Leo Fernandez, the Team PokerStars Pro from Argentina, said it was like “touching heaven with your hand” when he took hold of his first Latin American Poker Tour trophy.
Fernandez, 39, beat American Patrick Mahoney in a two-hour heads-up battle Sunday in Panama City, Panama, to become the first and only Team Pro since Jose Barbero to win an LAPT title. Fernandez banked $171,930 for his victory.
This was the first time in the LAPT’s five-season run that it touched down in Panama. Three hundred 38 players showed up for the main event to compete for a prize pool worth more than $700,000. The side events proved to be exceptionally popular. In total, the LAPT Panama stop awarded more than $1 million in prize money. Tournament organizers weren’t surprised by the players’ excitement.
"This is like the hub of Latin America," said the LAPT’s Thomas Koo. "You can get a direct flight here from almost any city."
The main event tournament field was similar to the size of other LAPT events, but the Panama stop offered players a big opportunity they normally don’t get on the LAPT.
“There's something that happens here that doesn't happen anywhere else,” said LAPT president David Carrion. “The cash games here are big, and that, of course, is big for the players.”
During an interview in Panama, Carrion said the LAPT has signed a five-year deal with Panama’s Veneto Wyndham casino, and players can expect a return to the venue for Season 6.
Carrion also revealed a shift in strategy for the 2013 season of the LAPT. Carrion said the buy-ins for most events will be smaller than this year.
“We're going to try to get bigger fields. Repeat venues. Repeat dates. Make it easy and simple for people, but qualify a lot more people for more accessible packages,” he said. “We're qualifying more people this year than ever before. We've been spending a lot of time on that. If we lower the buy-ins, we'll qualify a lot more people.”
The LAPT will cap its fifth season in Lima, Peru November 14-18. Satellites for the $2,500 Grand Final main event are running now on PokerStars.
You can read a full wrap-up of the LAPT Panama final table on the PokerStars Blog.
LAPT Panama final table results
|3||Marco Antonio Pedroso Cheida||$73,900|
|4||Walid Raysuli Mubarak||$55,050|
|5||Johnny Sandoval Chacon||$42,230|
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*Lead photo courtesy of the PokerStars Blog