Growing up on the Atlantic coast of the U.S., I’ve always found the ocean in winter to be relaxing. There’s a grayness, an emptiness and a peacefulness to it that, as something of a misanthrope, I enjoy. There are no people to despoil the sand, the water, or the sky. To sit in a living room and see nothing but beach and oceans, and hear nothing but the squawks of gulls and the white noise of the surf, is my kind of living.
It’s not yet winter in Punta del Este, Uruguay, but it’s pretty close. And I’m loving it here.
At this time of year – late autumn in the Southern Hemisphere – Punta del Este is a sleepy, seaside hamlet of about 7,500 people. It’s a far cry from a summer weekend, when out-of-town visitors clog the roads and increase the population by a factor of 20. The off-seasons vibe makes it perfect for a few hundred poker players to shed the cares of their day-to-day lives and come play a little high-stakes tournament poker.
Yes, this week the LAPT is returning to Punta del Este for the fifth time, bringing with it the second event of Season 5, the LAPT5 Punta del Este at Mantra Resort. Punta del Este is the sole surviving stop from the abbreviated, three-stop first season of the LAPT, which should tell you something about the popularity of this place with the players. Each of the first three seasons saw between 300 and 350 players make the journey here. Last year 422 played. They were all defeated by Alex Komaromi.
Komaromi is back this year to defend his title. So is Season 4 Player of the Year Pablo Gonzalez, who received his Player of the Year award at the welcome party last night. My colleague Martin Harris will tell you more about the party, and the Season 4 awards, later today.
Right now we’re busy getting set up for what is expected to be a field of 450 players. They’ll be packed at tables in the main tournament room, in the ancillary tournament room, even up the escalator just outside the tournament room. Basically, any free space the LAPT staff can find near the tournament room is fair game for a poker table.
If you have $2,500 and you’re anywhere near Punta del Este, come on down to the Mantra Resort, Spa & Casino. We’ll save a spot for you. On the off-chance you get knocked out, you can spend part of your afternoon the way I spent part of my morning: on my couch writing while I listened to the ceaseless pounding of the Atlantic surf.