EPT9 Monaco Day 2: Busted, but a birthday for Brenes

Today is Humberto Brenes's birthday. The great icon of Costa Rican poker is 62 years old, celebrating it in Monte Carlo, where the sun shines, the sea sparkles and the chips rattle. At least everyone else's chips rattle. Brenes is not as well-endowed in that department right now, looking down at a short stack of less than 30,000.

Is this the way to spend a birthday? Brenes is surrounded by a mix of players, some of whom weren't even born when the Godfather of Costa Rican poker scored his first live cash in January 1987, although one suspects he wasn't a godfather then, more a sort of well-liked relative of Costa Rican poker. Today these folks are his company.

Opposite him sits fellow Team PokerStars Pro Angel Guillen, quietly playing OFC on his phone, while on Brenes's immediate right are the ruthless looking Lauri Pesonen and Konstantin Maslak, whose black hood give his appearance something of the Rasputin.

On Brenes's left is Ramin Hajiyev, a phone obsessed Azerbaijani, and opposite him Christopher Frank, whose progress from the EPT London final table to status of EPT regular has been seamless, much like his clothing. This is hardly he kind of place to pick up the shark and start getting creative.

Humberto Brenes

Instead Brenes stretches back and yawns. He must look around and wonder each time he glances at and folds, where the time has gone.

That first cash came in Las Vegas in a $1,000 hold'em event, won by T.J. Cloutier, 26 years ago. A few months later came his first World Series of Poker cash finish, a 14th place in the main event, won that year by Johnny Chan. It would be the first of 66 WSOP cashes (so far) for Brenes, putting him fourth on the all-time number of WSOP cashes, behind only Phil Hellmuth (96), Erik Seidel (76) and Men Nguyen (also on 76).
As for the EPT, just one back in London in 2011. But Brenes's reputation was secured elsewhere, both in the US and across Latin America. For someone who has been involved in poker for so long Brenes's enthusiasm remains high, and not just when his shark thing gets the cameras looking.

For Brenes it's more about legacy, which is what has prompted him to spend more time teaching the game, involved more in coaching Latin American players through his renewed involvement with Intellipoker. So far the experience and the feedback has been excellent, and more will follow.

If only some of that would work right now.

Reduced to around 20,000 Brenes had little option but to shove when he looked down at jack-nine off-suit. Christopher Frank, who was born two years after Brenes won two WSOP bracelets in 1993, called him with ace-ten. Frank watched aces hit on the flop and river to bust Brenes.

"Be careful with my chips," he said to Frank, smiling. Frank won't be careful.

So is that the best way to spend your birthday? Well, Brenes can afford to not let events at the table trouble him, and the broad grin certainly doesn't speak of inner turmoil. Besides, Brenes has an agreeable alternative to a day at the tables. Usually seen travelling with his sons, Brenes is in town with his sisters living in Europe he hasn't seen for a while instead, here in one of the continents greatest cities.

They'll be other poker tournaments. That sounds like a pretty good birthday.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.

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