as tight as anything you'd find in Los Angeles or London during the morning rush. Anyone without prescription sedatives or a death wish would have a hard time ignoring the fact that...

THE DRIVER ISN'T WATCHING THE ROAD!

And so, to avoid watching our deaths as they happened, we followed the driver's pointed finger out of our vehicle.

"Look!" he said again. "Carnival!"

This is what we saw.

carnival_floats_crop.jpg

Across the sidewalk sat what appeared to be a football stadium parking lot ful of gigantic Carnival floats. The parades wouldn't start until today, but people have been getting ready for quite a long time.

We're here, of course, for the Grand Final of the Latin American Poker Tour's fourth season. It is the highlight of the LAPT's season, and it's no coincidence that it's happening this weekend. This is the biggest weekend of the year for Brazil. It's made doubly big for LAPT poker players. Not only can they play for one of the most coveted titles in Latin American poker, but they can also enjoy the country's biggest party.

I'm American, and while I know the likes of New Orleans' Mardi Gras very well, I'm still trying to get my head around the idea of how important Carnival is here. My fellow PokerStars blogger and friend Sergio Prado told me to liken the planning to an American Thanksgiving. "Four or five months ahead, you know what you're doing for Thanksgiving," Prado said. "Four or five months ahead, we know what we're doing for Carnival."

What it will involve are parades like most people of the world have never seen. So-called Samba Schools have practiced for these events all year long. Tens of thousands of people will line the streets and pay big money to see the parades. Even people who don't have lots money save all year long so they can take part. Meanwhile every bar, every neighborhood, every home will be celebrating Carnival in some way. It's odd to say this, but it's true: this weekend, Carnival is more important than poker.

That simple fact makes what we're set to witness here all the more important. Those people--especially those Brazilians--who just sat down to play the Grand Final are doing so knowing they might miss out on a full weekend of Carnival celebrations. There is no overstating how big that commitment to the game is.

For now, it's noontime, and that means it's poker time. Keep your eyes on our LAPT Grand Final live coverage page for full live updates, photos, features, and interviews through the next four days of play as the LAPT Grand Final Carnival of Poker gets underway.

We promise to keep our eyes on the road.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Grand Final