LAPT6 Colombia: Strike up the music

June 05, 2013

Taxis are a way of life in big cities, especially when you travel. This morning, for the 1.5-mile trip from my hotel in Medellin, Colombia to the Casino Allegre, host venue for the Latin American Poker Tour PokerStars.net Colombia National Poker Championship, my cab driver was a thin, weathered man of about 60 years. My pidgin Spanish was enough to communicate to him where I wanted to go, and we were off.

One of the first things my driver said to me was, “something something something El Patrón something something something”. I told him I didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Instead we chatted briefly about why I was here, but I found it odd that I thought he said El Patrón, as it’s the nickname of Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug kingpin who ruled Medellin in the 1980s and early 1990s.

About halfway down Av. Poblado, the cabbie pointed out an abandoned, burned-out white condo tower. I wasn’t quite sure why, so I asked him what happened there. He told me (I think) that it had been Escobar’s home. Suddenly, it was all clear. He was giving me his own personal tour of Medellin (later highlights included an ophthalmology center and a business district) and started with a site linked to Colombia’s past as a haven for narcotics production.

About a half-mile further on, we stopped at a traffic light. While we were waiting for the light to turn green, a three-piece band – trumpet, trombone and drums – serenaded us in the middle of the street. Street-busking is another way of life in big cities, but in all my travels I don’t ever remember a three-piece band playing to stationary cars for tips.

Those are two sides of the coin of today’s Medellin. The city doesn’t try to out-run its recent past, doesn’t try to hide it or whitewash it. But it is the past. Today’s Medellin is as cosmopolitan a city as you’ll find in South America. It makes the perfect backdrop for LAPT6 Colombia.

Two years ago the Latin American Poker Tour held its first event in Colombia. Julian Menendez won that inaugural event, which was such a smashing success that Colombia was made a permanent stop on the tour. Last year, Robbie Renehan took home to Ireland the title, the trophy and roughly $147,000 in prize money.

LAPT5 COLOMBIA Renehan Winner.JPG

Mark it $147,000, dude

Today every square inch of floor space is filled with tables for the first of this year’s LAPT6 Colombia Day 1 flights. Given that this even is a re-entry event, it’s entirely possible that the LAPT will break its record for most entries, which was just set three months ago in Chile.

Whether that happens or not, somebody is going to throw himself or herself a grand party in Medellin on Sunday night. Pablo Escobar won’t be there – he’s been dead for 20 years – but a three-piece brass band just might.

Dave Behr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

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