What do you know about Panama?
Not too much?
That will change completely now because, before you head out to play in the inaugural PokerStars Championship Panama, here are 14 lesser known facts about the host country you can pack in your carry-on.
1) The Greatest Shortcut
Let’s start with “a man, a plan, a canal, Panama." Did you notice that was a palindrome?
Best. Shortcut. Ever.
Anyway, the hallmark of Panama wasn’t originally built by the US, as you might think, but by the French.
France started building in 1881. 23 years later the US took over after France had suffered the loss of over 25,000 workers. That’s almost three dead workers per day over a quarter of a century!
The canal was eventually opened in 1914. Further expansion works began in 2007 and were finished in 2016. In the first year 1,000 ships passed through the canal; now there are more than 15,000.
The canal is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Using the Panama Canal instead of the route around South America equals a shortcut of 12,700 km. That’s almost a third of the length of the equator.
2) Fees Can Be Steep
The highest fee ever paid to go through the Panama Canal was $376,000 by the Norwegian Pearl in 2010. The lowest was 36 cents paid by Richard Halliburton, who swam through the canal in 1928. Nobody knows where he put the change.
3) Captain Morgan Not Popular
Panama City was raided in 1671 by a Welsh privateer called Henry Morgan. He landed on the Atlantic coast and then walked most of the 80 km down to Old Panama City through swamps and rain forest with about 1,400 men.
Morgan looted the city, burned it down and tortured some of the inhabitants. By the way, today’s famous rum brand Captain Morgan is named after this man. It’s probably not very popular in Panama.
4) Part City, Part Rain Forest
Panama City is the only capital that has rain forest within its city limits.
Not the hat.
5) 25th in Happiness
Panamanians rank 25th out of 157 countries in the World Happiness Index. In last place is Burundi so don’t expect a PokerStars Championship to be held there any time soon.
6) Coins Only
Ask the guy next to you at the table this: What do Panama and the film “Rocky” have in common?
Answer: The currency is called the Balboa. It’s accepted at 1-1 to the US dollar, which is also universally accepted.
Also, the Balboa strangely only comes in coins. Makes you wonder what a 1 million Balboa guarantee would look like.
7) It's Not Their Hat
The Panama hat is not from Panama. It originates in Ecuador but was brought to Panama before being exported across the sea.
8) Oldest Railroad in the World
In Panama you can swim in the Atlantic and the Pacific on the same day.
Also, you can get from Panama City to Colon on the Atlantic using the oldest continually operating railroad in the world. It’s an 80 km trip.
9) Van Halen Appreciation is Low
Allegedly only 30% of the Panamanians know the song “Panama” by Van Halen. What a pity!
They probably all know that other terrible Van Halen song called “Leap” or “Hop” or something.
10) Coffee Not Equal to Starbucks
Starbucks gets a lot of its coffee from Panama but only opened its first store there in August 2015. Panama was only the 15th market in Latin America they expanded into.
11) Rain or Shine Only
The rainy season in Panama lasts from May to November so the PSC happens during the dry season.
The danger of hurricanes hitting the country is minimal as Panama lies south of Hurricane Alley and is seldom affected by storms.
Other seasons than these two are basically unknown. The Caribbean, baby.
12) Flush with Plants
Panama has an incredible variety of flora and fauna. There are about 1,000 different bird species, about 1,400 sorts of orchids and 1,500 different trees – more than 10,000 different plants over all. That’s more than in the US and Canada combined.
13) The Blue Stands for Purity
Panama’s flag – the white stands for peace, blue for purity and red for authority and law. The stars represent the Conservative and the Liberal Party.
14) Beaches Unlimited
The temperatures in Panama City are between 24° and 31° C all-year round. The country has thousands of kilometres of shoreline and an almost unlimited number of beaches.
We’ll shortly bring you more information about poker in Panama and the PokerStars Championship at the Sortis Hotel & Casino next week. Check back to the PokerListings news section for reports on all the action.