Six seasons. It was hard to imagine, when the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour launched its first event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in May 2008, that five years later we’d be sitting in Viña del Mar, Chile, ready to kick off the LAPT’s sixth season. Especially in Viña del Mar, a venue that’s been a bit snake-bitten throughout the LAPT’s history.
The LAPT first came to Viña del Mar in Season 2. A modest 216 players came out across a mid-summer January weekend to compete for a first prize of $141,000, won by Fabián Ortiz. The event was judged a success and a repeat engagement was planned for Season 3.
Three weeks before the Season 3 event, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile approximately 175 miles south of Viña del Mar. It forced the cancellation of the Season 3 Viña del Mar event. But the Viña del Mar event returned strong in Season 4, with a smaller $1,100 buy-in that attracted more than 600 players. Murilo Figuerado was victorious that day, capturing $146,000. A minor earthquake occurred during the tournament but did not affect play
Last year, for Season 5, 672 players ponied up the $1,100. The earthquake waited until the last day of the festival to strike, after Aliro Diaz had taken down the tournament for $76,000. The Season 5 earthquake prompted a tsunami warning that closed all of the local businesses and sent residents, remaining players and casino staff stampeding for the hills that surround the city to the north, east and south.
So here we are, back in Viña del Mar at the Casino Municipal ready to kick off Season 6 of the LAPT. Day 1a starts at noon local time, about 15 minutes from now. Players are already lined up outside the tournament room, waiting to filter in and take their seats.
The standards for success are much higher now than they were in the LAPT’s infancy at its fourth-ever event back in Season 2. After attracting 621 players in Season 4 and 672 players last season, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that 700 players could turn up the next few days to try to become the next LAPT champion. The fact that re-entries are allowed throughout the first four levels, and again on Day 1b tomorrow, means that we could see the LAPT attendance record, currently held by the Season 4 event in Medellin, Colombia (681 players), broken this week.
But if we make it through the week without a tremor, that’s all I’ll need to judge the event a success.
Dave Behr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.
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