LAPT Colombia Day 1b: The two armies of Colombia
One of the things that I neglected to mention yesterday, during Day 1a of the 2011 PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour Colombian National Poker Championship, is the Colombian army that's camped just outside the venue.
Casino Allegre, gracious host to the LAPT for this fortnight of poker, is located on the third floor of a large shopping mall in the center of Medellin. As part of a month-long... career fair?... of sorts, the Colombian army has set up several statins inside and outside the mall, demonstrating the glorious life that awaits those who join the military. They're staffed by stern-faced soldiers dressed in military fatigues and carrying machine guns.
I feel like it has to be a huge marketing mis-step by Colombian army to give these men (and they are all men) machine guns to carry around inside the mall. On the other hand, my own apprehension probably derives from the fact that the first and last time I saw a machine gun in South America, it was pointed at the car I was traveling in. As far as formative experiences go, that's a pretty strong one. Everyone else I've talked to about the soldiers feels incredibly safe to have them just off the premises.
They certainly didn't keep the players away yesterday. A small army of them -- 330 to be precise -- maxed out the allowable entries on Day 1a, with Colombian native and PokerStars Team Online player Fredy Torres blazing a trail to the top of the chip counts with 207,000. Not only was Day 1a a smashing success, but today's Day 1b flight sold out by 5pm yesterday. We're going to see 330 more poker soldiers today -- and who knows how many players had to be turned away due to the sheer space limitations at play in the Casino Allegre. Maybe they can apply for a job with the soldiers outside.
Yesterday's field was filled with Colombians, befitting the country's status as the second-most populous in South America (behind Brazil) and host of this event. It's clear that the country has caught the poker bug, right down to the re-telling of bad beat stories. It's a great sign of how poker is booming across all of South America.
Today's action begins at 12 noon local time. Until then, have your picture taken with the helicopter parked outside the mall here in Medellin. Then sit back and grab a cup of Juan Valdez coffee. It's delicious.