LAPT Panama: In-depth with president David Carrion
When you look at the Latin American Poker Tour, you're looking at the handy work of its president David Carrion and his team of organizers. No matter what happens--good, bad, or ugly--Carrion takes responsibility for it all. He was among the people responsible for bringing the LAPT to Panama for the first time, and he's already made plans to return.
Today, I sat down with Carrion to discuss what's happened here so far and what we can expect for the future. Below you'll see how Carrion plans to double the field sizes in Season 6 of the LAPT. --BW
What have you thought of the event since you got to Panama?
The best way I can put it is that it's flowing very well. Everything has been easy for us. No issues. The players seem to be having a good time. In general, I haven't received much criticism. I normally get some. There's always something, right? I haven't really heard much this time. I see people are happy and haven't had many issues, so everything is coming together well.
The number (of players) is pretty much what it should be. I would've liked it a little higher, but in reality, I think it's okay. I didn't have much more expectation than perhaps 350 or something like that. I think it's good. It's proving to be strong in the side events which would normally compensate when the main event is not so big. Other than that, I think everything is working out well, and I'm really happy so far.
I really like the venue. The hotel seems to have a lot to offer people. Have people been happy about it?
Yeah, there's something that happens here that doesn't happen anywhere else. The cash games here are big, and that, of course, is big for the players. Also because it's the same ownership--hotel, casino, and everything--it's easy. They prepare well for food, for breakfast. They made changes this week. There are three places to have breakfast when there's normally one. It runs until very late. They're making sure that break time food is available, and all of that is working very well. But I think what makes a big difference is the cash games. They've had eight to ten games going every day. I think for the players, that makes such a big difference, because if you don't do well here, you can still get your money back downstairs, and there is a lot of action. I think, all of that together and based on how everything is going, next year, there should be growth here.
So, you think we will come back here for Season 6?
We will definitely come back. We have an agreement here for five years. We're going to be coming back here for the next five years. When we chose Panama, we really thought, this a middle to long term event that we need to develop together, because it's got all the ingredients to be successful. It's U.S. dollars. It's tax-free on withholding winnings. It's very easy to get here. There are many countries that have a direct flight here two or three times a day--Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico.
Next week is a big day for Venezuela. It's elections, and that has probably taken away 50, 60, 70 players easily. Argentina is going through a tough time right now with access to U.S. dollars, change, and a lot of restrictions. So, it's not necessarily right now a good end of the year economic-wise for the poker economy in terms of traveling and playing in South America with U.S. Dollars. But still, it's a successful event. I think next year--and if not, the next year--this should become a five hundred player plus event, no problem.
What should we expect for the Grand Final in Peru in November?
Something pretty much like this, I would think. Peru is very steady around the 350-mark. We will see a little bit more of the end of the season as far as the event presentation, and that theme. The schedule there is very similar to what's happening here. I think, Peru is very stable. It always does well. Because it's the last event of the season and not whole lot is happening at that time of year, it might be a little better. It's also another tax-free withholding destination. That usually pushes it a little bit. But I think it's going to be pretty much like the years before.
Anything else you want to say about Season 6?
We're going to go lower in buy-ins. We're going to try to get bigger fields. Repeat venues. Repeat dates. Make it easy and simple for people, but qualify a lot more people for more accessible packages. We're qualifying more people this year than ever before. We've been spending a lot of time on that. If we lower the buy-ins, we'll qualify a lot more people.
We've thought about this for quite some time. We think we've got the right price figured out that combines the biggest field and the most acceptable prize pool together. What's most important is that we really provide a live event experience to the most players we can. That's what we really are about. About poker and about doing that. I think the Latin American region, for a little bit of time we got it--I don't know if it was wrong--but we got it in a way where we weren't sure if we were doing the best job possible. I think with a little bit of a lower buy-in, we'll definitely hit the nail, and it will grow from there. If we can have all events 700-800 players, we can't go wrong that way, for sure. That's where we want to go. There will always be a place for high rollers and people that want to play a little bit more expensive, but it's going to be a lot easier to qualify. It will be lower buy-ins in general for the main events, but the same destinations. Nothing is going to shock anybody when they see the schedule. They're going to see it in November when we do the Grand Final. So, everybody will be able to plan ahead. We really have everything locked down with hotels and everything. We're hoping to have a big event in Brazil--really big. Other than that, I think everything is going to be really strong. We can have an average of 600 players per event, and it will be super good.
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Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging