LAPT Mexico: A champion, finally

by Brad Willis and Change100

If you don't know the story of LAPT Mexico by now, it's hardly worth re-telling in its entirety. Suffice to say, this is almost certainly the first time we have ever arrived at a champion in such a fashion.

And what fashion would that be?

Well, Day 1 of the LAPT Mexico event was played live in Mexico. It was postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. So, what was essentially Day 2 of the event played out online at PokerStars. Once play reached a final table, the final nine players traveled more than 5,000 miles south of where they started the event to play down to a champion. In short, we'll likely never see anything like this again.


To say there was a disparity in chip counts would be a bit of an understatement. At the end of the online portion of this event, American Rory Cox went on an amazing tear and somehow managed to pick up nearly half the chips in play.

Seat 1: Rory Cox (USA) 1,074,500
Seat 2: Victor Ramdin (USA) 104,000
Seat 3: Pavel Naydenov (USA) 80,000
Seat 4: Helen Prager (USA) 326,500
Seat 5: Leonardo Emperador (Venezuela) 284,000
Seat 6: Steven Thompson (Costa Rica) 135,500
Seat 7: Bolivar Palacios (Panama) 128,500
Seat 8: Martha Herrera (Mexico) 88,000
Seat 9: Alex Brenes (Costa Rica) 154,500

While Cox's chip lead was frightening, he still had eight other people who weren't just going to roll over for him. In the early going, Cox used his stack to push people around. Eventually, Steven Thompson flopped a set against Cox' overpair for the first level double-up. Cox rolled with the minor loss and moved on.

Before the event began, Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin figured he had a couple of rounds in him before he started pushing with any two cards. He made it through the first hour before doing just that.

Victor Ramdin moved all in from the cutoff and Helen Prager quickly made the call from the small blind.

"Do I get a lifeline?" Ramdin laughed as he turned up his hole cards. He held J♦-6♦ to Prager's A♠-7♠.

As Ramdin revealed his hand, several players on the other side of the table confessed to folding a jack.

"Thanks for the information, guys," quipped Ramdin dryly.

The flop was [10D]-7♥-4♥. As the K♣ landed on the turn, the good-natured Ramdin stood up from his chair, resigned to his fate. The river was the K♦, eliminating him in 9th place. After shaking hands around the table, the Team PokerStars Pro took a seat in the audience to watch the rest of the action play out.

With Ramdin gone, play went on for another full hour before the blinds started eating deeply into the stacks.

Running low, Alex Brenes open-shoved from under the gun for his remaining 100,000, Pavel Naydenov moved all in behind him from middle position, and the rest of the table folded. Naydenov had Brenes slightly covered as the cards went on their backs. Naydenov held A♠-Q♥ to Brenes' 9♠-9♦

The flop ended the drama fairly quickly, A♦-K♣-2♣, pairing Naydenov's ace.

"Nueve, Alex, nueve!" called Brenes' brother, Humberto, begging for a nine.

The turn, though, came the 7♥, and the river the 4♠, sending Brenes to the rail in 8th place.

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Despite the increasing blinds, the players held firm to their seats.It would take nearly an hour before we saw the next elimination. That's when Steven Thompson open-raised on the button, Bolivar Palacios moved all in from the small blind for 60,500, Martha Herrera folded the big blind and Thompson made the call. Thompson held A♦-5♦ to Palacios' K♥-Q♠

The flop favored Thompson, coming down [9H-6♠-3♣, and the A♣ on the turn left Palacios drawing dead.

The now-meaningless K♠ hit the river and Palacios hit the rail in 7th place, collecting $2,000.

Martha Herrera had a harder time getting here than the other players. After Day 1 in Mexico, Herrera managed to break her leg. She arrived here in a leg cast and with her eye set on the title. It was not to be.

Rory Cox raised to 36,000 and got calls from Pavel Naydenov and Steven Thompson. Herrera was in the big blind and moved all in for an additional 29,000. She got called in all three places.

All the players checked the [10S]-A♦-4♦ flop and [10H] turn. On the K♠ river, Naydenov bet out 50,000 and got a call from Thompson. Naydenov turned up Q-T for the turned trips. That was good enough to beat Thompson, not to mention Herrera who held A♣-K♥.

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Thompson was crippled as the players went on a 15-minute break. On the first hand back from the break, Thompson got his remaining 22,000 in the middle and got three callers in Rory Cox, Pavel Naydenov, and Helen Prager.

The flop came down K♦-7♥-6♥. Naydenov and Prager checked, while Cox put out a bet. A few groans came out of the audience as Naydenov and Prager gave up their hands. Cox held 6♦-8♦ to Thompson's 9♥-[10D]

Cox had paired his six, but Thompson could double up with an eight, a nine or a ten. The turn fell the 7♣, pairing the board and giving him even more outs with the three remaining kings, but the river was a blank, the 2♥, and Cox raked in the pot, sending Thompson to the rail in 5th place.


Steven Thompson

With the action folded to him in the small blind, Leonardo Emperador moved all in for 149,500 and Rory Cox snap-called from the big blind. Emperador knew he was in trouble with his K♠-8♣. Cox held Q♠-Q♥.

"Ocho, ocho, ka!" cried LAPT Vina del Mar runner-up Vincenzo Gianelli from the audience, calling for an 8-8-K flop for his friend.

Unfortunately for Emperador, it came down [10D]-5♥-3♠, leaving him drawing to the three remaining kings in the deck.

"Ka! Ka!" called Gianelli as the dealer burned and turned... the A♦.

"KA! KA!" he shouted again to the poker gods, or anyone who would listen.

The river, though, was the A♥, and Emperador hit the rail, collecting $5,000 for his efforts today. It's also worth noting that he arrived at this final table with only ten big blinds and was able to parlay that short stack into a 4th place finish.

Minutes later, on a flop of 5♠-8♠-4♦, Rory Cox bet out and Pavel Naydenov raised to 75,000. Cox almost immediately raised all-in. Naydenov called after a moment and showed K♠-3♠. Cox held 4♥-5♥. Naydenov picked up some more outs with the 3♥ on the turn. He missed all the kings, threes, and spades left in the deck on the 2♣ river. He finished in 3rd place.

And so we were left with two. Rory Cox had come into the day with such a large chip lead, it didn't seem like he could be beaten. Helen Prager came in with a reasonable stack, but what seemed to insurmountable odds. By the time they got heads up, Cox had Prager by 5 to 1.

It seemed like it would be all over in a matter of minutes. Instead, Prager managed two double-ups within just a few minutes. Her first came courtesy of getting in with second pair, an overcard to the board and a gutshot straight draw against Cox's top pair. She made her gutshot. Moments later, she turned the nuts against Cox's top pair. He got it in with a flush draw against her nut straight. Cox missed on the river and suddenly, the opponents were nearly even in chips.

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After the dinner break, the pair settled in for two more full hours of heads-up play. At one point, Cox got it all in with pocket sevens versus Prager's K-T. Prager flopped her ten and Cox fell way behind in chips.

But he battled back and back and back. Ultimately, he regained the chip lead.

Rory Cox opened from the button for 72,000, Helen Prager moved all in for 972,000 from the big blind and Cox made the call.

Prager: K♥-7♦

Cox: A♠-[10S]

Cox let out a whoop and pumped his fist as the flop came down A♣-J♥-8♣, leaving Prager drawing only to running cards.

With her husband's arm around her, she watched the 5♠ land on the turn, a resigned look on her face as she realized she was drawing dead.

The river was the J♠ and Cox extended his hand to Prager for a sportsman-like shake, congratulating her on a good game.

When it was over, Cox looked at Prager and said, "You made me go bald!"

Later he admitted Prager had him on his heels for a bit. "She played the perfect style against me--very aggressive."

At 26 years old, Cox plays professionally from his home base in San Francisco, California. Before going pro, Cox worked as a counselor for special needs children. While much of his money comes from playing online, he says he has played some big live events.

"But not with much success," he said.

Now, he can add a major title to his resume. It may have taken three months and thousands of miles of travel but Rory Cox is now the LAPT Mexico champion.


Rory Cox

Watch LAPT Punta del Este S2: Mexico Winner - Rory Cox on

For a complete look back at all the action from the day, check out any of the links below.

4,000/8,000 Level
5,000/10,000 Level
6,000/12,000 Level
8,000/16,000 Level
10,000/20,000 Level
12,000/24,000 Level
15,000/30,000 Level

Here's a rundown of the LAPT Mexico final table prizes.

Thanks for joining us today. Join us here Wedneday at noon for Day 1 of the LAPT Punta del Este event

All photography © Joe Giron/IMPDI