LAPT5 Colombia: The surprising poker journey
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There are certain drives you can take in the world where, one moment you're hurtling along an ordinary, non-descript road through ordinary, non-descript surroundings, and the next moment you burst upon something spectacular. Along Interstate 15 from California to Nevada, for example, miles of brown desert suddenly give way to the glitter and spectacle of Las Vegas as the freeway bends past an outcropping of rock that keeps the city hidden from sight.
Medellin, Colombia has Las Vegas beat. Nestled in an Andean mountain valley about an hour's drive from the international airport, Medellin secretly waits for newcomers to reach a nearby mountain ridge before jumping out with a sprawling jumble of buildings, streets and lights that traverse the length of the valley floor.
The PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour was a newcomer to Medellin last October during Season 4. The first-ever LAPT in Colombia, the Colombian National Poker Championship, drew the largest field ever assembled in 4+ seasons of the LAPT. Tables were jammed into every conceivable space on the floor of the Allegre Casino in an effort to accommodate all players; Day 1b sold out early on Day 1a.
Although the LAPT announced a cap of 660 players, with alternates the field rose to 681 players. They played down over three very long days of play until Argentina's Julian Menendez, a 2011 WCOOP final tablist, defeated local Jonathan Monsalves heads-up to claim the first Colombian poker title.
The LAPT enacted changes for the Season 5 iteration of the Colombian National Poker Championship. The buy-in was raised from the Colombian peso equivalent of $1100 to $2500; the player cap was lowered to 600, providing more space on the floor in between tables; and Tournament Director Mike Ward added an extra day of play. The 14-hour days of last October should give way to a more LAPT-typical 10-to-12-hour day this time around.
The road map for LAPT events is well-known to long-time readers of this blog. We'll split the field into two starting flights, one playing today and one playing tomorrow. They'll combine on Friday for Day 2, when we'll burst the money bubble. Day 3 will find the in-the-money players jockeying for chips and a spot at Sunday's final table. And Sunday, of course, one person will wind up with all of the chips.
Like that drive along Interstate 15 in Nevada or the road from the airport here in Medellin, we know where we're going and we know what's waiting for us at the end of the trip. Along the way, however, we expect a couple of fantastic surprises to burst into view as we crest the ridges and traverse the valleys of big buy-in tournament poker as only the LAPT can.