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May 5, 2008 9:45 PM

LAPT Rio: The end of the beginning

A couple of weeks ago, two young Dutchmen left their homes in Amsterdam for a holiday in South America. When they return to Europe in a few days from now, one of them will be $228,000 richer, and will be known as the first ever champion of the Latin American Poker Tour.

"We were in the neighbourhood, so we thought we'd give it a go," explained that particular 19-year-old, named Julien Nuijten, as he described the thought process that led him from Argentina to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to take part in the largest poker tournament ever to be hosted in the continent.


While his definition of "neighbourhood" might need some work, Nuijten's poker playing is already in tip-top shape. He outlasted 313 others, each stumping up $2,500, to take down this magnificent tournament. It was probably worth the brief diversion.

In truth, few could deny that Nuijten deserved this one. The Brazilian PokerStars blogger, Maria, first noticed him in the corridor of the Intercontinental Hotel on Friday and she reported there and then that she thought she had just seen the potential champion. He seemed focused, confident, calm and determined and already had the demeanour of a winner, she said.

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Sure enough, we all watched as his 10,000 starting stack grew relentlessly for two days, acquiring all the chips of Team PokerStars Pro's Humberto Brenes early on day one, then increasing hour on hour. Late last night, with ten players remaining in the field, Nuijten was still among them and, guess what, he still seemed focused, confident, calm and determined.

When he found pocket aces to blast away Alex Marques's pocket kings, we had a final table, and we had a monstrous chip leader. By 9pm tonight, we had a winner.

The final table began today in Rio with these nine players still in with a shout:

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Julien Nuijten (Holland) -- 970,000
Vitaly Kovyazin (USA) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 380,000
Alex Brenes (Costa Rica) -- 324,000
Nikolai Senniger (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 318,000
Juan Carlos Burguillos (Venezuela) -- 297,000
Rafael Pardo (Colombia) -- PokerStars qualifier --- 278,000
Eduardo Henriques (Brazil) -- 275,000
Oliver Kugler (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 176,000
Severin Walser (Switzerland) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 175,000

They did their interviews, they told us their biographies, and then they lined up to be snapped in front of a photographic mural showing an aerial view of Rio. Then they were allowed to play some poker.

The opening exchanges were fairly tight, but it was less than 20 minutes before we lost our first contender. Severin Walser was among the quieter people in what had been a boisterous tournament area, boosted by huge and vocal crowds throughout the three days. But he was also the person who probably understood the most of what was going on around him, boasting fluency in at least five languages in addition to his native Swiss/German.

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He also had one of the most glittering poker resumes, with a final table appearance at the 2007 World Series under his belt, where he finished fourth in a seven-card stud event from a final table featuring Daniel Negreanu, Jeffrey Lissandro and Howard Lederer.

But he knows that in poker, the cards speak, and his suited ace-jack couldn't beat Rafael Pardo's aces, all in pre-flop. Goodbye, Auf Wiedersehen, adios, au revoir Severin.

The next man out was one of a strong Latin American contingent in Rio. Juan Carlos Burguillos, from Venezeuela, had bludgeoned his way through the field yesterday afternoon, and cruised onto the final table with around about the average in chips. But he began sliding in the wrong direction today and was on the receiving end of a sickening two outer (more of those later) against Nikolai Senniger that left him crippled.

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He soon found himself shoving all in behind a suited queen-eight. Oliver Kugler, from Germany, called with an ace and it stayed good. Burguillos was out, and the noise in the tournament room was turned down from 11 to just 10 with the elimination of the Latin American.

It was another Latin American who followed Burguillos out the door, although Rafael Pardo will look back on this tournament as one of the most profitable investments of $7 in his life. The Colombian entered the PokerStars "steps" qualifying tournaments at level one, costing all of $7.50. He progressed all the way to the online final, earned his seat for this tournament, then started his ascent all over again in the bricks and mortar environment.

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He made it all the way to the final table, but was another one who spent the first hour or so card dead, else playing into the big stack of Julien Nuijten. Eventually, Pardo got his stack into the middle and earned a potential triple up when both Nuijten and Vitaly Kovyazin called. But when Nuijten bet into a dry side pot on a king-high flop, Pardo probably knew he was drawing thin. Sure enough, although his nine-eight had made middle pair, Nuijten had the king and the Colombian was done.

As previously mentioned, the Latin Americans had received wonderful support here in Rio, with an intrigued crown migrating from the beach or soccer stadiums to the Intercontinental Hotel to shout, cheer and sing throughout three days. The player who thrived most in this environment seemed to be the vibrant Eduardo Hernandes, who fittingly sported the iconic canary-yellow Brazil soccer shirt yesterday, and reliably became the subject of all the best photos in the tournament.

No one wanted to see him eliminated, but he took the fall in sixth place when his 7-8 was out-done by Nuijten's A-5. The crowd, of course, had erupted when an eight flopped, but the ace on the river sealed it and he was gone. Our photographer was on hand to get the sorry elimination photo, but who wants to see that, when we can look again at Eduardo in happier times yesterday.

I make no apology for the repetition, because if one photo could sum up the whole tournament in Brazil, this would be it:

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The five remaining all had a decent enough chip stack, but some knew they were under greater threat than the others. Oliver Kugler, one of two German players who had made it to the final, fell into this category, but ended up departing the tournament knowing he hadn't done much wrong. Kugler, who moved to Rio from Hamburg four years ago, found pocket queens and gradually built up a sizeable pot against Vitaly Kovyazin.

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But the flop and turn was all a bit black and club-shaped for Kugler's red queens and by the time he was all in, Kovyazin's ace of clubs had made the nut flush. Kugler was out.

Oliver's departure left us with four, and it also left Julien Nuijten and Vitaly Kovyazin with the big stacks that they continued to trade with one another. More quietly, at the other end of the table, was a man named Brenes, who has a name scarcely associated with silence at a poker table. But with brother Humberto looking on, the younger Brenes -- Alex -- had steadily progressed to the final four.

And even though he would go no further, Brenes did earn at least half an hour in the spotlight as he raged, raged against the dying of the light. A huge hand against the other short stack, Nikolai Senniger, (A-Q versus 10-10) left Brenes with 7,000 in chips, which was less than a big blind. It was all in the next hand, of course, with a dominated ace, but he rivered a seven to double up.

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Then Brenes found ace-king, good for another double up, and then I think he doubled up again, although the crowd became so thick with Costa Rican supporters watching the phoenix rise from the flames that I couldn't even see. I didn't need to, either. The roars of triumph or howls of anguish could be heard in San Jose.

As it was, there were three or four roars, followed by one of those squeals. His Q-3 ultimately wasn't good enough and Brenes made his way from the tournament floor, having established that there are two men with that name worthy of attention.

Nikolai Senniger had found his way to the last three with a minimum of fuss. And he must have been delighted when the two huge stacks in front of Julien Nuijten and Vitaly Kovyazin began taking each other on. At one point, Julien put Vitaly to the test for all his chips and the American looked like he might call at one point. In the end, he folded and lived to fight another day.

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So Nikolai was undoubtedly in the sights of the two leaders, but ended up getting fairly unlucky to depart in third. The PokerStars qualifier from Germany found jacks and got it all in pre-flop. Not bad, but desperately unfortunate when your opponent has found kings. There was no outdraw and Senniger took his leave, $86,350 richer.

That left Julien and Vitaly to duke it out for first. They had been the most aggressive players all day, and when I interviewed them both before the final table, they had spent a good deal of time discussing each other's game, having played together all day yesterday. They both seemed to have the measure of each other, and they also had almost the same amount in chips. It was going to be a belter.

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Vitaly, who originated in Russia but emigrated to the United States in the 1990s, had made a final table of a World Series circuit event in 2006 and had found a home at the tables of Foxwoods and Atlantic City on the east coast. But he had qualified for the Rio jaunt online, winning a 10,000 FPP satellite on PokerStars, which effectively meant he was freerolling.

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By contrast, Julien was a direct buy-in, with no major poker tournament results to his name. But he'd been in similar situations to this one, having won the world championship of "Magic: The Gathering" when he was just 15. "Magic" players, including Dario Minieri and Noah Boeken of Team PokerStars Pro, have frequently found their experience to stand them in good stead around the poker tables. And so it seemed again with the emergence of Julien.

The heads-up battle was all we expected, and more. Vitaly's tactics seemed to be to raise in position pre-flop, or call Julien's pre-flop bets, and make a decision once three cards were in the middle. Julien's seemed to be exactly the same. Both players were sliding in stacks of 100,000, then check-raising as though their life depended on it.

Julien took the lead, then Vitaly hauled it back, when he hit a two-outer on the river after Julien had picked off a bluff. So they grinded some more.

The final hand was typical, with both players entering the pot with sub-standard starting cards, and then both getting a piece of the flop and expecting to trap the other. In the end, it was Julien whose trap was deeper: he'd flopped trips with his 8-7 when Vitaly's Q-5 had hit top pair. It all went in on the turn and Julien's hand held up. That was that.

All in all, it's been an amazing three days in Rio. More than 300 turned up for this first event on a whole new tour, which bettered anyone's expectations. As we packed up our things to disappear into the Rio night, one phrase was repeated more often than any other among journalists, players, dealers and staff:

"See you next year."

This was only the beginning.

* * * * *

The video blog team were, of course, on hand to capture all the action from the final table. Here's their latest visual masterpiece, with more available over at

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May 5, 2008 1:19 PM

LAPT Rio: Final table action

Julien Nuijten, from Amsterdam, Holland, wins LAPT Rio, earning $222,940

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Vitaly Kovyazin, PokerStars qualifier from New York, is elimiminated in second place, earning $117,750

8.05pm -- This one is all over. Julien Nuijten, the 19-year-old from Amsterdam, takes it down. He finally gets a hand to stand up. Julien bets 100,000 pre-flop and Vitaly calls. The flop comes 7d-7s-Qs and he bets 100,000 again. Vitaly bumps it up to 300,000 and Julien calls. The turn is the 2s and Vitaly moves all in for about 800,000. Julien calls instantly and shows 7s-8s for trips with a flush draw. Vitaly shows Qh-5s for top pair. Julien has to dodge a queen on the end and this time he manages it, meaning Vitaly is gone. The FPP player from New York played a fierce final table game, but youth prevailed.

8pm -- Julien returns to his previous guise as aggressor, entering any pot in position and betting every time Vitaly checks. That is usually enough to take it down. One hand they go a bit further, with Vitaly betting 120,000 on the turn, which is called by Julien. Julien bets the river and takes it.

7.50pm -- Vitaly has oiled his raising arm and has been taking down a few pots from Julien, re-raising the Dutchman's flop bets. Then they get it all the way to the river on one hand -- certainly a rarity -- where Julien's turned pair of eights best Vitaly's flopped pair of fours. They're dead even.

7.45pm -- Take a look at the video profiles of all the final table players, including the two duking it out in front of me at the moment:

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7.40pm -- Wow. If Julien Nuijten doesn't win this, he's going to look back at this hand and realise he couldn't have got closer. Vitali gets it all in on a flop of Jd-9d-9h, re-raising Julien's flop bet. Julien insta-calls and shows A-8d for the nut flush draw. Everyone expects Vitali to have some kind of hand, but he actually shows a total bluff: 8s-5c. Even Julien's ace high is good if this one bricks, but it doesn't. The river is a miraculous five, giving the FPP qualifier from New York the two pair. We're back to even again.

7.30pm -- Julien continues his dominance of this heads up when he moves in on a flop of 7d-7s-5h. Julien had raised pre-flop, Vitaly called. Then came those two sevens and a five and Julien bet 100,000. Vitali made it 300,000 and Julien went in over the top. Vitali scowled and folded and Julien showed six-eight for the open-ended straight draw.

7.20pm -- Big pot for Julien, catching Vitaly with his hands in the cookie jar. Julien raises to 90,000 pre-flop, Vitaly calls. They both check the Jc-8d-10s flop and the 6h turns. Vitaly bets 125,000 and Julien calls. The river is 5c and Vitaly bets 200,000. Julien calls. Vitaly wants to muck, but the dealer shows his three high. Julien had 8-6 and is now back in the lead.

7.15pm -- Double up for Vitaly Kovyazin.
The very next hand it all goes in on a flop of Ks-6c-7c. Vitaly shows 7-8 for middle pair, but Julien has K-Q for top pair. Vitaly is the all in player, but he gets a massive reprieve on the river when a second seven spikes and gives him his trips. They're about where they started.

7.11pm -- The first major pot goes to Julien Nuijten. Vitaly makes up the big blind and they check the board of 4d 8h 8d.The turn brings a 6s and Vitaly bets 50,000. Julien calls. The river is Qh and then it gets frisky.Julien bets 120,000, Vitaly makes it 300,000 and Julien moves in. Vitaly folds.

7.10pm -- Neither of these players are scared to get their chips in, and each pot is opened for about 90,000. Call is the standard response, but it's never got past the turn after one or the other bets 100,000.

7.05pm -- We've just moved into level 24, where the blinds and antes are: 15,000-30,000 (4,000).

7pm -- After a break for a photo call, the heads up begins. It's raise, fold for the early skirmishes with neither player on top. But these two have been at one another for at least two days and fireworks are certain.

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6.30pm -- The two most aggressive players at the table have ended heads up. No one is surprised, and this could be an excellent finale to this spectacular tournament. They are almost matched in chips, with Julien having the slight edge. Here we have it:

Julien Nuijten -- 1,761,000
Vitaly Kovyazin -- 1,417,000

Remember, you can catch up on the work of the video blog team over on

A list of the winners in Rio can be found HERE.

Nikolai Senniger, PokerStars qualifier from Germany, eliminated in third place, earning $86,350
6.20pm -- Who said "cooler"? Nikolai Senniger gets involved in a raising battle with Julien Nuijten pre-flop. It's not long until his entire stack of about 770,000 is in the middle and Julien calls. It's jacks against kings in front of Nikolai and Julien, respectively.

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There are no outdraws and Julien takes another one out. Nikolai, a PokerStars qualifier, is done.

6pm -- The two chip leaders get involved in what could have been potentially tournament ending. On a flop of 4s-Kc-5s, Vitaly checks, Julien bets 80,000 and Vitaly check-raises to 180,000. Julien insta-shoves for about a million, giving Vitaly one of those decisions that will take some time.

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He paces, he scratches his face, he paces, he props on his chair. Julien, meanwhile, chats to the tournament director and the crowd, evidently unperturbed. Vitaly eventually passes and Julien shows the 3s, which doesn't tell us much.

Chip counts after Alex Brenes's elimination
Nikolai -- 700,000
Vitaly -- 1,400,000
Julien -- 1,000,000

Alex Brenes, Costa Rica, eliminated in fourth place earning $62,800
5.45pm Brenes went on a bit of a tear, shoving his micro stack in the middle three times and doubling up on the first two occasions. But he pushed it once too often, behind queen three, and ran into queen nine.

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Although the vocal support, led by brother Humberto, got something to cheer about when Alex picked up an open-ended straight draw on the flop, it didn't get there and he was gone.

5.40pm -- Huge double up for Nikolai Senniger, particularly crucial as it came against the other short stack, Alex Brenes. It's a fairly standard pair versus overcards, all-in pre-flop enounter. Nikolai has tens; Alex has A-Q. They run it all the way for a 750,000 pot and it goes to the German qualifier.

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Alex is left with just 7,000. That's all-in on the very next hand and he doubles up, but it's going to be a long way from here.

5.30pm -- We've just entered level 23, with the blinds at 12,000-30,000 and a 3,000 ante. The approximate counts of the remaining players are:

Vitaly Kovyazin (USA) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 1,420,000
Julien Nuijten (Holland) -- 1,050,000
Nikolai Senniger (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 320,000
Alex Brenes (Costa Rica) -- 320,000

5.20pm -- The two chip leaders tangle, with Julien Nuijten coming out on top. Julien raises 60,000 pre-flop and Vitaly calls. The flop is 8d-Jc-5s and Julien bets 60,000, which Vitaly calls again. The turn is 9d and Julien bets 75,000. Vitaly calls. The river is 9s and they both now check.

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Julien shows pocket fives for the flopped set that filled up on the end. Vitaly didn't bite at the end.

5pm -- Julien Nuijten is now toying with his opponents, re-raising the short stacked Nikolai Senniger for his entire stack pre-flop, then flashing king-eight after the German player folds.

Eduardo Henriques, Brazil, eliminated in fifth place, earning $47,100
4.55pm -- The rafters just lifted here in Rio, but they settled fairly quickly as the Brazil supporting contingent dissolved into groans. Home favourite Eduardo Henriques is out, slain by Julien Nuijten.

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It's folded to Julien on the button, who raises to 55,000. Eduardo shoves all in from the small blind -- it's for about 155,000 -- and that's enough to get the first massive cheer of the hand. Julien keeps his cool, counts it out precisely, then makes the call. Julien shows Ah-5c and Eduardo has been caught with 7c-8d. However, the flop is 4c-4d-8h catapulting Eduardo into the lead, and sending the decibel-counter up to about 1,000 in the Intercontinental. The turn is the Qd, but the river is the Ac, meaning Julien has rivered the top pair and sent Eduardo out. He takes $47,100.

Oliver Kugler, PokerStars qualifier from Germany, eliminated in sixth place earning $31,400
4.35pm -- There's no stopping Vitaly Kovyazin and Oliver Kugler is his latest victim. Oliver raised to 35,000 from the cut off and Vitaly called from the big blind. The flop was all clubs: 10-3-4 and after Vitaly checked, Oliver bet 85,000. Vitaly called again. The turn was the 2c and Vitaly checked again, prompting Oliver to move his last 167,000 into the pot. Vitaly can't call quickly enough, showing Ac-6h for the turned nut flush. Oliver mucks, but the dealer shows two red queens that have been outdrawn by the aggressive American player.

4.35pm -- Humberto Brenes has taken over announcing duties on the final table, and he's even joining in the table talk. He's just noticed Julien Nuijten in the one seat and said: "Hey, I remember you. You have my chips," referring to his day one elimination at the hands of the young Dutchman. The 19-year-old is scarcely fazed and casually picks up two blue chips from his mighty stack, flourishes them at the Team PokerStars Pro with the microphone, and says: "It was about that much, right?"

4.30pm -- Entering level 22, the official chip counts are as follows:

Julien Nuijten (Holland) -- 740,000
Eduardo Henriques (Brazil) -- 224,000
Vitaly Kovyazin (USA) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 1,161,000
Nikolai Senniger (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 424,000
Alex Brenes (Costa Rica) -- 402,000
Oliver Kugler (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 258,000

7th -- Rafael Pardo (Colombia) -- PokerStars qualifier
8th -- Juan Carlos Burguillos (Venezuela)
9th -- Severin Walser (Switzerland)

Meanwhile, the video blog team have been busy this morning.

Here's an interview with Team PokerStars Pro Greg Raymer:

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And their inside look(!) on how they set some atmosphere in these short video snippets:

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You can keep up with all the video action over at

Rafael Pardo, PokerStars qualifier from Colombia, eliminated in seventh place, earning $23,500
4.10pm -- Pardo had become the short stack by the time he moved in pre-flop for about 100,000. Julien Nuijten called on the button, and Vitaly called from the big blind. The flop came 4h-9s-Kh and Alex bet 50,000, which got rid of Vitaly. Julien flipped king-queen for top pair; Rafael had 10-9 for middle pair. It didn't ge any better, though, and he was gone.

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That's still some spin up by Rafael. He qualified online from step one, which cost him $7.50. He leaves with $23,500.

4.05pm -- Welcome to the Vitaly show. He raises three times, from UTG+2, UTG+1 and UTG, each time for 40,000 or 50,000 and each time everyone else folds.

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"Come on, Vitaly. Give us a break," says Oliver Kugler. No response.

Juan Carlos Burguillos, Venezuela, eliminated in eighth place for $15,700
3.50pm -- It's folded round to Oliver Kugler, who makes a standard raise from late position. Blinds are at 8,000-16,000 at this stage. Juan Carlos pushes his short stack in, of about 56,000. Oliver is also short, but not short enough that it's not a mandatory call with any two. Juan Carlos shows Q-8d and Oliver has A-9. There's no excitement on any of the first four board cards, and the nine on the end only improves the already-superior hand. Oliver moves just shy of 300,000 and Juan Carlos is out, taking $15,700.

3.45pm -- Updated chip counts after that big hand for Nikolai

Julien Nuijten (Holland) -- 768,000
Alex Brenes (Costa Rica) -- 300,000
Vitaly Kovyazin (USA) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 1,000,000
Eduardo Henriques (Brazil) -- 280,000
Rafael Pardo (Colombia) -- PokerStars qualifier --- 120,000
Juan Carlos Burguillos (Venezuela) -- 56,000
Oliver Kugler (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 230,000
Nikolai Senniger (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 400,000

3.25pm -- A double up for Nikolai Senniger in bizarre circumstances. The German player raises to 46,000 pre-flop from the hijack seat and Juan Carlos Burguillos calls from the small blind. The flop comes 8h-5h-8c and Juan Carlos check-calls Nikolai's 35,000 bet. Before the turn is dealt, Juan Carlos announces that he's all in blind, for a stack that covers Nikolai's. The turn is a 10c and Nikolai tanks. Then he calls and shows J-10 and has just made top pair. But Juan Carlos flips 8-6d for trips. There are huge cheers from the South Americans in the stands but they're instantly muted when another ten lands on the river, filling both players up.

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But Nikolai's tens full beats Juan Carlos's eights full, leaving the German player with about 280,000 and Juan Carlos to reflect on a two-outer.

3.10pm -- We enter level 21 and it's getting a touch cagey. Mostly it's blind-on-blind action, with steal attempts being cut down. Most recently, Alex Brenes has a stab at the short stack and the big blind of Oliver Kugler, but the German player pushes it all in and Brenes gives up.

3pm -- A newly chipped-up Vitaly flexes his muscles and forces a river fold from Rafael Pardo. Vitaly raises a small amount pre-flop, and Rafael calls. The flop is 10s-8h-6c and Vitaly bets 60,000. Rafael calls. The scary 9c turns and after Vitaly checks, Rafael now has a stab, sliding in 60,000. Vitaly calls. Almost immediately after the river, the Qd, Vitaly announces all in. Rafael is put to a decision for his tournament life, and passes.

2.45pm -- A pot for Alex Brenes, bringing Costa Rican cheers from brother Humberto and other family. Nikolai raises from the cut off, Alex re-raises from the button, another 70,000. Nikolai calls. The flop is ace high and, after Nikolai checks, Alex bets 70,000. Fold. Whoop. Holler. Cheer. "Costa Rica! Costa Rica!"

2.40pm -- Another huge hand very early on this final table and Vitaly doubles up. Julien makes a standard raise from mid position and Vitaly moves all in, two seats to his left. Julien thinks for a while, but eventually calls and flips red queens.

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Vitaly's black aces are never threatened by the board, and he doubles up, taking a huge dent out of the chip leader.

2.35pm -- The first familiar raucous cheer from the sidelines can mean only one thing: a pot for a Brazilian. In this case, it's the last remaining home favourite Eduardo Henriques who moves in from the button. Everyone folds. The blinds and antes are worth about 200 decibels.

Severin Walser, PokerStars qualifier from Zurich, Switzerland, is eliminated in ninth place for $11,775
2.30pm -- We've lost our first player, barely 20 minutes into the event. It's Severin Walser, who moves his short stack (about 160,000) into the middle from early position. Rafael Pardo moves all in over the top from the small blind. They flip them and Severin's A-Jc is in big trouble against Pardo's aces. There's no outdraw and Walser walks, to be consoled by Humberto Brenes.

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He takes $11,775 for ninth.

2.25pm -- We have the first all in of the final table, and it's a big pre-flop shove from Julien Nuijten. That, in fact, covers Rafael Pardo, who lets it go.

2.15pm -- After the regular flurry of flash-bulbs and scrum of media attention abates, we're playing some poker now in Rio. Regular updates of all the action will appear here -- click refresh for the very latest.

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May 5, 2008 11:32 AM

LAPT Rio: Final day preview

Hello and welcome back to Rio for the final day of the first ever event on the Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT).

We started on Friday with 314 players contesting a $785,000 prize pool and now, two days and 305 eliminations later, we're down to our final nine.

The video blog team worked long into last night to give a wrap from the tournament so far. You can watch it below, and return to to see their work and sample a taste of the Latin American action.

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When the players make their way back into the arena, here's who will be shooting for the top prize.

Seat 1 - Julien Nuijten -- Holland -- 970,000

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0115.jpgA dominant force since early on Day 1, the 19-year-old from Amsterdam has found himself with a monstrous chip lead on the final table. Julien mainly plays high-stakes cash online, but was tempted to Rio for the LAPT while holidaying in Argentina with a poker-playing friend. He won the world championship of Magic: The Gathering aged 15 and joins the likes of Team PokerStars Pros Noah Boeken and Dario Minieri in making the transition from Magic to poker. Boeken is a good friend and lives 10 minutes from Nuijten in Amsterdam, but they haven't been in touch since the tournament began. "Well, he doesn't call me when he makes a final table," said Nuijten.

Seat 3 - Vitaly Kovyazin -- USA -- PokerStars qualifier -- 380,000
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Born in Niznii Novgorod, Russia, Kovyazin emigrated to the United States in 1992, spending a few years in Tallinn, Estonia, along the way. Since then, he's quickly found a home around the American poker tables, playing in Atlantic City and Foxwoods, and making a final table of a World Series circuit event in 2006. Now the manager of a construction company, he’s also a regular qualifier for the major live tournaments from the online tables, and earned his seat here in a 10,000 FPP satellite on PokerStars, effectively freerolling to the final table. He's mixed it up en route to his stack of 380,000, getting creative while short and, by his own admission, "playing any hand." He played a flopped set of tens with great skill to eliminate Farhad Sinaei in 13th place. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and two sons, 18 and 6 years.

Seat 6 - Alex Brenes -- Costa Rica -- 324,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0118.jpg
Alex Brenes, younger brother of Team PokerStars Pro Humberto, has been playing poker for 20 years. He took it up after watching Humberto and their other brother Eric play home games and when the game moved to a local casino, he started playing himself. He said: “There was a group of around 30 regulars and within a year I was one of the best. We used to have two tournaments a week and then, at the end of the year, the top ten on the leader board would play a final table. I won it every year from 1988 to 1996.” At the time, Humberto and Alex were partners in a chocolate factory but when Humberto decided to sell up, Alex threw himself into poker full-time. If he wins today, it won’t be his biggest live result – he’s come 2nd in two WSOP side events, won a WPT title in LA and a $250k first prize in a Vegas tournament. But the LAPT title means the world to him. He said: “Humberto is, without a doubt, the best poker player in Latin America and one of the best tournament players in the world. If I win today, it will put the Brenes name even more on top.”

Seat 5 - Nikolai Senninger -- Germany -- PokerStars qualifier -- 318,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0117.jpg
Nikolai Senninger is only 18 years old and lives in Lindau at Bodensee in south-west Germany. He recently dropped out school to play poker – to the dismay of his parents who were also not keen on his idea to come to Brazil. But he says he’ll restart school again shortly - in case he doesn’t take the first prize in Rio. Nikolai is accompanied in Rio by his older brother Sascha, the manager of a car sales company. Nikolai paid for Sascha’s travel from his very own bankroll (“it’s big enough”) - built up on PokerStars by “playing well and a lot”. The huge sun glasses he wears are brand new, bought at the Intercontinental Hotel store as “no tell gear”. They have already brought him quite far. Nikolai says he’s pretty cold- blooded and taking his achievements at the LAPT calmly. But he says his brother’s heart is beating “like a machine gun”...

Seat 38 - Juan Carlos Burguillos -- Venezuela -- 297,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0120.jpg
Juan Carlos was born in Venezuela and lives in the capital of Caracas. He’s been playing poker seriously for 18 months but started off playing Caribbean poker and was soon playing lots of live events in Venezuela. He also plays a lot on online at PokerStars, mainly tournaments. He describes himself as an enthusiastic person and a good friend to his friends. Outside of poker, Juan Carlos is a keen sailor – and came to Rio with a whole armada of friends who have been cheering him on throughout. His wife Isabel wasn’t able to come to Rio as she is six months pregnant with the couple’s first child – they are expecting a girl.

Seat 9 - Rafael Pardo -- Colombia -- PokerStars qualifier -- 278,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0119.jpg
Engineering student Rafael comes from a small town near the city of Cali. He qualified on PokerStars six weeks ago by working his way up the Steps satellites over a two-day period. His biggest result before that was winning a $20 buy-in event on PokerStars a few months ago, where he bested a field of 180 players. He took up poker 18 months ago after seeing a PokerStars advertisement on TV. This is his first live event – he normally plays either online or with friends in home games. He said: “All my friends are mad about poker. Popayan is a small town and pretty much everyone I know plays poker. They were all desperately trying to qualify for LAPT Rio as well so they could accompany me, but no one else made it.” Rafael said it wasn’t until Step 6 that he really thought he could win a seat. He said: “I was really nervous during Step 6, but I made it.” He plans to use today’s winnings to help out his family.

Seat 2 - Eduardo Henriques -- Brazil -- 275,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0074.jpg
Eduardo Henriques David, comes from Penha (Rio de Janeiro) and has been married for 2 years. He has only been playing poker for 6 months and is thrilled to be the last Brazilian in the first ever LAPT Final Table while his proud wife, Evelini, watches and cheers from the rail. His seat into the LAPT was a gift from his best friend, Raffaele Tamburin, who paid 90% of the buy-in in exchange for 40% of the profits. This exchange was a gesture of friendship - and a "thank you" after Eduardo did the same for his friend in a prior tournament. Eduardo says that aside from the thrill of making this final table and representing Brazil, his largest thrill was to play for hours next to his idol, Alex "Assassinato" Fitzgerald, who he respects not only as a player, but also for his demeanor and elegance at the table. He said he saw Alex take one bad beat after the other to be eliminated in 11th place. He really wishes that Alex too could be at the final table.

Seat 8 - Oliver Kugler -- Germany -- PokerStars qualifier -- 176,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0116.jpg
Oliver was born in Hamburg but has been living in Rio de Janeiro for the past four years. He came here because “the weather is much better than in Hamburg, and so is the lifestyle”. He’s kind of a language genius – fluent in English, Portuguese and German. He works in Rio as a language teacher. He said: “It’s not so much the money that counts for me, but playing skilled, good poker.” He says he now likes playing high stakes and says he’s doing well. He’s a calm, fairly reserved character who finds the excitable railbirding here in Rio very amusing. He qualified for LAPT Rio in a Last Chance satellite on PokerStars.

Seat 4 - Severin Walser -- Switzerland -- PokerStars qualifier -- 175,000
LAPT Rio_Day 2_0121.jpg
Severin has been playing poker for around five years but full-time only for the last two. He mainly focuses on online $10-20 hold’em and Omaha games. At home in this international environment at LAPT Rio, Walser speaks French, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, plus his native Swiss/German and also has a grounding in Latin. He also has a Masters degree in maths, earned in his home town of Zurich, but finances most of his global travels through poker. He made a final table at the 2007 WSOP in a $2,000 seven-card stud event, finishing fourth behind the eventual winner Jeffrey Lisandro, but sharing the table with Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu and Howard Lederer. He qualified for his seat here in Rio via the PokerStars Steps - joining at Step 2 for $27. He said: “I don’t play much live poker as it involves travelling to Austria. I had nothing but expenses doing that!” Severinis very keen to win the LAPT Rio title. “It wouldn’t change my life, but $220,000 isn’t bad!” He favours the Dutch chip leader Julien Nuijten to win however.

When the cards are finally in the air, at 2pm local time, they will play the remaining 55 minutes of level 20, with blinds at 8,000-16,000, with a 2,000 running ante.

The tournament structure, as well as further details of the LAPT, can be found HERE

The full details of the payouts, and those prize winners so far, can be found HERE

May 5, 2008 2:03 AM

LAPT Rio: Day two wrap

If I had just one word to describe the pervasive emotion at the end of today, the second day of the LAPT Rio event, it would be this: "Phew."


Everyone left in the tournament room breathed a huge sigh of relief at around 2.30 this morning after a tough, tough day at the tables.

The nine who remain will be in for a monster pay-day tomorrow (financial relief there); the railbirds who have bellowed themselves hoarse from the sidelines can rest their vocal cords for eight hours or so (wheezing relief there); the dealers who have never done so much shuffling can relax those arms (aching-limbed relief there); and those of us who have watched, typed, counted, jostled, written and interpreted all of this can enjoy a combination of all of the above.

I can't even tell you the relief there.

But before we hit the hay, here's the tale. And we'll start at the end.

Tomorrow at 2pm, the following players will sit around the first final table of the Latin American Poker Tour:

Julien Nuijten (Holland) -- 970,000
Alex Brenes (Costa Rica) -- 324,000
Vitaly Kovyazin (USA) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 380,000
Severin Walser (Switzerland) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 175,000

Eduardo Henriques (Brazil) -- 275,000
Rafael Pardo (Colombia) -- PokerStars qualifier --- 278,000
Juan Carlos Burguillos (Venezuela) -- 297,000
Oliver Kugler (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 176,000
Nikolai Senniger (Germany) -- PokerStars qualifier -- 318,000

They were among the 113 that returned to the tournament arena this afternoon with their eye on the top prizes. Gradually they drip, dripped away until we got to 33 left, which meant one more and we'd be in the money. That also meant, of course, that someone had to leave with nothing, and the unfortunate man was one of the popular home favourites, Piragibe Lindolfo Ataide, whose ace-eight was outflopped by Juan Carlos Burguillos's eight-two.

Among the remaining money winners was Team PokerStars Pro's Victor Ramdin, who had been down to his last 20,000 before charging to more than 100,000. But he continued the yo-yoing even after they entered the money and eventually left in 23rd.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0076.jpg

By that point, we were already a few bad beat to the good. Chief among them was Andrew Li, from the United States, who was one of the commanding chip leaders for several hours -- before he ran into the only other player who had him covered.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0078.jpg

Still, Li got it in good, with kings against Julien Nuijten's queens. But a queen came on the turn and sent Li spiralling out in 26th.

As is common in these tournaments, things went super quick for periods, then slowed to a crawl for a couple of hours. Players doubled up and players departed and no one fitted more snugly in the first category than Alex Marques, who must have been all in at least seven times to take him up from 20,000 to more than 300,000.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0112.jpg

But when someone had to take the fall to take us to our final nine, it was that man Marques, who found kings but ran into Julien Nuijten's aces. The roller coaster ended with a brutal bump.

So, Julien will go to the final table as a massive chip leader, with close to a million in chips.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0124.jpg

He'll be joined by the PokerStars qualifiers Vitaly Kovyazin, from New York, Severin Walser, from Switzerland, Oliver Kugler, originally from Germany but now living in Rio, and Nikolai Senniger, also from Germany.

Rafael Pardo is also a PokerStars qualifier, and he probably has the most to win. He joined the qualification hunt at step one, for $7.50, and took it all the way to the final table in Rio.

Also there is a familiar name, if not a familiar face. The Mr. Brenes who will take his seat around the felt is not Humberto, but his younger brother Alex, who had his share of ups and downs before edging into the last handful.

Join us tomorrow for all the blow-by-blow final table action, beginning at 2pm local time.

In the meantime, take a look back at some of today's action:

The final three, then two, tables
Into the money
Pop! The bubble bursts
Vultures circling
Making moves
Rio on the small screen
Victor's charge
Kumar's rise to contention
Nasty and nastier
Day two scene setting

Full chip counts can be found HERE

Prize-winners so far, and a reminder of what they're playing for, can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

See you all tomorrow.

LAPT Rio_Day 1_0060.jpg

May 4, 2008 9:09 PM

LAPT Rio: Two tables left

2.15am -- And that's it. After a good long while at hand for hand, we've lost Alex Marques in a classic, nasty aces versus kings battle. Julien had the aces -- like he needed them -- and Alex's kings never caught up. Julien is going to the final table with close to a million. Alex is going home.

1.50am -- There are ten left and we're playing hand for hand on two tables until we decide tomorrow's final.

Still in the field:

Julien Nuijten
Alex Brenes
Vitaly Kovyazin
Alex Marques
Severin Walser

Eduardo Henriques
Rafael Pardo
Juan Carlos Burguillos
Oliver Kugler
Nikolai Senniger

1.50am -- By far and away the loudest cheers of the the day so far accompany a near double-up for Alex Brenes and the exit of Alex Fitzgerald. The online pro "Assassinator" got it in good, with ace-queen against ace-seven. Bellow of "siete! siete!" from the rail were answered on the river when that seven popped to give Brenes a bunch and send Fitzgerald out.

1.45am -- Bruno Gonzalez is our 12th placed finisher. It was a battle of the blinds but it all went in pre-flop after Nikolai Senniger raised from the small and Bruno pushed from the big. Bruno must have thought Nikolai was on the steal because he could only muster jack-nine when Nikolai called. Senniger had ace-king and Bruno was gone.

1.35am -- We've lost Farhad Sinaei in what can only be described as a cooler at this time of the night. Farhad raises pre-flop, Vitaly calls. The flop comes A-10-8. Vitaly checks, Farhad makes a small bet, Vitaly calls. The turn is a four and Vitaly checks again. Farhad bets again. Vitaly calls. The river is a jack and Vitaly keeps checking. Farhad ends up all in for the remainder of his 110,000 stack, which Vitaly gleefully calls and shows his pocket tens that have made a set. Farhad is sick to turn over A-8 for two pair. But he's out.

1.30am -- The strong local showing has brought out some of the most rowdy crowds this side of the Maracana:


But it's not such fun for the players, as the anguish etched on the faces of Alex Brenes, left, and Vitaly Kovyazin suggests:


1.25am -- As a corollary to the information below, the relatively short stacks under threat belong to Oliver Kugler, Rafael Pardo and Bruno Gonzales, who are all on the same table.

1.20am -- We have entered level 19, where the blinds are 5,000-10,000 and the ante is 1,500. For people who like the sadism of all this, one big blind now represents one player, who paid $2,500 for their original stack of 10,000 chips. We have 13 players, with the main contenders still Julien Nuijten, Alex Fitzgerald, Juan Carlos Burguillos and, after making a charge with his short stack, Alex Marques.

1.15am -- We've lost another, and this time it's Andreas Rieger, from Germany, who takes 14th place. It's folded to him on the button, and he shoves his short stack -- of no more than 50,000 -- into the middle. The small blind gets out the way, but Eduardo Henriques tanks in the big blind. Then he calls, and shows A-Qc, which stays the best hand against Andreas's button steal with J-5h.

1.05am -- Chip leader Julien Nuijten reminds everyone that he's still here -- like we've forgotten -- by scooping a pot of close to 100,000 against Vitaly Kovyazin. There's some fairly tame pre-flop action then a queen high board. Then they get a little tricky, with Vitaly leading, Julien calling, all the way to the river. Julien shows Q-J and Vitaly pocket fives.

12.45am -- It has slowed a whole bunch here in Rio after a succession of frantic bust outs. We still have 14 players and are playing down to nine tonight. There's been some odd play, if the truth be known, with the standard raise (on table one at least) being barely more than the minimum. Rafael Pardo had clearly noticed this, and when it was his big blind of 8,000 "attacked" from the button with a raise to just 20,000, he simply bumped it up. Bruno Gonzales, who had been the raiser, ended up passing when asked to invest 35,000 more. Pardo showed 10-7 off-suit but the message was clear enough: stop that mini-raising.

12.25am -- We've lost another, and this time it was Micha Hoedemaker who took the walk. He found ace-king at the same time that Alex Marques had found aces. It all went in pre-flop and the board bricked. Hoedemaker, a PokerStars qualifier from Holland, takes $8,635 for 15th.

12.20 -- First hand back from the break and Andreas Riege doubles up. He gets it all in pre-flop behind pocket eights and Bruno Gonzales calls with pocket sixes. There are no horrific two-outers and Riege has 130,000 to play with.

With 15 players remaining, we took a full chip count:

1 -- Andreas Riege -- 60,000
2 -- empty
3 -- Bruno Gonzales -- 118,000
4 -- Eduardo Henriques -- 125,000
5 -- Rafael Pardo -- 205,000
6 -- empty
7 -- Juan Carlos Burguillos -- 202,000
8 -- Nicolai Senniger -- 245,500

Table 2

1 -- Farhad Sinaei -- 116,000
2 -- Julien Nuijten -- 625,000
3 -- Alex Brenes -- 240,000
4 -- Vitaly Kovyazin -- 340,000
5 -- Alex Marques -- 60,000
6 -- Severin Walser -- 153,000
7 -- Micha Hoedemaker -- 55,000
8 -- Alex Fitzgerald -- 250,000
9 -- empty

12.00 -- Ricardo Fasanaro is out in 16th. He found pocket sixes and got it all in, but Eduardo Henriques' kings and a bigger stack were always dominant.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0102.jpg

A ten minute break followed for the 15 remaining.

11.40pm -- Juan Carlos Buguillos can do no wrong. He had just eliminated Eugenio Carmo with J-10 against kings, all in pre flop. The jack-ten made a jack-high straight and Carmo is out in 17th place. They're now redrawing and we'll have a full chip count momentarily.

11.35pm -- The brave resistance of Rodrigo Balbi is over. He's been pushing his short stack all in repeatedly and mostly getting them through. But this time, Juan Carlos Burguillos went nowhere with his ace-queen and Balbi's ace-seven was dominated. Balbi departs with $7,065 for 18th.

11.20pm -- Alberto Cunha is eliminated in 19th place. The Brazilian player calls the all in of Severin Walser, which is actually an undercall. Severin has 5-5, Cunha A-J and there's no improvement. The Swiss Severin moves up to about 163,000.

11.05pm -- Alex Brenes knocks out Nicolas Ragot. Ragot, in the big blind, is all in for 115,000, re-raising Brenes's button raise. Brenes calls. Ragot shows Q-J -- a semi-bluff, possibly suspecting a button steal -- but Brenes shows A-10. It goes all the way and the A-10 is good.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0096.jpg

Our Brazilian blogger then caught up with Humerto Brenes, Alex's brother, to check whether he had a percentage of his high-flying sibling. "No," said the PokerStars Team Pro. "My percentage is just to see the Brenes name in the tournament."

11pm -- Double up, to more than 300,000, for Rafael Pardo. Rodrigo Balbi moves all in under the gun, for the second time in a row. Pardo thinks for a while, but eventually also moves in, for about 150,000. Everyone gets out of the way and they show J-J (Balbi) and Q-Q Pardo.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0097.jpg

There's some excitement when the board comes 8-9-10, but when the jack comes on the turn to make Balbi's set, it makes the straight for Pardo. Balbi scratching the felt.

10.45pm -- There are pocket jacks, there are pocket kings and there are all the chips in the middle. Sjoero Bos has the jacks and Vitaly Kovyazin the kings, and the New Yorker (Kovyazin) wins a 250,000 chip pot. Bos takes 21st place.

10.35pm -- Short stack double up. Manecop has 6-6, Alex Fitzgerald makes a routine call with A-K. But the Assassinato fails to catch up and Manecop is up to 112,000 an Fitzgerald is down to 230,000.

10.30pm -- Jose Severino is eliminated by Eduardo Henriques. He gets a bit unlucky, finding his A-5 outdrawn by the Brazilian's K-J. Both king and jack flopped, and Severino was severed. He's out in 22nd.

10.25pm -- And Victor is all in again, this time with 6-6 versus K-Q. But a king and a queen flop, leaving Victor drawing to the final two sixes. They don't appear, and Ramdin is out in 23rd. That's good for $7,065 and although he's smiling, Victor wanted to go far further.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0092.jpg

10.20pm -- Team PokerStars Pro's final remaining player, Victor Ramdin, gets his short stack in the middle behind pocket kings. They stand against pocket eights.

* * * * *

OK, let's try to catch up.

After a relatively slow period shortly before dinner, it's gone utterly rampant here in Rio. (Please bear in mind I could have written "nuts in Brazil" so please admire the restraint.)

There was an absolutely massive pot that played out on table four moments ago, when two of the chip leaders went head to head in a huge pre-flop raising battle that ended with about 650,000 in the pot. When they turned them over, we knew why.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0093.jpg

Andrew Li was just outchipped by Julien Nuijten but Li had pocket kings. Nuijten had queens and the considerable tournament lead was up for grabs.

Li must have felt good, but it all went south when a queen came on the turn, giving the Dutch player about 700,000, a bad beat, and a huge chance to steam to the final table.

After that, they broke a table and we're down to three. We'll record all the action here.

Selected chip counts can be found HERE

A reminder of who has won how much so far can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

May 4, 2008 7:14 PM

LAPT Rio: In the money

We're in the money in Rio. Eduardo Henriques speaks for a lot of people:

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0074.jpg

From now on, you can catch up on the winners HERE

Selected chip counts can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

The players are now on a 90 minute break, and when they're back, we'll have a full chip count and details of the redraw. Hold tight.

May 4, 2008 6:42 PM

LAPT Rio: Pop!

As it always has to, the bubble is burst, but this one popped in slightly peculiar fashion. First things first, the unlucky man is Piragibe Lindolfo Ataide, who has played for two days, came close to the chip lead at some time yesterday, but is now starting his journey home with nothing.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0091.jpg

Here's how it played out.

After about 40 minutes of to-ing and fro-ing -- the usual hand-for-hand stuff around bubble time -- Piragibe, with one of the small stacks, flat called from the button. The big blind was one of the chip leaders, Juan Carlos Burguillos, from Venezuela. He checked his option.

The flop was a pretty innocuous-seeming 2h-3s-6d and no one seemed interested. They both checked and the 8s fell on the turn. Now they perked up. Burguillos bet 3,000 and Piragibe insta-called. It seemed suspicious, but who was trapping who?

Burguillos now took the lead and announced all-in in the dark before the river was out. That, of course, actually put Piragibe all in, and facing a decision for his tournament life. And he took a while to make it -- as well he might -- going into the tank for one minute, two minutes, three, four, five...

Eventually, Burguillos, who had already started pacing, asked for the clock and Piragibe had a minute left. With about five seconds left, he surprised all the assembled masses -- now close to about a million people -- by announcing "Call."

"Two pair! Two pair!" shouted Burguillos and flipped 8-2 for, indeed, two pair. Piragibe could barely bring himself to flip his ace-eight, for a dominating hand that came to be dominated. And that was that.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0089.jpg

We have now redrawn and are down to four tables of eight. They're all in the money, but spare a thought for Piragibe...

Selected chip counts can be found HERE

A reminder of what they're playing for can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

May 4, 2008 5:58 PM

LAPT Rio: Vultures circling

It's getting very close to bubble time here in Rio, and the big stacks know that this is happy hunting time.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0082.jpg

Table two is especially fearsome in that regard, where Julien Nuijten sits next to Andrew Li, who sits next to Jose Severino, who sits two away from Fahad Sinaei, none of them with less than 120,000. In fact, Julien has closer to 260,000 and the certain chip lead.

"To be honest, I'm just hoping to be moved," said Oliver Kugler, a PokerStars qualifier from Hamburg, Germany, who's also on this table of death.

I caught up with Oliver at the last break, nursing 60,000-odd, and he told me off the cut-throat business occuring on table two.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0086.jpg

"All four of these guys are good," he told me, in response to my query of the general standard of play in Rio. They are not just picking on the short stacks either and seem happy to mix it with one another. Julien, in particular, has found the accelerator and is just shoved in an 80,000 pre-flop re-raise as I passed moments ago.

As for Oliver, he's just playing his game in his adopted home. He moved to Rio four years ago, accepting a job offer to relocate from Europe. He's heard of the poker clubs in Sao Paulo, but mainly sticks it out online, where he qualified for this event.

Four players need to take a walk before we're in the money, and the volume inside the Intercontinental is beginning to resemble that of the Maracana stadium on the other side of the city. With plenty of locals going deep, it's only going to get louder.

We'll do our best to translate some of this flavour through cyberspace.

Selected chip counts can be found HERE

A reminder of what they're playing for can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

May 4, 2008 4:34 PM

LAPT Rio: Making moves

During any poker tournament featuring any number of players, there comes a time when gears have to shift, contenders have to emerge and the field takes some kind of shape. In a three-day event, like we have here in Rio, that stage is roughly the whole of day two and, sure enough, there are some real forces coming to the fore.

One of those is 21-year-old Alex Fitzgerald, from Seattle. Known online as "Assassinato", he has been shocked to learn that he's pretty big here in Brazil, where the absence of a bricks and mortar casino means the superstars of the game ply their trade around the virtual tables. Assassinato has been tearing it up on PokerStars for quite some time, and he's found himself being approached in the halls of the Intercontinental Hotel from people he's never met, but who have heard all his game.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0072.jpg

"I guess I've got a fan club," he said, with modesty and surprise.

He was significantly more confident when discussing his chances in this tournament. "I always see myself at the final table," he said. "I always think I can win any tournament I play."

Currently, he's going the right way. He has one of those stacks bigger than 120,000 and is on the same fierce-looking table as Julien Nuijten, yesterday's dangerman.

Also heading ever upward is Andrew Li, from Washington DC. The young American has been bouncing around the room today, on at least three tables, and now sitting next to Jose Severino and behind at least 160,000.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0078.jpg

He's also sharing a table with Farhad Sinaei, also from the United States. Another PokerStars qualifier, Sinaei just found his ace-jack good against a king-queen push, earning him 120,000-odd. He's another challenger.

The man they are all chasing, however, is Juan Carlos Burguilles, from Venezuela. He just scooped the tournament's first 200,000+ pot when his aces were good against the multiple flush and straight draws of an opponent's 8-6. Spot him in the photo below.

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0081.jpg

There are 40 players remaining and we're just entering level 14, where the blinds will be 1500-3000 and a 400 ante. Thirty-two get paid, so the bubble will be bursting in an hour or so.

Selected chip counts can be found HERE

A reminder of what they're playing for can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

May 4, 2008 3:01 PM

LAPT Rio: Rio on the small screen

For some light relief after a few text-heavy posts, check out the video blog team's introduction to day two at the LAPT in Rio:

Please install Flash.

Selected chip counts can be found HERE

A reminder of what they're playing for can be found HERE

And full video coverage can be found over at

Video blogs and interviews from the 2009 PCA

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the LAPT Rio Season 1 category.

LAPT Punta del Este Season 1 is the previous category.

LAPT San Jose Season 1 is the next category.

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