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LAPT Colombia Day 1b: Levels 1-4 (blinds 50-100)

lapt-promo.gif4:20pm Second break

Smoke if you got 'em. When the players return, the updates for levels 5-8 will begin in a new post.

4:15pm: Mystery stack owner reveals himself

We staked out Table 25 for the last 20 minutes, wondering who owned the 60,000-chip stack in the 3-seat. The owner turned out to be Carlos Zapato, yet another one of the legions of Colombians in today's field. No word on what took Zapato away from the table for twenty minutes; there are limits to our Spanish and, to be honest, he was speaking very, very quickly.

Zapato looks to be among the leaders, just slightly trailing Argentina's Julian Menendez as the players head to the second break.

3:57pm: Team Pros grinding along

The two Team PokerStars Pros in today's field, Andre Akkari and Leo Fernandez, are (so far) having a better Day 1 than their counterparts did yesterday. Fernandez hasn't been able to get much going, but hasn't lost many chips either. He's currently sitting behind roughly 13,000 chips.

Akkari has had a better first four levels. He was up as high as almost 40,000, but just lost 7,000 chips when he ran into aces. Akkari opened pre-flop to 700, then called after the cutoff three-bet to 1,600. Akkari check-called 2,000 chips on a flop of J♣9♦T♠, then got a free river when both players checked the 4♦ turn. Akkari tried to buy the pot with a bet of 3,100 but his opponent quickly called and tabled A♠A♦. Akkari knocked the table "good hand" and quietly mucked.

He currently has about 30,000 in chips.

3:38pm: Success breeds familiarity

A little taste of success at one stop on the LAPT circuit often gives players the confidence and the bankroll to try their luck at other stops. Jose Carlos Rodriguez just missed the final table at Season 4 Sao Paulo; he's seated at Table 2 today, grinding away a stack of 25,000.

At the complete other end of the room we find Engelberth Varela, a player who made the final table at Punta del Este and finished in 3rd place. He's off to a hot start here at the beginning of Level 4 with approximately 50,000 chips in his stack. A second final table here in Medellin would surely bolster Varela's case for LAPT Player of the Year (not to mention his bankroll).

3:20pm: Level 4 begins (blinds 100-200, ante 25, 298 players remain)

3:17pm: Introducing Julian Menendez

In the back center of the room, jammed against a wall right underneath a tournament clock, you will find Table 15. Crammed into the 10-seat, right up against the dealer's shoulder, is a giant of a man named Julian Menendez. Menendez hails from Argentina and just took out a shorter stacked opponent who was all in for 8,000 on a 10-high flop with T♦9♣. Menendez called with J♦J♥, which were good through the river.

Adding those chips to Menendez's stack boosted him to approximately 56,000 in chips. He's among the leaders.


3:02pm: The first of the sort-of-big stacks

An hour or two ago, we wrote that players weren't flinging their chips around in the manner we've come to expect in South America. That trend continues into the late stages of Level 3. A full sweep of the room failed to turn up any stacks bigger than 60,000. Which isn't to say that they're not hiding out there, as the room is still very full. But so far the biggest stack we've seen belongs to Andres Felipe Solarte Arango, of Colombia. He's rocking about 53,000 and is looking to add to the overwhelming success of Colombians in yesterday's Day 1a flight.

While we continue to scour the field, why not go partying with Lynn Gilmartin?

2:41pm: Los Hermanos Bertoli

Yesterday we told you about the Perez twin brothers, Luis and Carlos, who both played on Day 1a. We have another pair of brothers in the field today (but much to the disappointment of many in the media room, they're still not Los Hermanos Pollos). Tulio and Jesus Bertoli are both playing Day 1b. They hail from Venezuela and are instructors for IntelliPoker. They're no strangers to the LAPT circuit, having been around since Season 1, when Jesus Bertoli made a deep run at LAPT San Jose.

They're going to need to reach deep down to get through this 660-player field, but the rewards at the end are befitting the accomplishment. Good luck to them both!

2:20pm: Level 3 begins (blinds 100-200)

2:04pm: Break

Players are on their first 15-minute break of the day.

1:46pm: Alternate plans

Nobody ever wants to turn people away from a poker tournament who want to play. Unfortunately, the LAPT's problem here in Medellin -- a good problem to have -- was that despite seating 660 players across two starting days, there wasn't enough space to seat everyone who tried to register. The imperfect solution that was devised is to allow players to be seated as alternates for the first two levels of play. Thus, as players are eliminated, alternates are filling their seats.

We're not sure if that means that everyone who wanted to buy in will get a seat, but it's better than not seating any alternates at all. Kudos to the LAPT for making as many accommodations as they can.

1:36pm: Where's the action?

One of the hallmarks of poker in South America has always been an astounding amount of action, even in the earliest levels. Today, however, the field seems subdued. Changes in chip counts during the first 90 minutes of play have been only incremental, instead of the wild swings that we're accustomed to seeing. Players are up a few thousand chips, or down a few thousands chips, but very few have amassed the sort of Franken-stack that comes from playing a high-variance style. Are South American players abandoning their gamble in favor of more conservative, strategic decision-making?

A few notable counts: Andre Akkari - 14,000; Pablo Gonzalez - 18,000; Leo Fernandez - 16,000; Leandro Csome - 16,000; Luiz Yepez - 20,000.

1:21pm: Akkari representing Brazil for Team PokerStars

Today's field is overwhelmingly Colombian -- but a few Brazilians have managed to sneak in. Among them is Andre Akkari, one of the most well-known South American poker players. Akkari has a long-standing association as a member of Team PokerStars Pro and is here to help grow live poker in South America. As opposed to some of the Team PokerStars Pros who played yesterday, Akkari has a more deliberate style.

For example, he took a recent three-way flop of 3♦K♦3♥ from early position. The big blind bet 350 and Akkari called. The big blind made the same bet on the turn 4♥ and river 9♣. Each time Akkari elected to just call with K♣T♣. At showdown, his opponent showed a bluff with A♣8♣, allowing Akkari to collect the pot.

Akkari is a friendly face wherever he goes on the LAPT. It's always good to see him in the field.


1:05pm: Level 2 begins (blinds 75-150)

12:55pm: Peluca!

The first time I met Leandro Csome was at LAPT's Season 4 stop in Sao Paulo. There, Csome brought tons of energy to the final table (although he did not win). Csome is nicknamed "Peluca" by his friends, the Spanish word for wig. It's an homage to both his crazy, mop-top hairstyle and his occupation -- he cuts and styles hair for a living. Yesterday, during Day 1a, Csome brought his zany energy to the tournament by walking around with a flip-cam and taking some zany video. Today, he's seated in the Day 1b field.

Even though playing big buy-in tournament poker is a serious affair -- hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars are on the line, after all -- Csome always seems to be having the time of his life, as if he's laughing at some big joke that the rest of us aren't in on. It helps when you have the success that Csome has had. In fact, today he's already up to 22,000 in chips.


12:42pm: Southern Hemisphere, far side of the world

James Honeybone has become a fixture on the LAPT -- a curious thing as he's a New Zealander. Honeybone spent three months in Brazil, learning Portuguese along the way, before deciding to relocate to Colombia, where he's now learning Spanish. Honeybone explained that it hasn't been easy to relocate to a country where he didn't speak the language, but with constant practice (and a Spanish-speaking girlfriend) he's starting to make himself understood. He owns a home back in New Zealand that he rents out to friends (and uses as storage space for the possessions that didn't make the trip with him to South America).

Honeybone is a prime example of the life that's possible as a professional poker player. It's not an easy road -- and it requires a strong stomach -- but those who are able to succeed at the highest levels of the game can live almost anywhere they choose. All they need is a passport and an internet connection.

12:21pm: Sussing out who's here

I never thought there would be a day when I walked into a room of 330 players and had trouble identifying any of them. Clearly, I need to spend more time in South America. But I did spot a few on my own and thankfully, my LatAm colleagues were able to help me point out several players I didn't recognize. So, in no particular order, give a warm "Bienvenido!" to Team PokerStars Pros Andre Akkari and Leo Fernandez; LAPT Sao Paulo final table player Leandro Csome; current LAPT Player of the Year leader and Colombian Pablo Gonzalez; Luis Yepez, also in the race for Player of the Year; Kiwi James Honeybone, a recent transplant to Colombia; Oded Mirond, a player with a few LAPT final tables to his credit; Charlie Giron, and Gaston Catzman.

12:05pm: Level 1 begins (blinds 50-100, 330 players remain)

Shuffle up and deal! Play is underway on Day 1b of the 2011 LAPT Colombian National Poker Championships. Live updates throughout the day will be brought to you by Dave "F-Train" Behr (written), Carlos Monti (visual) and several cups of Juan Valdez coffee (caffeinated, delicious).

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