LAPT Punta del Este: Houdini Hevroy escapes with win

by Brad Willis and Change100

In the late hours of Day 2, Tournament Director Mike Ward began joking with 20-year-old Norwegian Karl Hevroy. Ward called the young online poker player "Houdini." At first, it was an inside joke between the two men. Tonight, it has a lot more meaning.

Hevroy is, in fact, the LAPT's master of escape. No matter how dire the situation, no matter how deep the hole, no matter how sure the lock, Hevroy managed to get free. The result? One very impressive feat of magic, $283,500, and an LAPT title.

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Karl Hevroy, right, celebrates

Three hundred twenty-seven players started this event three days ago. The top 36 walked away with cash, but the big money was handed out tonight at the final table.

Nine people from around the world made it to this ultimate felt. Here's how they stacked up going into final table action (you can learn more about the players at our LAPT Punta del Este final table profiles report).

Seat 1: Andre Ventura 103,000
Seat 2: Oliver Rowe 412,000
Seat 3: Bolivar Palacios 167,000
Seat 4: Waldemar Cago 263,000
Seat 5: Karl Hevroy 1,079,000
Seat 6: Magno Aragao 153,000
Seat 7: Angel Guillen 572,000
Seat 8: Alejandro De Arruabarrena 397,000
Seat 9: Ron Wasiel 134,000

Andre Ventura was the comeback story of the tournament. At the end of Day 2, Ventura got pocket sixes in against queens and was crippled to 13,000 chips--less than one big blind. Within an hour, Ventura had doubled up a few times and made the final table.

On the very first hand of the final table, Angel Guillén came in for a raise. Ventura pushed all in with pocket queens and got got called by Guillén's A-7. Ventura doubled up and looked to go deep. It took a minor cooler to bust him.

After Ventura opened for 41,000, Oliver Rowe reraised to 101,000, Ventura moved all in for 153,000 total and Rowe quickly called. It wasn't pretty: Ventura's J♥-J♦ against Rowe's Q♠-Q♦. Ventura's chorus of railbirds started chanting "Jota! Jota! Jota!" imploring for a jack on the flop for their man.

The flop, though, came down 9♥-5♥-2♠. The "jota" chorus turned into the "corazon" choir when the K♥ appeared on the turn, Ventura picking up a flush draw, but he couldn't get there, the 3♦ landing on the river to eliminate him in 9th place.

Magno Aragao was without a doubt one of the most affectionate poker players we have ever seen. When someone won, when someone lost, when someone looked like they just might need it, Aragao offered a giant, warm, manly hug. In our time as poker reporters, we have only one person offer so many hugs. That top spot was once held by Gentleman John Gale at the 2005 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Mr. Gale, you have some competition in the Department of Affection.

Eventually, there came a time when Aragao needed a hug. Under-the-gun and with only 30,000 remaining, Magno Aragao dribbled his remaining chips into the middle and got two callers in Oliver Rowe and big blind Karl Hevroy. The flop came down [10S]-7♣-5♣. Hevroy checked, Rowe bet 40,000 and Hevroy folded. With no more action to be had, the cards were turned up. Aragao held Q♦-Q♣ to Rowe's J♣-[10D].

The room buzzed as Aragao's pocket queens were revealed. Were we going to witness yet another amazing comeback? The turn was the 8♥. Now Aragao was really sweating, as Rowe could win with a ten, a jack or a nine. And the river... was the 9♥, making him a jack-high straight.

The always-affectionate Aragao hugged his opponent before heading out to collect his $26,640 in winnings.

It had only been a couple of days since we saw Bolivar Palacios take seventh place in the LAPT Mexico event. Today, he came here looking to better that performance. He was in pretty good shape to do that after a couple of timely double-ups in the early going. His Panamanian Rat Pack of poker players cheered him with as much gusto as any other group in the room. Finally, Palacios picked up a big hand and got his chips in with two black queens. He was racing against Alejandro De Arruabarrena's A♠-K♠.

All looked well on the early part of the board. The first four cards came out 5♦-4♥-4♠-7♣. Then that ugly K♦ fell on the river and Palacios was out in seventh place...again. He earned $37,740.

If you're the kind to root for an underdog, Waldemar Cogo was your man today. Short-stacked for his entire time here, he managed to turn one big blind into a couple of money jumps. Every time it looked like he was out, the cards brought him back in. Ultimately, he used the last of his nine lives. With the action folded to the small blind, Oliver Rowe completed, Cogo moved all in and Rowe made the call. It was the K♠-7♥ for Rowe, dominating Cogo's K♥-3♠. The board ran out K♣-5♠-2♦-J♦-4♠ and Cogo headed out the door in sixth place. He won $48,840.

With Cogo gone, most of the stacks at the table were pretty big. We expected things to go slowly. They did not.

The next big hand was the kind that could make a player give up the game forever. On a flop of J♠-9♠-3♥ Oliver Rowe led out for 50,000 from the small blind and Karl Hevroy called.

The K♦ came on the turn and Rowe considered for several minutes before settling on a bet of 115,000. Hevroy moved in and Rowe quickly called, showing 3♦-3♣ for bottom set to Hevroy's K♣-QH]. The young Norwegian who entered the final table as the dominant chip leader was now drawing to only four outs that would save his tournament life.

What happened next was the stuff of tin foil hats. The [10H] landed on the river. Hevroy made a king-high straight and claimed the rest of Rowe's stack. Rowe's face told the story.

With Rowe out of the way, short-stacked Ron Wasiel finally gave up the ghost. He got the rest of his chips in on a flop of [10D]-[10S]-9♠ and Karl Hevroy made the call. Wasiel was in a tough spot, his J♠-9♣ up against Hevroy's pocket jacks. The 8♣ on the turn gave him some outs to a chop should a seven or a queen appear, but the 3♣hit the river, giving the hand to Hevroy and sending Wasiel to the rail in fourth place.

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We all started to learn our lesson on the next hand. The lesson?

Don't ever count out Karl Hevroy when he's behind.

Angel Guillen opened from the button for 64,000. Hevroy bumped it to 210,000 from the big blind and Guillen quickly moved all in. Hevroy made the call.

Guillen had his opponent dominated, holding the A♣-J♥ to Hevroy's A♠-[10C]. But remember what we told you...

The flop came down Q♦-[10S]-6♣, pairing up Hevroy. The crowd roared in a mixture of celebration and total disbelief. The turn was the 6♥, the river was the 7♦, and just like that, Hevroy had claimed another victim.

And so we went to heads-up play. How long would you expect it to take when Hevroy had a nearly 6-1 chip lead on Alejandro De Arruabarrena?

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Answer: One hand.

Alejandro De Arruabarrena completed the small blind and Karl Hevroy checked his option. The flop came down 9♣-9♦-8♠. Hevroy checked over to De Arruabarrena, who bet 70,000. Hevroy called. The turn brought the 4♥ and another check from Hevroy. De Arruabarrena fired another 100,000, Hevroy moved all in and De Arruabarrena called.

It was all over as soon as the cards were turned up. Hevroy had flopped the nut full house with 8♥-9♥. De Arruabarrena was drawing dead, holding the Q♦-J♠. No river card was necessary, but for posterity's sake, we'll let you know it was the 4♣.

Hevroy leapt from his chair and embraced his friends on the rail. It's probably the most emotion we've ever seen from a Scandinavian poker player.

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De Arruabarrena was gracious and shook the young man's hand, wearing the same bewildered look that so many opponents have shown after playing a hand with this one-man wrecking crew.

Afterward, Hevroy could barely speak. Just a few days ago, he was having trouble withdrawing money from his online account. He borrowed $4,000 from a friend to buy in. Now, he is $283,500 richer.

"I'm so happy, I don't feel like I know anything. It's so sick," Hevroy said.

If there's any way to sum it up, it was this final quote from the man with the trophy.

"I had a few moments where I was in danger," he said,"and then I luckboxed my way out of it."

Congratulations to Karl Hevroy on his knockout win.

For a look back at our coverage from the day, check out any of the links below.

Final table player profilesLevel 19 live updates continued
Level 20 live updates
Level 21 live updates
Level 22 live updates
Level 23 live updates

Of course, we hope you take the time to go over to PokerStars.tv and check out all the great video blogs there. If the Spanish or Portuguese word is more your style, please head over to the coverage on the PokerStars Spanish blog and PokerStars Brazilian blog

For a complete look at the winners in this event, see our LAPT Punta del Este payouts page.

The next stop on the Latin America Poker Tour will be our final of the second season. Join us in just a few weeks as we cover the finale in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

All photography Joe Giron/IMPDI