In the early days of the Latin American Poker Tour, Europeans dominated.
The entire first season saw only European champions and the second season started out the same way.
An unknown 18-year-old German player we now know as Dominik Nitsche won the season opener in Argentina and then Norway’s Karl Hevroy won the following event in Punta del Este.
Hevroy defeated local hero Alejandro de Arruabarrena heads-up to score what is still his only major tournament cash.
The third stop finally saw a Latin American champion.
While an exclusively South American final table guaranteed there’d finally be a Latin American LAPT champion, no one expected it to be Fabian Ortiz.
When play got four-handed, Ortiz was down to just half a big blind.
But no one could take down Ortiz, the Argentinian’s tiny pile of chips multiplied and mutated until it absorbed all the chips in the tournament.
That was in 2009 and Ortiz seemed to vanish for a while.
Then, just like his breakout victory, Ortiz sprung back onto the scene a few years later.
In 2013, Ortiz made the final two tables of the WSOP Main Event and finished 17th, earning $357,655.
Then, last year, Ortiz made the final table of the PCA Main Event but finished 8th for $173,220. Ortiz was ready for a victory though and got it in LAPT7 Panama.
Ortiz got his second LAPT victory in his second LAPT cash.
Ortiz isn’t the only LAPT champion in the field today though. In fact, he isn’t even the only two-time champion present.
Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Barbero is also taking another shot at the hat trick today.
While it took Ortiz five years to get his two titles, it only took Barbero a few months.
Back in LAPT3, Barbero won back-to-back events here in Punta del Este and in Peru. Since then, Barbero has cashed in the LAPT several times and made three more final tables.
While they’ll be looking to get a little closer by making Day 2, their only other rival got there yesterday.
Oscar Alache was the most recent player to win two LAPT titles, but the first to make it to Day 2.
Alache survived Day 1a yesterday with 44,400.
Twenty-year-old Shakeeb Kazemipur won a satellite to LAPT8 Panama earlier this year and flew all the way down from Canada to play and explore Latin America.
Despite losing four buy-ins on Day 1a, Kazemipur regrouped and went on to get the chip lead on Day 1b.
It ended in victory for Kazemipur and he’s been touring Latin America and Europe since. Now Kazemipur is at the feature table, looking to become another single-season-dual-champion.
Alexander Villegas is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.