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North vs South

September 23, 2010

Tags: LAPT, Excessive celebration, WSOP.

At the 2008 World Series of Poker, Hevad Khan’s antics were hard to miss. The next year, we saw an addition to the WSOP Rulebook prohibiting “excessive celebration through extended theatrics,” meaning that if you dance around, you get a penalty. So, strolling among the tables of the Rio offers not much more than the sound of well-behaved players shuffling their chips. If you walked into the tournament area of the City Center Rosario during today’s Latin American Poker Tour, however, you might find the sound of the chips regularly interrupted with emotional outbursts throughout the room.

If you’ve experienced any kind of competition south of the U.S. border, then you’ve been faced with the intense passion and emotion that Latino’s invest in their sport. To a newcomer, finding this kind of behavior in a poker room can be jolting. Some consider it rude, but is it?

I asked LAPT Tournament Director Greg Pappas why he allows this to happen despite it being frowned upon by official standards, and he responded, "In South America the people are so passionate. They love to really get behind their countries. So even though it’s not allowed in North America, here it’s a part of the game.”

Of course, there are a lot of lifestyle differences between North and South America. Latin Americans adopt a more laid-back approach to life, evident with the common term Hora Latina – meaning Latin Time. Flights commonly depart late, stores don’t always open exactly on the hour, and I can guarantee you that each day of your poker tournament will not start exactly at noon, and dinner break will go at least 10-20 minutes overtime. Every day you will be greeted with kisses so don’t even think about shaking hands – it’s actually considered rude. And let’s face it, things don’t always work. The sewage systems clog easily so you’re forced to pee next to a bin full of dirty toilet paper, and having 300 poker players in one resort will no-doubt crash the WIFI network. But hey, Viva Hora Latina – you’re on vacation!

So yes, a vast difference in behavior exists, but is passion not part of your game like it is with the South American players? Think of your average guy in the U.S. as he roots for his NFL team. He’s most likely screaming at the television, launching out of his seat and jumping around the lounge room when his team scores a touchdown. What about when you river that two-outer when hidden behind your monitor while your buddy is there with you? Don’t lie, you’ve given him a high-five with a giant grin at the very least, if not run around the desk with your arms flung out like a clothesline screaming “bulllldooooozzzzer.” Or is that just me?

These gestures of “excessive celebration” are all within us. It’s human nature. Are we being too emotionally reserved in the live setting by forcing everyone to be “polite” and remain emotionless? We’re all playing the game for the same reason; there’s no team in our game. Yeah, you’re going to have situations where you think someone played a hand against you horribly, so watching him cheer wildly when he sweeps up your chips makes you just want to launch over that table and rip his hair out. It’s all subjective. But if you ever have or ever will be lucky enough to play in an LAPT event or the like, be prepared for banging tables wildly, jumping around screaming Spanish expletives, and your opponents pointing and yelling at you in either celebration or frustration. Don’t take offense, embrace it. You know that the kid inside you does it too sometimes.

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