Inside the Tour, Vol. 96: Punta del Este 2008
The landscape is beautiful, the site a delightful choice; if only I spoke Spanish I would be in heaven! Well, I likely wouldn't lose with kings to queens on the river and be writing this story if I was in heaven. I can still see the layout of A-A-4-7-Q, lol, followed by my opponent leaping out of his chair with joy. At Punta del Este the pines and golf course-like features reminded me of Lake Tahoe in the summer. The locals were spoiled, in my view, as they thought it was cold! Cold to me is Minnesota or Manitoba in the winter, not San Diego in the wintertime.
I spent three days in Montevideo before this event and it is awesome, too. The capitol of Uruguay, with (supposedly) a population as of 1996 was 1,378,707, it was an important ocean port for several centuries, with a lot of Europeans arriving in the last 150 years. It was originally built as a buffer city around 1726 by the Spanish governor between the Spanish of Argentina and the Portuguese in Brazil. Later on, after changing hands multiple times between the two factions — and with possibly some British influence — it was established as a state of its own in 1828 and has remained independent of its neighbors ever since.
My younger friends seem to prefer Buenos Aires as it has a New York feel, lots of coffeehouses and bookstores and eye candy, but for some of us the smaller but still European feel of the seaside is just fine. New York is a good reference; good and relevant in terms of my personal experience, good if you wish to deal with ten million or more people that are, let us say, arrogant.
The tournament itself is ably run by a team headed by Mike Ward and Greg Pappas. Of course there are plenty of areas for improvement, but those do not come easily, and not, of course, in one year. It is about twice as far to travel here compared to traveling to Europe from the United States. Think about going to Asia and you have an idea of how far away it is, but I recommend it. Tying it into a family vacation makes it really special. Keep in mind that it's in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are reversed for northern-hemisphere types.
If you come for only the poker and bust out early you may be left amid decombustion blues — "a trashcan full of empties, and a belly full of blues". There is an $1100 second-chance tournament on Day Two for the unfortunate ones, and Greg runs that amid the misery of what might have been.
Barry Greenstein and Chad Brown and Vanessa Rousso and Humberto Brenes and Greg Raymer were amongst the 351 runners in the main event. Vanessa got to Day Two with a toothpick, but got healthy on the drive towards the money, and finished 10th. On her final hand a guy who was raising a lot raised again; she looked at 9-9 and moved in, he insta-called with A-A and no accidents later she was gone.
The final table of the main event was not, in my view, very exciting, although there was a buzz on the key hand. An excellent professional player of less renown than Humberto Brenes is one of his brothers, Alex, who finished second. (Another Brenes brother won the large Aruba tournament a few years ago.) On the penultimate hand he got all in with A-9 and flopped a nine against the A-10 of his opponent, but the turn brought a ten and a reversal of fortunes. Jose Miguel Espinar of Valencia, Spain was soon the champion. Alex Brenes also finished fourth in the Rio de Janeiro tournament during the inaugural year of the Latin American Poker Tour, which I think was quite successful during its debut year, despite the many growing pains that happen at new venues.
The blinds were 50,000/100,000 with a 10,000 ante at the end and with over 3,500,000 in chips there was plenty of play, since the small stack had over 1,500,000 in chips. Heads up, they played through four levels to reach this point, or in other words about four hours of heads-up play! During this duel the lead changed hands multiple times.
One thing that rankles me is the trend toward "deep stack" tournaments, or so they're labeled. But if you look at or experience first-hand the structure of play and levels in these tournaments, then you know the dirty secret. Yes, there are a lot of chips at the beginning, and a lot of play, but once you are near the money, or in the money, then it is push-and-pray time as no one, or sometimes only one player, has enough chips to play naturally. No one seems to notice or mention it! Although whenever you see final tables that make deals day after day when they get to eight-handed you surely realize just what a crapshoot it has all become. I have argued for decades that players don't care about how many double-ups happen at the beginning of a tournament, but near the money they care a lot, and yet the trend seems to be the opposite of that in many cases. Enough on the somewhat boring subject of tournament structures!
Until next time, play good… and be lucky!