2007 WSOP: $5K PLO Final Table with Humberto Brenes
Thirty minutes remained before the final table of the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha final table was to begin, Humberto Brenes was standing at tableside on the phone. From the speaker, I could hear rapid-fire Spanish. I could only assume it was coming from Brenes' native Costa Rica.
His hand over the receiver, he said, "My daughter. For good luck."
Vegas can be an unsettling place for any family man. Hustlers and hoods stand on the neon's fringe. After too long here, a person can start looking at those fringe-dwellers and start to think they are, for lack of a better word, normal.
That's why Brenes tethers himself to his family, either telephonically or otherwise. His entire family is on their way here in a couple of weeks. He says a few other things and then gives me a nod that says, "I need them here." And I know what he means.
Today, though, his good luck will have to be manufactured over the phone. His support comes from a few friends in the front row. It's his 20th final table in his 35 year professional poker career. With two bracelets already to his name, he seems more comfortable than anybody at the table.
With a few minutes before the start of play, Brenes pulls SuperShark007 from is pocket and pushes it toward a TV camera.
"007!" he yells, and sits down to play.
"Welcome to the 2007 World Series of Poker," the tournament director said, "You guys are in for a treat today."
Usually, when a TD opens a table like that, he's overstating it. Over time, tables start to look the same, and for writers can rarely be described as a "treat." This one, however, is. The line-up is full of top pros and PokerStars players.
Humberto Brenes (San Jose, Costa Rica) 275,000
John Juanda (Las Vegas, NV) 220,000
Larry Jonsson (Malmoe, Sweeden) 900,000
Minh Ly (Las Vegas, NV) 240,000
Burt Boutin (Henderson, NV) 460,000
Robin Keston (London, England) 335,000
Sirous Jamshidi (Philadelphia, PA) 865,000
David Ulliot (Hull, UK )1,300,000
Erik Cajelais (Montreal, QC) 1,075,000
Brenes we already know, but two other players here have logged significant time on PokerStars as as well. Sweden's Larry Jonsson is a med school dropout who is now a pro poker player.
Robin Keston, from London, is now playing in his eighth WSOP and, of all games, considers PLO to be his best. Alas, if it's his best game, it would not be one he would win today. After getting involved in a hand with John Juanda, Keston called Juanda's all-in on a 8sQhQdTh board. It turned out to be the wrong call. He had two kings to Juanda's trips. With only a re-draw to his kings, he was drawing to a two outer and missed.
On the next hand, Keston moved all-in after a Minh Ly raise...only to have have Sirous Jamshidi come over the top of him. Minh and Sirous both held aces to Robin's kings. Robin also has live diamonds with KhKd8d6d . Flop is 9dTTs2d. He suddenly looked like he had hopes. He was drawing very live to flush and straight outs. The three of hearts on the turn is no help and the six of of clubs on the river was just as useless. Just like that, Robin was out in ninth place, earning $57,721.
Fifty-some thousand bucks is nothing to sneeze at, to be sure. Still, in this event, it may barely cover the players buy-ins and re-buys. At $5,000 a pop, 145 people started this event. Those players re-bought 421 times to build a massive $2,748,610 prize pool.
Not a lot of people talk about how much they are in for, but for some people, the bottom money was barely enough to make them feel whole again. Brenes confided late last night, he's in the event for $20,000...a paltry sum considered the auto-re-buys and double add-ons available in the tournament.
The $20,000 now is of little matter. Brenes and everybody else at the table are guaranteed a least a little profit. The question will be whether that profit carries with it the even more valuable bracelet.
It's clear Brenes wants it. While he's wearing both his bracelets from the 1990s on is wrists, his attitude suggests he will not be entirely happy without winning another. Again, I note, he seems more subdued than on the first day of the tournament. During the re-buy period, he was animated, verging on nutty. The TV cameras were conspicuously absent, but Brenes' personality was not.
Now, while Brenes has his SuperShark007 on a side table beside him, his spot in the one-seat is quiet. Like they used to say in the old westerns..."It's quiet. Too quiet." Though he's come in for one raise so far, he's gotten no action.
A five-minute bathroom break leaves the table with eight players remaining, including one Humberto Brenes, his shark waiting to pounce. It wouldn't take long.
With the blinds taking ever-larger bites from his stack, Humberto looked at the dealer and threw his thumb toward the roof. It would be a raise to 120,000, one that would undoubtedly commit him to the pot. Devilfish called and they saw the flop: 2h4h6s. With only 100,000 left to play, Humberto moved all-in. Devilfish called with nary a thought. With two queens and the heart flush draw, Devilfish was ahead against Humberto's As5s8sKh. With a nine of clubs on the turn and queen of hearts on the river, Humberto was gone.
He gave his shark one last look at the table and then headed for the rail in eighth place. He won $79,710, a tidy $59,000 profit.
"I had to move," he said on his way out. He accepted congratulations with a "Muchos gracias," and walked out.
It's sort of hard to consider if you're an outsider. Most people would be happy to be handed $80,000. However, after you've battled through the toughest field in the World Series so far this year, an eighth place finish is less than inspiring. The disappointment was evident on Brenes' face.
Still, after 35 years and 20 final tables, Brenes knows how to handle this. The first week of this year's World Series is still days away from being over. The chances for another bracelet are many.
Or, if you will, the shark still has time to feed.