When I tap a player on the shoulder in this part of the world, my first question invariably is, “¿Hablas ingles?” Although I speak enough Spanish to get by, I’ve learned that it’s often easier to converse in English if the player speaks English. Some don’t, and so then sentences in broken Spanish begin. That wasn’t necessary today.
“Yes, I speak English quite well,” said Eduardo Akl after I asked my question.
Akl is the closest thing that LAPT6 Colombia has to a chip leader right now, even though as a matter of personal policy I try not to think of any chip leaders in a four-day tournament until at least one full day has passed. Still, I can’t deny that Akl appears to have the biggest stack of the 79 players still in the tournament. When I tapped him on the shoulder, his count was about 160,000.
Akl was happy to answer a few questions about himself as a hand played out at his table. Although of Lebanese descent, he hails from Cali, the mountain city about 300 miles southwest of Bogota. He was educated in the United States as an engineer, although now he considers himself a gemologist.
Gemology is a strong industry in Colombia. The country has vast emerald deposits that, by some estimates, comprise 65 percent of the world’s emeralds. Over the last twenty years emeralds and other precious gems have become a big business here.
Color, clarity and cut are the three most important characteristics that determine an emerald’s value. I have no idea if the analytical skills required for assessing those qualities translate in any way to poker, but so far Akl is doing a masterful job at building a big stack.
It’s not all ups for Akl, however. After our brief conversation, I watched Akl play a four-way pot from the cutoff that had been raised pre-flop by the player to his right. All four players checked an 8♠J♦9♥ flop. The turn was the 8♦. When action checked to the pre-flop raiser, he made a testing bet of 3,000. Akl raised that bet to 6,000, folding the other two players.
The pre-flop raiser was undeterred and fired again, this time raising to 15,000 straight. Akl considered, then called to a 10♥ river. Both players checked there. Akl’s trip eights, A♦8♣, were no match for his opponent, who flopped a queen-high straight with Q♦10♦.
That pot pushed Akl back to about 145,000, but even after that dent he was still the tallest stack in the room. If he manages to keep building over the next four days, he could be in store to win his weight in emeralds.
Dave Behr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.
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