LAPT Colombia: Poker has a new home
Over the last week or two, most of my U.S. friends said the same thing when they found out I was headed to Medellin, Colombia, the latest city to be added as a Latin American Poker Tour stop.
"Have you become a drug mule?"
It's an unfair question for 2011 Colombia. The days when Colombia was a violent haven for dope peddlers are more than 15 years in the past. But that image is one that, in the U.S. at least, has unfortunately stuck, in the same way that many people still believe that New York City is a bankrupt urban wasteland where crime awaits just around the next corner.
The truth in 2011 is that the violence has largely ended in Colombia, and the cartels are no longer revered as the benefactors of the country. Medellin, a cosmopolitan city of almost 2.5 million people, is one of the bustling urban centers of the country. Nestled in a valley high in the Andes Mountains in the north of the country, Medellin -- nicknamed the City of Everlasting Spring due to its year-round temperate climate -- invites travellers to discover its hidden secrets and the warmth of its inhabitants. The Colombian people I've already met have been incredibly friendly, ready to portray their home in a positive light.
The road from the airport leading into the city is dark and winding. As a passenger in a car, you begin to wonder if there's even a city here at all. Then, around a single turn, all of Medellin springs into view, twinkling in the night and revealing a vibrant city, alive with energy.
(Still, the white-knuckle crowd out there might request their driver to go "mas despacio" down some of those turns.)
As the second most populous country in South America, it seemed inevitable that PokerStars would add a Colombian stop to the LAPT. Today it will finally happen when the LAPT Colombia National Poker Championship kicks off at 12 noon local time. With two Colombians -- Pablo Gonzalez and Daniel Ospina -- currently atop the Season 4 leaderboard, it seems like a fitting time.
The players were treated to a banging party last night at Club Charlee, a hip, chic club atop a swanky hotel in El Poblado neighborhood of Medellin. It's a neighborhood known for its nightlife, with Parque Lleras serving as ground zero. Airline connections being what they are, I didn't make it in time to attend. But I'm told by some groggy, hungover colleagues that the booze was flowing just fine.
You won't see the Colombia icon Juan Valdez in today's field -- he's the fictional creation of a 1950s ad agency -- but you will see some great poker played. You'll also see the beginning of a new Colombian poker tradition. As usual, the PokerStarsBlog will be providing live updates throughout the course of the tournament.
And I'm sure the coffee will be fantastic too.