LAPT Panama: Stars rising above Trinidad and Tobago
Looking for a Trinidadian (or Tobagonian, for that matter) poker champion is like a search for Sasquatch or the Yeti. There are people who believe such a thing exists, but evidence in support of it is murky at best. But this was my mission today.
As the final 23 players bagged their chips last night, a man bounced around the room uttering a series of phrases that all ended with "T&T!" The moment obviously required some investigation.
A quick review of the remaining field revealed that not one, but two of the final 23 players hail from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Both are in the money and guaranteed $5,000 for their time here. The bouncing man was their friend, a player who had busted out about 20 places short of the money. He was there to root on the two T&T players who had made remarkable runs into the money.
This is notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that one of those players--Joel Fermin--is in second place in chips as the day begins. What's more--and I've been trying to find a way to put this delicately--Trinidad and Tobago is not a nation that's typically known for churning out big time poker players.
To try to build some evidence for my case, I searched the LAPT database. Although Trinidad and Tobago is one of the closer Caribbean islands to LAPT stops, there has never been a player from that nation who has cashed in an LAPT main event. That said, there has never been a player from Aruba, either. Perhaps, I thought, what we're seeing here isn't that remarkable.
So, I widened the search and went to the Hendon Mob. That vast collection of results revealed only two men in recorded history who have cashed in reported live poker events. Ramlal Basdeo min-cashed in the 2012 WSOP Main Event for $21,707 (you're going to want to remember that in a second). Michael Joseph once won $1,874 in $1,000 event in Las Vegas. A wider search of PokerPages.com revealed a series of small cashes totaling $20,000 for T&T's Daniel Walker and a few cashes for a man named Martin Ryan. That still left Ramlal Basdeo as the nation's top earner.
Feeling like the story had come to an end, I watched one of the players, Adesh Singh, depart the event, leaving only Fermin behind. Within minutes, the bouncing man from the night before appeared. I stepped forward carefully and suggested that there weren't a great many well-known players from his island.
"We don't have many players, really," he conceded.
But, within seconds, the guy had pulled out his Blackberry and was showing me pictures of world famous T&T cricketeer Brian Lara at the Veneto Poker Fest in April.
"He was on the final table!" the man said. "He's a good player."
I poked around and discovered it was fact. Lara had won $8,800 here for a ninth place finish. Still, that left Ramlal Basdeo and his $21,000 cash as the largest recorded cash for a player from Trinidad and Tobago. If Fermin manages to cash in seventh place or better, it appears he will eclipse Ramlal Basdeo as the most successful Trinidad and Tobago poker player in history. So, he's got that going for him.
Investigation complete, I shook the bouncing man's hand. "What's your name?" I asked.
"I'm Ramlal," he said.
Update:This post required an immediate addendum. Joel Fermin busted out in startling fashion almost immediately after I pressed published after he moved all in with ace-kind on a QQx flop. His opponent held queen-jack.
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Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging