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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, May 12, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 93         E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Our Lady
of the Forsaken

The Virgin of Desamparados is the manifestation of the mother of Jesus as the comforter of the forsaken. She is the patrona of the Canton de Desamparados, which was named after her when it was created in 1862.

The forsaken can mean the homeless, but it also has been expanded in Spanish to include the mentally ill. Desamparados is a working class section of San José province. And its religious center is a magnificent domed church,

That is where the procession Sunday began and ended. The once-a-year event comes in the second Sunday in May. A more famous veneration takes place each year in Valencia, Spain.

Virgin de Desamparados
A.M., Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

$42 million investment earmarked for Caribbean
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caribbean zone may soon see millions of dollars invested in the region after the government agreed to borrow money in order to pay for development.

Bank loans of $42 million will finance environmental and development projects to improve the quality of life of people in the Sixaola and other Atlantic coast areas, according to the decision made Friday.

The Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo will put in $12 million for the Programa de
Desarrollo de la Cuenca Binacional del Río Sixaola.

While claiming that the program will include initiatives that will help manage the natural
resources of the Parque Internacional La Amistad and the Reserva Gandoca Manzanillo, Limón legislator Jorgé Mendez confirmed that the money will also go into diversifying productivity in the region and creating sources of employment.

Much-needed infrastructural development is also on the list, with money to be allocated for acueducts, refuse management and roads.

The second loan is larger, at $30 million, and comes from the Banco Internacional de Reconstrucción y Fomento for a project called Programa de Pago de Servicios Ambientales denominado Ecomercados II.

This seems to be intended to pay the owners of forests, plantation forests and other forestry systems, in order to ensure that these areas of biodiversity are protected and the conservation of forests and biological corridors is maintained.

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Police shake down buses
headed to Pacific coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police stopped buses on Autopista General Cañas and arrested five suspected fugitives Friday, said a security spokesman.

Police searched buses leaving San José on their way to the Pacific and San Carlos, said the security spokesman.

The five suspects police arrested were wanted for various things such as resisting arrest, conducting a scam operation, breaking forestry laws, and neglecting to pay child support.

Officers from the Fuerza Pública of San José, the Policía Turística, the Judicial Investigation Organization, Policía de Tránsito, Policía Municipal and the Unidad Canina, worked together to search some 300 people and 12 buses, they said.

A main purpose of the sweep was to prevent the entry of drugs or weapons into the coastal Pacific, said the security spokesman. Authorities also seized 140 pirated discs and various quantities of marijuana, said the spokesman.

Woman, 78, in Puriscal
stabbed doing good deed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man knocked on the door of a 78-year-old-woman and asked for some water, only to stab the woman and take her money, said a judicial spokeswoman Friday.

The elderly woman, Ofelia Fernández Alpizar, lives in El Estero de San Antonio, Puriscal, said a spokeswoman from the Judicial Investigation Organization. A man came to the front door and asked Ms. Fernández for a glass of water Friday morning, said the spokeswoman.  When Ms. Fernández went to get the glass, the man sized the opportunity to enter the house. He beat Ms. Fernández and stabbed her various times, said the spokeswoman. The man fled the house with an unnamed amount of cash, said the spokeswoman.

Our reader's opinion
Broker disputes claims
about beachfront land

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How can I advertize in a publication that does not research and verify its facts and prints grossly irresponsible propaganda?

The house we are building in Playa Grande in your article with pictures published Thursday has all permits including an extensive D-1 approval from Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the Instituto Costarricense de Vivienda y Urbanismo and the Santa Cruz municipality.  This construction is outside of the disputed 75-meter zone and is not subject to any construction moratoriums.  This construction was NOT shut down.

The supposed government marker (majone) the ambiental official in your picture is holding is not a mojone but a lot corner marker that we have cemented in on all of our lots to formally mark the boundaries.

The lot that you show one of our Century21 for sale signs on is a formally listed lot for sale.  The owner of that lot has full title with a title policy, and this lot has not been filed for any expropriation.  Private citizens of all nationalities are buying beachfront lots on a consistent basis with full acknowledgment of the risks of expropriation. 

The sophisticated investor understands that the likelihood of the Costa Rican government funding upwards up $300-700 million dollars to pay the private land owners for their property is very unlikely if not impossible.  If you would like to come to my office I will gladly show you the closing and registration documents for a beachfront lot that in the near past sold for $3,100,000.

The Leatherback Trust will not be able to dispute the true value of the beachfront property in the disputed park area.  The Leatherback Trust has within the last year purchased three lots from us all within 200 meters of the house we are building and on that same lot row.  They paid upwards of $350 per square meter for these lots.  Check the public registry.  They are registered in the Leatherback Trust name and the third lot is in the name of their attorney representative. 

They also have a private duplex home that they purchased on the beach, inside the disputed park area, and it is very curious as to why this property has not been filed against for expropriation.  The Leatherback Trust is pushing the buttons for the government but they have a clear double standard for themselves.
Bob Davey
Real estate broker

EDITOR'S NOTE: The information and photos in the news story were provided by the Tribunal Ambiental, a government agency within the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 93

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Cleanup trash accumulates on the Pedestrian mall after a fire swept an historic building nearby.
fire trash on boulveard
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

Well-known eatery's workers struggles to recover after fire
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employees at Manolo's restaurant scrubbed ash off the floors and dumped black bags of soot into the growing pile of trash on the pedestrian boulevard Sunday morning. A downtown fire Saturday left the third floor of a nearby historical building severely damaged and nearly destroyed a drug recovery center.

With holes in the roof and an entire wall destroyed among other damages, it may be some time before repairs on the La Alhambra can be completed. But at Manolo's next door, workers have already started on the upstairs roof.

Many parts on the third floor will have to be reconstructed, said Pablo Jiménez, the well-known restaurant's administrative manager. “They are already constructing upstairs,” he said, “Most of the damage was done behind us in the drug recovery center.”

The flames started above the center, Misión Los Angeles, which housed at least 25 people. But no one was hurt in the fire. The entire building was evacuated, said Jiménez.

There were plenty of customers eating their breakfasts, when a man yelled "Fire!,” said Jiménez, who added that there were flames above. 

Manolo's has a restaurant on the third floor and first floor and a bar on the second floor. The small bar was empty and lit by candles Sunday morning as nearly a dozen workers mopped the downstairs floors and wiped down the kitchen and men began patching up the third floor.
downtown fire
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Firemen attempt to get at the third floor of a downtown building that erupted in flames Saturday.

Martha Echaverry, who has worked at Monolo's for 15 years, said the owner wanted to reopen for business as soon as possible. “We started cleaning at 5 a.m.,” she said Sunday, “I think it will be at least until tomorrow.”

Firemen have not yet said what started the fire. Jiménez said he was not sure if the restaurant had any insurance.   Manolo's is on the south side of Avenida Central between calles 9 and 11.

Gasoline prices going up, but so is the dollar exchange rate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is good and bad economic news for expats.

The bad news is that gasoline prices are going up again. The increases were predictable as the regulating agency makes its monthly adjustment in the price.

A liter of super gasoline is going up 20 colons, and a liter of regular is going up 16 colons,the agency said Friday. That's in the neighborhood of about 4 U.S. cents. Diesel is going up 31 colons or about seven U.S. cents.

The exact dollar amounts of the increases are hard to figure because of the good economic news: Now that the high tourist season is over, the dollar is rebounding against the colon. The sell price of a dollar was as low as 490.25 colons until Thursday. Banco Nacional de Costa Rica quotes the sell price of the dollar at 501 colons for Monday. The price at which a dollar can be bought there has jumped from about 501 colons to 508. Other banks have rates in the same ballpark.

The buy price of the dollar fell from 521 colons to 500 last Nov. 21 as the central bank tried to get a grip on inflation. The net effect was that expats who rely on dollars from the United State to purchase goods here took a 4 percent hit.
The fluctuation of the colon against the dollar was noticed Friday in the legislative chambers. Mario Quiros, a Movimiento Libertario lawmaker, called the rapid movement unnatural and said that the changes were a result of manipulations by the Banco Central.

While Costa Ricans cheered the decline of the dollar several months ago, they are now unhappy. Foreign products will cost slightly more.

Quiros complained that the central bank employees had been speculating on the dollar. The bank had been purchasing dollars feverishly to maintain the rate.

The increase in the dollar will work its way through the entire economy making items such as petroleum more expensive as well as foreign foodstuffs and even Internet and cable television services if the contract is denominated in dollars.

The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said that the super gasoline would now cost 621 a liter or 2,350.75 per gallon or $4.69. Regular gasoline is going to 604 per liter. Diesel will be 587 per liter.

The prices will become effective Friday after the increases are published in the official newspaper, the La Gazeta.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 93

Giant tree representing freedom coming down for safety
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Onlookers squinted up at the thick branch as it finally cracked and fell Sunday morning onto Avenida 7.

The towering cebia tree outside the ministry of foreign affairs or Casa Amarilla, was a gift from former president of Guatemala, Ydígoras Miguel Fuentes, during the visit of John F. Kennedy and other presidents in 1963.

The tree, which has grown to be 30 meters (98 feet), has become a safety hazard, according to the Costa Rican foreign ministry. Out of its 11 visible roots, eight are dead or severely diseased, meaning the tree seems to only be supported by three roots, said a spokesman for the ministry, more correctly the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, Friday.

The plaque in front of the tree reads:

"Freedom grows rich. This ceiba of freedom, symbolizes the friendship and harmony that binds two fraternal peoples commemorating the meeting of the five Central American presidents, from Panamá, and the U.S. Americas. 18, 19 and 20 March 1963.”

The sound of a machete steadily hacking could be heard below the crane by viewers in Parque España across the street.

The entire project will take about five days, said the ministry spokesperson.

“They are being very careful,” said Martín Dúran, a transit officer who helped close the road Sunday morning. The road will be open to traffic when workers are not trimming the tree, he said. The ministry warned pedestrians and motorists to take precautions to avoid the the vicinity of Casa Amarilla.  “It's not that old as far as trees go. It just grew fast,” said Dúran, as he gazed at the branches.

The cieba or kapok tree is native to Mexico, Central and South America and can grow to be 60 to 70 meters (200 to 230 feet).

The foreign ministry workers said the first priority was to save the tree. But after a series of studies with experts at the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, ministry officials realized that the tree could not be salvaged. The tree is in danger of falling, said the ministry spokesperson. With
foreign ministry tree
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Workers use a crane to prune the topmost branches of the ceiba tree.

rainy season approaching, erosion could loosen the tree even more, said the spokesperson. A biologist hired for the study said that 70 percent of the roots and base of the tree was damaged beyond repair.

The technical reports also said that some of the damage to the tree's roots was caused during underground construction ordered in August 2005 intended to resolve the recurring flooding problems faced by Casa Amarilla due to stormwater.
Closings affect Avenidas 7 and 9 between Calles 11 and 13. Vehicles driving north on Calle 11 should turn left to Avenida 5 when they reach the south side of parque España, said the ministry spokesman.

According to the Dirección de Tránsito, bus service to Goicoechea, Moravia and Coronado, Barrio Escalante, Guadaloupe and other points to the northeast probably will be partially affected by the road closures.

Two suspects held in shooting death of girl, 11, who died in her own home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have arrested two men accused of fatally shooting an 11-year-old girl in April, said a judicial spokeswoman.

Homicide agents from the Judicial Investigation Organization detained two male suspects ages 22 and 24 in  Sagrada Familia and Paso Ancho Friday morning, said the judicial spokeswoman. Agents raided two homes and seized a .25 caliber pistol, which after analysis matched the type of
bullet that killed the 11-year-old, Graciela María Tioli
Salazar, said a spokesperson for the agency.

On April 5, two men attempted to rob the girl's uncle in Barrio Cristo Rey in San José, said agents at the time. The uncle had been waiting for a taxi and ran into the family's house when robbers held him up, police said then.

The girl was in the living room when the robbers shot into the window of the house and hit her in the head. Paramedics took the girl to Hospital Nacional de Niños, where she died.

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Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Venezuela's Chávez denies
Colombian terrorists links

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused neighboring Colombia of trying to provoke a war in order to justify a U.S. intervention in Venezuela.

Chávez made the accusation Sunday during his weekly radio broadcast.

Both Colombia and the United States have dismissed similar statements by Chávez.

The remarks came after U.S. intelligence sources said that documents seized by Colombian forces during a raid on a camp of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia in Ecuador showed Venezuela had deeper ties with the terrorists than previously thought.

Officials said files found on a slain Fuerzas Armadas leader's computer indicated Venezuelan officials met with leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas.

Chávez said he was not linked to the rebels and that the computer files were fake.

Terrorist leader Raul Reyes died in the March 1 raid by Colombian forces. Ecuador and Venezuela responded to the raid by mobilizing forces on their borders with Colombia.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the captured files indicate Venezuela offered to help arm the rebels, possibly with rocket-propelled grenades and ground-to-air missiles.

A Spanish newspaper said over the weekend that it had evidence that the weaponry would come from Belorussia, a place Chávez has visited and a country at odds with the United States.

Thousands of electronic documents on the computer confirm that Chávez sympathizes with the terrorist organization, said U.S. officials.  The Fuerzas Armadas is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.

The Wall Street Journal says the latest findings from the computer files could increase pressure on the Bush Administration to label Venezuela as a sponsor of terrorism.  However, such a move would mean economic sanctions placed on one of the biggest oil suppliers to the U.S.

For more than four decades, the Fuerzas Armadas and a smaller rebel group have been fighting the Colombian government in a conflict that has left thousands dead.

Infiltration by the Fuerzas Armadas into Costa Rica has been a major news story here, and Fernando Berrocal, the fired security minister, is expected to testify again today at a legislative committee. He was fired by President Óscar Arias Sánchez because he suggested that some Costa Rican politicians have ties to the terrorists, who are wholesale smugglers of drugs to the north.
Bolivia's Morales says
he will OK a recall vote

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bolivian President Evo Morales has agreed to hold a recall election. He has been in office two years.

Morales had suggested the vote in December as a referendum on his draft constitution and policies. The idea languished until it was revived by opposition politicians this week.

Morales said he will sign the recall bill into law and let the people decide if he should continue as leader or new general elections be held. The vote must be held within 90 days.

The move comes in the wake of an overwhelming vote for autonomy by Bolivia's wealthy Santa Cruz region last Sunday — a vote Morales condemned as divisive and illegal.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 93

Café culture uncovered in San José
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Moving to a foreign country is always going to leave people craving at least something of what they have left behind. For a European, this is often the laid-back café culture — having a croissant in the sunshine on a French plaza, or hiding from the British rain with a hot mocacchino, cuddled up on a sofa.

In San José there are plenty of places to catch a coffee. A soda will give you a coffee on the run, but it won't have a nice selection of frapucchinos, and the most European lunch on offer will be the ubiquitous ham and processed cheese sandwich.

The plastic atmosphere of the proliferation of coffee shops found in city malls doesn't cut it in comparison with the artsy, individualistic establishments in which musicians, revolutionaries, poets and artists got together next to the river Seine.

After one casado too many, there are, however, a few places to go for a brief retreat towards the European ideal.

Kai Café y Lunch

kia cafe
Photos by Helen Thompson                 
Just part of Kai café's desert selection

The newest one on the block, this big square café opened earlier this year. A large leather sofa fills the window closest to the highway, and a series of shining glass display cabinets house a vast selection of desserts.

Cake-lovers will rejoice. There is an abundance of choice, so much so that they have to divide the desert section of their menu into three parts – deserts, cakes and things to munch on while you're having a coffee.

Cravings for creme brulée, carrot cake, banana and nut bread, chocolate brownies, cheesecake and mini lemon tarts can all be satisfied here, although some of their pastries are rather heavy. A magazine rack ensures that you can sit back and enjoy the sweets at your own pace.

Savoury items are all along a café theme, offering sandwiches, salads, one soup and various pastries, such as quiche. Although cheaper than the regular sandwiches, the paninis - such as the delicious but rather oily Panino Vegetales Asados - are huge and filling, with a side of chips made out of various types of vegetables.

A long coffee section includes various different flavours of sweet blended coffees and national flavours from Naranjo or Orosi. Soft drinks are very overpriced, with an “Italian soda” at 2,200 colons ($4.4) consisting of a layer of flavouring – for example green apple – topped with soda water and a squirt of cream, served in a fancy glass.

Although pricey, Kia's mains are tasty and quite unusual, but the atmosphere leaves something to be desired. The light shines off every highly-polished surface, and the furniture leaves a rather sterile feeling to the entire place. Although you're not in a mall, you almost may as well be.

Address: From Plaza del Sol, 100 meters west. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Café Valandra

Café Valandra's minimalist interior

Also new, this French place looks rather unfortunately like an office from the outside. Inside it is pleasant, with colourful art on the walls and a sofa at the end of the café, complete with a table displaying various Spanish language magazines and newspapers, and a token National Geographic in English. Located in the middle of San José but away from the busy Avenida Central, it is a good place to pop into during a shopping trip.

Sandwiches here are excellent. Choose a half or a whole sandwich (half is enough for most people) that comes on home-made bread. Ingredients include real pastrami and cheese that does actually taste of something. Herbs are put to good use to give them an authentic European flavour.

Licuados are good, but very small considering the price. The desert list is small, but made up for by the extensive coffee menu which has the most imaginative blends of flavors and ingredients – and names – of any coffee list in San José.

People can also have a coffee while their friend has a cocktail, and there is a happy hour between 6-7 p.m. offering two for one beer and wine. Open until 9.30 p.m.

Address: East side of Alianza Francesa, calle 5, ave 7, Barrio Amón.

El arte del café

All the staff wear berets in this Curridabat outlet, and display cases show off a selection of good deserts including real pecan-pie and a sweet strawberry cheesecake. Dessert prices are around 2,000 colons ($4). An area near the back has large sofas and a television that is at the customer's control.

Mains include savoury pancakes with vegetarian choices, and sandwiches can be ordered on four different kinds of bread. Those hankering after a high tea can even get a cucumber sandwich.

There is a long list of coffee drinks, both hot and cold and some imaginative fruit juices and smoothies. The fruit punch tastes more like an iced-sherbert concoction than a fruit juice. 

Address: From Pops in Curridabat (by Plaza del Sol) 100 meters south. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Café Ruiseñor

Café Ruiseñor's leafy balcony

A haven of hanging baskets, with fresh flowers on the tables and an array of breads behind the counter. The Ruiseñor is the businessman's breakfast choice, full of shirted and tied men enjoying a few croissants in the spring-like atmosphere of this café.

This is a good choice to start the day, with continental, English, Costa Rican and almost-American breakfast choices. The maiz pancakes with honey are ever so slightly different to the American version, and all breakfasts come with a coffee and a glass of the freshest orange juice you are likely to get in San José. Breakfast prices range from around 2,500 colons to 3,500 colons ($5 to $7).

Later on, diners can choose from a selection of quiches, as well as other mains from pastas to meat dishes. Desserts are also tempting and varied. The two-storey café is agreeably separated from the main highway by a smaller slip-road and a strip of trees, leaving diners to enjoy their meal on the open balcony without the proximity of exhaust-belching buses.

Address: From Mall San Pedro, 250 meters west.

Claudio's Delicafé

Recently re-decorated Claudio's Delicafé

Arguably one of San José's most attractive buildings, this café is attached to an art school and is not afraid of letting the creativity filter through into the café itself. Previously known as Café Arte, the French owner of San Pedro restaurant Le Chandelier
recently took over the café and has restyled the entire thing, very much to its benefit.

One corner of the café is a tower-like extension, its cylindrical shape and many windows giving an airy atmosphere. Wicker-backed chairs, wooden sofas and arty photography give the interior an understated style. Full use is
cake and coffee
Chocolate cake and
now made of theoutside section, with an awning ensuring that people can sit outside even in the rainy season.

The only thing lacking is a sweeping view of an Italian city. Instead, the café looks out at a road and a white-washed medical practice.

The menu remains understated, with three sandwiches on offer. They're rather basic, mostly based around cheese and ham, but the bread is better than most. A new addition is the almuerzo buffet, which maintains a Tico casado theme, including a refresco and salad in the 2,200 colon ($4.40) price.

What people really come here for are the deserts. All ostensibly hand-made, there is a decent selection of chocolate and fruity cakes that go perfectly with a crushed-ice frapucchino in various different flavours. Small packets of pastries that can be taken away and nibbled at a later date are also available – on a good day this includes heavenly mini-brownies. 

Address: From Iglesia Santa Teresita, 400 meters east.                      

Park Avenue café

cafe park avenue
Park Avenue Café announces its specials daily

A very Costa Rican version of a café. The buffet serves upmarket casado-style lunches, including dishes such as fajitas and chicken in white wine. Flavors are generally good, but sometimes the buffet format leaves the rice to get chewy.

Onion string decorations put you in mind of France, but to get European-style food you will have to wait a while. Dishes not in the buffet such as spaghettis and sandwiches can be ordered, but take some time to arrive.

Old black-and-white photos adorn the walls, and the tables are decorated with newspaper extracts. Coffee is brought to the table in the traditional way, the filter bag supported by a coloufully-painted wooden frame. Dessert selection is small, but includes things like tiramisu. Although it doesn't taste exactly like an original Italian tiramisu, the creamy confection is still a good way to round off the meal. Service is very enthusiastic and warm.

Address: Avenida Central, opposite the Museo Nacional.

Play it safe in tournament poker
There’s a misconception about tournament poker that goes like this:  Players need to try frequent sophisticated bluffs and make lots of risky moves to maintain an unpredictable image and to win. 

Well, there might be some truth to that in small buy-in tournaments, or even online poker tournaments where the blinds and antes escalate quickly.  But on poker’s biggest stage, the World Series of Poker, nothing could be further from the truth.

The best tournament players actually try to avoid risky plays altogether.  They prefer to wait for their opponents to make the risky moves.  They’ll wait patiently until they catch a strong hand.  When they do, they’ll take down their overly aggressive foes.

Watch any tournament on television and you’re sure to see some no-name player at the final table.  Chances are you’ll never see him again.  Sure, you’ll occasionally you’ll see an unknown player win using ultra-aggressive tactics, but trust me, that kamikaze style just doesn’t work consistently.

You see, great players will play a wide range of dealt cards but they’ll never risk a large percentage of their chips on a marginal hand.  When they do push in their chips, they’ll have a premium hand to back up their bet.  In situations where it’s unclear whether they have the best hand, the best players will choose to play it safe. 

To be sure, playing it safe isn’t a flashy style of poker.  Some even claim that it’s too weak and passive.  That being said, playing safe poker is still a proven recipe for success in the world’s biggest poker tournaments.

That’s because the goal in high-stakes tournaments is to win lots of small pots without the risk of going broke.  Of course, you’ve got to occasionally win a big pot too.   Just stay patient.  Eventually, some hyper-aggressive player will go crazy with a bluff when you do have a premium hand.  Or, he won’t believe you when you have a strong hand and he’ll call your big bet.  It’s bound to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, bluffing is a critical part of the game.  It’s a weapon all pros use in tournament play.  They just won’t bluff nearly as often as you think.

Also, professionals will tend to make smaller, more controlled bluffs to minimize their risk.  If they get caught, well, that’s not the end of the world.  A failed bluff could easily payoff later in a much bigger pot when the pro has the unbeatable hand. 

Now, you will have to change up your game when you become short-stacked in a tournament.  You’ll be forced to make more risky plays.  Just be sure you don’t push the panic button too quickly!  Skilled players realize that a short stack doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on patient play.  In poker, unexpected situations can occur at any time but you have to wait for the right opportunity.

If you do choose to run a bluff, don’t be afraid to put your table image to work.  When other players observe that you don’t bluff often, that’s the time to confuse them with a little well-timed deceit.

And always pay attention to the skill level of your opponents.  Big buy-in events attract players with a wide range of poker ability.  If you find yourself seated at a table full of bad players, running a risky bluff would be foolish.  Instead, wait for a good hand and hope you’re called.

That same approach won’t be quite as effective against highly skilled players; they’ll know just what you’re up to.  Against tough players, you’ll have to bluff occasionally, but again, not as often as you think.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

Art Galleries ...

Surreal circus art leaves circle of life question open to onlookers

introvocoWandering around the Museo Calderon Guardia, looking at austere historical artifacts about the socialist former president complete with wax-work statue, the last thing a visitor expects to come across is a circus tent.

Until May 22, that is precisely what museum-goers can expect when they enter the small temporary exhibition space.

A colorful toy snake curls around the bottom of a notice board announcing “Introvoco” with two clown shoes fastened to it.

The floor is covered in a carpet of hay, giving the room a barn-yard smell, and most of it is obscured by a blue tarpaulin.

Read more - click here

Art Biennial breaks down national stereotypes

ticosynicasA work of art that involves only a metal key is among the most acclaimed piece in the Museo de Arte Costarricense's latest exhibition.

Also on display are old Caterpillar boots, a patchwork quilt and a foosball table, all aimed at breaking down the stereotypes that exist between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans.

As Nicaraguan migration into Costa Rica continues, so do tensions between the two national groups.

The U.S. Department of State's most recent estimate was that up to 15 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of Nicaraguans who have migrated here mainly in search of work.

Read more - click here

Dramatic Arts ...

Weekend of belly dance will present the traditional side of the art

belly dancerBelly dance and other oriental forms will be celebrated in three nights of dance and plenty of workshops during the first Festival Nacional de Danza Oriental.

Dance group Zuhair Danza Oriental decided to put on a weekend of oriental dancing due to the growing success of belly dance in Costa Rica.

The festival aims to show the dance, called baile de vientre in Spanish, in its traditional form, with emphasis on its rythmic characteristics and the key part that exotic clothing plays in the dance.

Belly dancing originates from the Middle East, and it is often claimed to be the earliest social dance in history, due to depictions in ancient Egyption artwork.

Read more - click here

Salsa and big band collide in a night of dinner and dancing

Music students of Pérez Zeledón and salsa-dancing fans of the group Son de Tikizia are preparing for a night of dinner and dancing to be held in the capital of the province.

The big band of the town that calls itself Pérez Zeledón, but whose actual name is San Isidro del General, will join dancers from the Universidad Nacional to present Cena Bailable May 23.

A concert by the 25 members of the big band will start off the evening, which will continue with a buffet-style dinner and end up with dancing.

The big band musicians are all students of the Escuela de Música Sinfónica de Pérez Zeledón, Universidad Nacional, and will be interpreting everything from jazz to popular under the  direction of  Leonel Rodríguez Cambronero.

Read more - click here


Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

Click here to read more

Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

Click here to read the full review

Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

Click here to read more

New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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