WCP Heat #4: Scotland vs. Costa Rica

Alex Brenes (Team Costa Rica)

If the name Brenes sounds familiar, it should. Alex Brenes comes from likely the most well-known poker playing family in Costa Rica. His brothers Humberto and Eric are both well-known players. Alex Brenes is quite well known in poker tournament circuits as well, having scored big wins in his travels. He's also not afraid to do some gambling. He'll admit a $60,000 blackjack loss is his biggest gambling failure, as well as his most embarassing moment. It's that aggressive gambling spirit combined with a keen sense for poker that makes him a very dangerous opponent.

Ian Millar (Team Scotland)

Ian Millar is a guitar-playinig, J.R.R. Tolkien-reading, 37 year-old poker player who uses the game as cheap therapy from a mad, mad world. A family man from Scotland, Millar fantasizes about big scores in the lottery or WSOP but has never stepped foot inside a casino. That didn't stop him form earning his place on Team Scotland and playing a key role in its success.

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It was the match that everybody had been waiting for. Scotland was down 2-1 to Team Costa Rica. Ian Millar, a man who had never been inside a casino had been matched up against one of the toughest players in rival Costa Rica. It seemed as if Brenes had an unfair advantage and would seal his team's entry into the finals of PokerStars.com's World Cup of Poker.

For the first 15 hands, the players sparred a bit, but didn't get involved enough to give either of the teams waiting in the bar any real reason to worry or get excited. Then, it got ugly for Team Scotland. Millar came in for a raise with AQ and Alex Brenes called with KJs. Brenes bet out on a jack-high flop and Millar called hoping his overcards would hit. When a rag came on the turn, Brenes put out a sizable bet and forced Millar to lay down his hand. By the time the hand was over, Brenes has worked his way up to a 2-1 chip lead.

It looked like it might be over shortly thereafter when both players picked up pocket pairs. Brenes had eights to Millar's sevens. The flop was a bit scary for both players, coming down QQJ. Millar bet out and Brenes called. The turn, an eight, sent the Costa Ricans into a frenzy. Brenes had made his full house. Again Millar bet out, but this time Brenes raised all-in. Millar folded and Brenes raked 248,000 chip pot, giving him an almost 5-1 chip lead over his Scottish opponent.

That's when Millar's poise set in. Though lacking in real-table experience, Millar didn't panic. When given an opportunity to get his chips in with a pocket pair, he folded to a Brenes raise and waited for a better opportunity. That opportunity came in the form of a KJ which Millar pushed in with a few hands later. Brenes had an easy call with his pocket eights. The flop helped neither player, but Millar spiked his king on the turn and doubled through.

With in a few hands Millar doubled up again with pocket nines versus Brenes' naked ace. Then, then unthinkable happened. Millar called in the small blind with AJ, Brenes raised with pocket sixes and Millar called. The flop came down KQT giving Millar the nuts. Before the hand was over, Millar had milked enough chips out of Brenes to pick up the chip lead.

Then, the biggest hand of the day rocked Riverside Studios.

Brenes came in for a raise with AJ and Millar called with A3. Downstairs in the bar where closed circuit TV was feeding in the match live, the Costa Ricans cheered when the flop came down AKJ, giving Brenes two pair. Millar bet out, Brenes raised, and Millar called. The turn, a three, again sent the Costa Ricans wild. Now Millar was sure to get his chips in the middle and double Brenes up. Millar bet out again, Brenes pushed in all his chips, and Millar called.

Only two cards in the deck could save Millar. That's right. There were only two threes left in the entire deck...and the dealer pulled off one of them on the river to give Millar the full house.

Downstairs the Costa Ricans started talking about a curse. Now, they had to play again in the fifth and final match of the semi-finals. If they only knew how wild the finish would be.

Team Scotland: 2, Team Costa Rica: 2

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Cup of Poker