377 entries is not a single-day record for the Latin American Poker Tour. That high-water mark is still held by the initial event of Season 4, a whopper held in São Paulo, Brazil that attracted 536 entries in a single day. Today’s field doesn’t even top the 2nd-place event, LAPT4 Punta del Este, which saw 422 players assemble for battle.
And yet, there’s a palpable sense of anticipation flowing throughout the LAPT staff here in Viña del Mar. Anticipation of what’s to come on tomorrow’s Day 1b. There isn’t the slightest doubt that this event will break the record for largest LAPT turnout ever. That record is currently held by LAPT4 Colombia, which was sold out at 660 entries before squeezing in 21 alternates for a final field of 681. The question now is how high will this Chilean field go?
Tournament Director Mike Ward thinks that there will be more than 400 entries tomorrow. He’s hopeful that by the time late registration ends, the combined field of the two Day 1 flights will exceed 800 entries.
A look back through the LAPT history books helps to put that 800-player number in perspective. When the LAPT launched in 2008, 314 players took a seat in the first event in Brazil. An event in Costa Rica three weeks later generated 398 entries, a record that stood for almost three years, until the aforementioned São Paulo event in Season 4.
In the five years since the launch of the LAPT then, the biggest field has doubled. And what’s true of the biggest field is true of all the LAPT events as a general matter. Events in Seasons 1 through 3 tended to attract 200 to 300 players. In Seasons 4 through 6 they’ve begun to edge first into the 400s, then the 500s, then the 600s, and now the 700s or 800s.
You can make the argument that the entry fees for those early LAPT events, the Season 1 and 2 events, were higher than they’ve become in Season 4 through 6. I won’t deny you that argument because, frankly, I can’t. It’s an incontrovertible fact that buy-ins are smaller today than they were three years ago.
However, I like to think that the poker industry as a whole, and the LAPT in particular, has learned quite a bit about the tournament poker ecology in the intervening three years. Buy-ins are smaller across the board in the industry. It doesn’t make sense to have an endless series of $5,000 and $10,000 tournaments. And in Latin America in particular, players seem to favor $1,100 and $2,500 events. Players, TD Ward once told me, are a critical component to any poker tournament. Without players, there wouldn’t be an LAPT.
Speaking of players, Team PokerStars Pro Angel Guillen was a late arrival in Level 4. He joined the other three Team Pros already in the field: Christian de Leon, Leo Fernandez and Jose Barbero. De Leon seems to be getting the best of it right now, but the other players are no slouches. Guillen and Barbero both made LAPT final tables in Season 5; Fernandez won the LAPT5 Panama Main Event.
My colleague Reinaldo Venegas noted that “Grillo”, as De Leon is known, is playing well and could be an early favorite. Having been around a poker tournament once or twice, we both know it’s far too soon to make those kinds of predictions. But is it possible that Grillo could cap a record-breaking event by joining Barbero and Fernandez as Team Pros who have won an LAPT Main Event?
We’ll know in about 800 eliminations. Give or take a few.
Dave Behr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.