LAPT Colombia Day 3: Menendez victorious in the land of coffee and poker
A few years from now, when South Americans look back on what they consider the watershed moments for the rise of poker on this Southern Hemisphere continent, someone will invariably point to the 2011 PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour's Colombian National Poker Championship. It was a smaller buy-in event -- only $1,100 instead of the usual $2,300 -- and was scheduled for three days instead of the typical four. Both of those figures may have represented caution on the part of tour officials. After all, who could say how Colombians would react to the first big buy-in poker to take place in their home country?
A photo of the rail in Hour 14 of the marathon Day 3 should answer that question:
That's getting ahead of things though. Day 3 -- the final day of the event -- started with 28 players in the field, a result of the tournament selling out both of its 330-player Day 1 flights. With alternates there were squeezed in on Day 1b, the total size of the field grew to 681 players. It was the largest field in LAPT history.
Big stacks were curiously absent to start Day 3. The largest stack in the room had roughly 70 big blinds to start, and the average stack was about 30. That number continued to shrink as the day went on, even as the field consolidated. The absence of big stacks meant that nobody was really driving the action. The short stacks were content to sit back as long as they could.
But blinds do go up every hour here on the LAPT, and so players busted. It took four levels -- and two simultaneous eliminations on the final table bubble -- to go from 28 Day 3 starters down to a final table off five Colombians, two Ecuadorians, an Argentian and an Australian:
Seat 1: John Jairo (415,000)
Seat 2: Stuart McDonald (1,235,000)
Seat 3: Jonathan Monsalves (2,495,000)
Seat 4: Julian Menendez (735,000)
Seat 5: Victor Forero (2,045,000)
Seat 6: Rafael Pardo (660,000)
Seat 7: Jessica Bedoya (290,000)
Seat 8: Alexis Gomez (910,000)
Seat 9: Jonathan Markovitz (1,150,000)
Play was very, very cautious at the final table, so much so that, with six players left, the average stack was only 16 big blinds and the biggest stack, Stuart McDonald, had just 26 big blinds. The final six players started talking about a deal. It took them 45 minutes to hammer it out, but in the end they were all reasonably happy with what they would receive.
However, 28 million pesos were set aside for the winner. The tournament still had to be played out. So, armed with as much coffee as we've consumed in the last three days, the tournament marched on.
At the end, it was Julian Menendez heads up against Jonathan Monsalves. Menendez had been in this position recently. During the 2011 WCOOP, he final tabled Event #21, $215 No-Limit Hold'em. Despite coming into the final table second in chips, he finished in 8th place, earning $20,361 -- his biggest online payday ever. Now he can add a live tournament title to his poker resume.
Hometown pride being what it is, it's probably safe to say that most of the gallery was there to cheer on the five Colombians who made the final table -- and were rotting against Menendez in favor of Jonathan Monsalves. But at the end of a 14-hour day, it was Menendez who cradled the winner's trophy. Despite being Argentinian, you can be sure that the rail applauded his accomplishment all the same.
I said it on Day 1 and I'll repeat it now. In the weeks leading up to this event, almost every friend who I told that I was going to Colombia made some kind of quip about cocaine. In four days here, I learned that the country is about a lot more than cocaine. And even if it were only about coffee and poker, that'd be more than enough for me.