Costa Rica is Spanish for the rich coast, most likely because of its beautiful beaches and cultural offerings. But, this year the rich coast takes on a new meaning as almost 400 poker players arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica for the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT) San Jose tournament. A buy-in of $2500+$200 is certainly not the largest around, especially with the upcoming World Series of Poker, but the field was not short of exciting players and celebrities. Daniel Negreanu, Oral Hershieser, David Wells, and Montel Williams were among those who sat in to try their luck at the second event of the LAPT.
PokerStars, who sponsored the event, did not disappoint in the pre-tourney fun. The 21st was the welcome party which included everything from an open bar to scantily–well more reasonably, barely–clad women taking pictures with the bitcoin roulette tournament participants. Upon entering the party Danny “ISF” Steinberg found Daniel Negreanu and Oral Hershieser and quickly made friends with both of them; Max “Massimo” Steinberg was not far behind. People were drinking, dancing, and having a great time.
When the bar closed at nine the party kept going. But, most people made their way to the Fiesta Casino at the Ramada Herradura. ISF, Massimo, and I were lucky enough to get their just when a 1/2 game was starting up. But, in a private room adjacent to the “poker room” there was also a 5/10 game going. Everyone at the table was happy to just mess around and have some fun. ISF began introducing himself and quickly discovered we were sitting at a poker table with ESPN writer Gary Wise. This definitely increased the level of excitement as the banter at the table reached new heights when ISF grilled Wise on his views about poker, baseball, and sports writing in general.
Suddenly, as the door to the 5/10 room opened, Oral Hershieser was sitting at the chair closest to our table and ISF immediately yelled, “sit down at 1/2.” Hershieser politely passed because he was happy at 5/10, but not before coming out, greeting us, and giving ISF a quick shoulder rub. Then David Wells emerged and ISF muttered, not-so-under-his-breath, “what is he, like 350,” much to the concern of Gary Wise who warned that Wells would probably not hesitate to put ISF through the wall.
More banter and fun ensued and as the night everyone wished each other good luck in the tournament and recognized that PokerStars had put together a good event and a great first night.
398 players began day 1 including FTR’s Massimo, Deanglow, and ISF. Within 10 minutes a very confused ISF went to eat some pizza as he had busted with AK versus AA after three-bet pre flop action, and a flop of A96 rainbow. “I wasn’t so disappointed that I didn’t make it to the money, more so that I only got to play for ten minutes,” Danny “ISF” Steinberg said of his experience. Deanglow and most of the celebrities and PokerStars pros were not far behind.
The first day included 10 hour long levels of poker and the field whittled down from 398 to 85. Max “Massimo” Steinberg said of day one, “Judging by my first table there were a lot of bad players in the field, but towards the end there were mostly solid players left.” Danny added, “The more solid players being the ones lasting in the tournament was probably due to the great structure of the tournament.”
After day one Andre Wagner was in the chip lead with 129,400 and the only PokerStars Team member left was Andre Akkari who was not sitting well with 21000. Max “Massimo” Steinberg was in 15th just over 71000.
85 people would start the day and the tournament was structured such that the day would end only when nine were left, and the final table was set. The last remaining PokerStars Pro Akkari was taken out far before the money.
After about three hours of play on day two Max “Massimo” Steinberg had just moved two a new table and picked up JJ. He raised in middle position and was called by the big stack at the table and the big blind. The flop came 10 8 4 rainbow and the big blind checked to Max. He figured the big stack would probably bet any pair or draw so he checked with the idea that he would shove over the top. Just as he thought the big stack bet, but to his surprise the big blind raised three times the bet. Max thought for a bit but given his stack size he had to shove, thinking there was a good chance he was ahead. The big stack tanked and then folded and the big blind, who had to call only 24000 more, was forced to call with 86. The turn of A and the river of 10 doubled-up Steinberg but when the big stack divulged to Max that he had A10, Steinberg knew the poker gods were on his side.
When the tournament was getting close to the money, the tension and excitement in the room grew. The Costa Ricans cheered on their remaining countrymen with unmatched enthusiasm, screaming “Asa or Ka” at any given all-in. The tournament began hand-for-hand play with 34 people remaining. 34th was a blip on bitcoin roulette the radar but the tensions were very high as the last 33 battled for the 32 spots which were the difference between thousands of dollars and a long fought battle for nothing. PokerStars qualifier Xavier Dutrieu was the shortest stack by far but continued to fold as hand-for-hand play raged on. Finally, he looked at KQ in the hole and shoved all-in. He was called by Steven Silverman, better known as “zugwat” on 2-plus-2, with J6. The flop included a K and a J to the disappointment of Steven and the other 31 players aching to make it to the money. But, when a 6 came on the river the crowd yelled out with joy. Silverman had made two pair and the final 32 had been decided, including Max “Massimo” Steinberg.
PokerStars wanted to play eight-handed until the final table which left a lot of seven and six-handed tables. Since Steinberg specializes in short-handed no limit hold’em, the format proved to be good for him. A crucial hand came when Max went all-in with K10 of diamonds versus the AQ of clubs of Joe Ebanks, known online as Ender555. Screams came from Max’s support team, as the flop came with a K. But, when the crowd had realized it also included two clubs, nerves escalated. The turn was a 10 of hearts giving Max two pair taking away an A as an out for Ebanks, and the river was a blank giving Max a double up and put him in position to make the final table.
Players whittled away and play again went hand for hand as the field was down to 10. The difference between the final table and 10th place was large considering the fame and money which goes along with a win and the curse of no one remembering who was out right before the final table which goes along with 10th. Michael Hull announced all-in right before Max “Massimo” Steinberg did at separate tables. When Steinberg announced all-in his older brother Aaron (aka me) yelled “stall!”. But, it didn’t matter because no one called Steinberg and Hull was out in 10th place.
The final table was set with chip counts as follows:
Seat 1 — Alec Torelli, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 404,000
Seat 2 — Pawel Sanojca, Poland, PokerStars qualifier, 134,000
Seat 3 — Steven Thompson, Costa Rica, 195,000
Seat 4 — Steven Silverman, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 831,000
Seat 5 — Valdemar Kawaysser, Hungary, PokerStars qualifier, 594,000
Seat 6 — Ashton Griffin, United States, 761,000
Seat 7 — Max Steinberg, USA, 284,000
Seat 8 — Joe Ebanks, USA, PokerStars qualifier, 321,000
Seat 9 — Alexander Soderlund, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, 325,000
Excitement was high in the building right before the final table began; security wouldn’t let in any spectators. Sometimes the security was so tight that they accidentally kept players out of the room until a PokerStars rep would come over and let them in.
It didn’t take long before the Costa Rican favorite Steven Thompson was all-in. But, he was unlucky and his AQ was sucked out by the A9 of Steven Silverman who was looking good to win it all.
The next man to fall was Joe Ebanks whose AK ran into the AA of Max Steinberg who was quickly building chips after a previous Q9 bluff at Pawel Sanjoca.
Fairly soon after Ebanks was gone, it appeared there would be someone else going home with two all-in’s at once. But, Valdemar Kwaysser’s AA held up against Ashton Griffen’s AQ and Alexander Soderland’s KK and no one would go home, but Griffen would be severely crippled. He would be the next to go out when his A8 was cracked by Valdemar’s 84.
Valdemar was building chips and it wouldn’t stop. Pawel Sasnjoca went all-in with A5 and Valdemar’s 33 held up for another elimination.
Alec Torelli, better known as traheho on PokerStars, was probably the most feared player at the final table but he hadn’t realized that Steinberg had been avoiding him the whole day. When he raised and Steinberg three-bet, he thought for a while before making what Max would later comment “was a good shove, knowing what he knew”. But, what he didn’t know was Steinberg had AA and his 33 was basically dead. As the final blank fell on the board, the crowd went nuts as it seemed Steinberg had become the fan favorite. Torelli had just a touch less than Steinberg and he had left Max the chip leader with four people left.
Valdemar and Alexander Sonderland were far short of Steinberg and Silverman and it seemed only a matter of time before one would be eliminated. It seemed Soderland just got frustrated and went all-in with Q2, but ran into the AK of Valdemar. He was out in fourth.
With three left, a battle was not only raging at the table, but also in the crowd as the FTR and Max Steinberg supporters were cheering against Steven Slilverman and the 2-plus-2 bunch. Steinberg knew Silverman was someone he didn’t really want to face heads up and thought he had a pretty good read on Valdemar. “I knew that Steven was a good player and I knew playing heads up against him would be tough. I thought even with less chips than Valdemar, it would be easier to beat him than Silverman.”
But, it wouldn’t be Max who would eliminate Silverman as he ran into two runner-runner flushes from Valdemar. Max’s older brother Aaron commented, “I would have nightmares of spades for the rest of my life.” The hand which actually took Silverman out was 22 versus 55 but Silverman had no spades and Valdemar did.
Steinberg had a mountain to climb as head’s up play began, Valdemar’s chip lead was 4 to 1. Max doubled-up quickly with KJ versus A10. From there play went on without much action until Steinberg laid out a bluff on the river which was called by Valdemar. “I thought since he bet so quickly, there was no way he would have an Ace, it seemed like a missed flush draw. But, obviously he did,” Max said of the crucial hand.
From there it was only a matter of time. Pre-flop play on the final hand lead to a flop of 9 8 8. Steinberg shoved with J9 but Valdemar was holding AA and it was over. People were apologizing to Max left and right but he was in good spirits. He said of the experience, “I really wanted to win but overall I think I played very well. I’m very happy with getting second,”. “I don’t know why people are asking me if I’m ok. I just won $144,000,” He continued.
Danny Steinberg stated, “It was unfortunate that Max ran fairly bad while Valdemar ran amazing. Every time he would get any hand, Valdemar would have the top of his range. I think Max played really well.”
As Valdemar won he threw his fists in the air and let out a scream knowing that he had won $274000. Everyone in the room was happy and LAPT San Jose was a success. Look forward to LAPT Uruguay.