How I won LAPT Panama

I arrived in Panama with a lot of expectations. Every time I'm about to play a tournament on the Latin American Poker Tour, I have faith. Don't ask me why, but this time I felt something special. Something big was about to happen.

The first day found me sharing a table with my countryman Christian Sare, the Argentine who is in the fight for LAPT Player of the Year and online player Gerardo Rodriguez.

During the day, I felt very comfortable. I slowly developed my game and chipped up in the process. I watched as my fellow Team PokerStars Pros fell. Only Mexico's Christian De Leon and I were still playing. Unfortunately "El Grillo" was eliminated, so the responsibility of representing the Team fell on me.

Survival may be all that matters on Day 1, but you also have to win some chips to face the next day. I finished Day 1 with 118,300, among the leaders of the tournament. I was very satisfied but knew that there was still a long way to go.

Day 2 was anything but simple. I ended up at the table with several good players, including Panamanians Victor Lemos and José de la Guardia, Venezuelan Valerio Varela, Britain's Ram Razavi, and Argentine Martín Díaz.

I played aggressively, looked for good spots, and pushed my opponents where I could, especially during the bubble where I decided to chip up as much as I could.

It worked. At the end of the day, I was at the top of the counts with 850,000 chips and only 23 players remaining.

The third day is always the shortest because only a few eliminations are needed to reach the final table. There were still big players in the field. I eliminated the Mexican Gerardo Godinez first with my jacks against his ace-king all-in preflop. Then I eliminated Vincenzo Giannelli, the Venezuelan giant who has great results and experience in the LAPT.

Little by little, I accumulated a stack. When Colombian Jimmy Brown went out, only nine of us were left. That's when local Ajit Kumar decided to ship his last 250,000 chips with his jacks. I had king-queen. I analyzed the situation and my stack which was nearly 1.5 million in chips. I decided to try to eliminate him. I called. The flop brought the K♥. It held, and Kumar was gone.

After a round of applause for the final eight, we bagged the chips and I found out that I was only 4,000 chips behind the chip leader, American Patrick Mahoney. I knew he was a talented online player, and something told me the title fight would be between us.

With my chips bagged up, I went to swim, ate something, and went to bed early. Sunday was an important day.

I was quiet when we reached the final table. I listened carefully to tour president David Carrion and what he had to say about each of the players.

The final table began with lots of action. On the very first hand, I eliminated Diego Sanchez and went ahead of Mahoney in the counts.

Players continued to fall. First went Costa Rican Johnny Sandoval. After that Peruvian Walid Mubarak fell at the hands of Brazilian Marco Antonio Pedroso who in turn was eliminated by Mahoney.

It left us exactly where I expected: Mahoney versus me for the title. I had a stack of 3,100,000, and Mahoney was 400,000 chips ahead of me. It was going to be hard, but I was not going to give up.

During the first three hours of play, we had no big pots. However Patrick got better cards than me and could pulled ahead by 1.5 million. I hunkered down and looked for my spot.

It came when Mahoney raised to 175,000 from the button. I saw king-queen and decided to go all-in. Mahoney is an aggressive player, so I thought I was ahead of the hand he could have. This time I was wrong. He had a legitimate hand: ace-queen.

I got lucky. I flopped a king and a queen. The hand held, and I was the chip leader again.

It was my turn to be aggressive and put the pressure on Mahoney. Ultimately, we picked up a bit of a cooler: my pocket tens versus his ace-king. We got it all in.

When the T♠ came on he flop, it felt like touching heaven with my hands. When I boated up on the turn, the tournament was over. I'd won. I was free to sit back and listen to my friends sing "Dale Campeon."

The celebration was as warm and fun as any I can remember. I had finally gotten something I really wanted: an LAPT championship.

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Leo Fernandez
@PokerStars in PokerStars news