LAPT8 Panama: Calm and quiet, just as planned

May 09, 2015

A seemingly quiet tournament is like a sleeping body.

On the surface, it looks like not much is happening; but underneath, there are countless organisms working around the clock to make sure everything runs smoothly.

The floor has rarely been called, players aren’t berating the dealers and a steady stream of players keeps buying into the tournament.

Those who frequent card rooms across the world –especially those in Latin America– know this isn’t always the case.

This well-oiled tournament is the culmination of years of experience and direction under LAPT tournament director, Mike Ward.


LAPT tournament director Mike Ward, watching peacefully and quietly
Ward was a tournament director in Foxwoods before taking a job to start a small poker tournament in a land farsouth of Connecticut.

That was back in 2008. Ward’s been the LAPT tournament director ever since.

“It’s all about the details,” Ward said. “[Running a tournament] isn’t that hard as long as you pay attention to details and make sure everything’s taken care of.”

That, of course, is always easier said than done.

The key to taking care of the details, Ward says, is having a good staff.

Since he’s directing the Latin American Poker Tour, that also means a diverse and multicultural staff.

Aside from English, most of the floor staff speaks Spanish or Portuguese and are familiar with the cultural differences of the region. There’s no more culture shock for Ward though, he’s been directing tournaments in Latin America so long he forgot what it’s like in the United States.

“This is just the norm for me now,” Ward said.

One difference Ward does notice is the passion players have here.

“They like to win but it’s really about the competition and the socializing,” Ward said. “It’s also an older, more mature crowd. [In the US] $1/$2 games are usually just a bunch of 21-year-old kids wearing hoodies, listening to music thinking they’re the neatest thing since sliced bread.”

Julian Karasinski, a Brazilian floorman, agrees. Especially when it comes to his countrymen.

“Brazilians are very aggressive,” Karasinski said. “99 percent of them are recreational players. They don’t play for the money, they play for the title.”


Julian Karasinski
Karasinski used to be one of those recreational players. Back in 2002, Karasinski worked in the tech industry in Florianopolis and occasionally ran a home game.

“It was just a hobby,” Karasinski said. “We ran a home game twice a week, then three times, then we started an open tournament.

“After that, I started working at a night poker club but then I was making more money [than my day job], so I started doing it full time.”

While running the club, the LAPT showed interest in running a tournament there. LAPT Florianopolis came to fruition and Karasinski joined the LAPT.

Aside from Karasinski, the LAPT has picked and pruned the best tournament staff in the region.

Most of the dealers in Panama aren’t even Panamanian, they’ve been hauled down from Costa Rica.

According to LAPT Media Director Reinaldo Venegas, they’re the best in the region because they’ve been trained by Humberto Brenes, who upped the professionalism of poker in Latin America in the 90s after attending the World Series of Poker.

So here they are, Latin America’s finest tournament staff making sure this sleeping body continues to run peacefully.


For multilingual coverage, check out our Spanish PokerStars Blog and our Brazilian PokerStars Blog. If you’re more of a watcher, head over to LAPT Live to check out the live stream. Updates are also available on the LAPT Facebook page.

All photos are snapped by Carlos Monti and all words are clacked by Alexander Villegas.


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