LAPT7 Chile: Victory in Viña for Mario Lopez, Main Event champion
It's been a whirlwind week here at the Enjoy Viña del Mar Casino in Chile where the Latin American Poker Tour kicked off its seventh season with a visit to the beautiful coastal city. And after another action-filled day of poker in the Grand Ballroom, the 609-entry field in the Main Event has been reduced to a final winner as Mario Lopez of Argentina claimed all the chips in Chile to become the champ.
Day 4 followed the pattern of Day 3, with a fast start seemingly prefiguring a quick day, followed by a long, studied conclusion. Yesterday 23 players were eliminated in less than four hours of poker, then it took another three hours for the last to fall to set today's final table.
Today then began with a rapid pace as well with six relatively fast knockouts and the only real pause coming at five-handed when a half-hour discussion of a possible deal ended without an agreement. A chop was more quickly decided upon with four left, and two knockouts came swiftly after that.
But like on Saturday, the day's final elimination took some time, with the heads-up battle between Lopez and his final foe, Rodrigo Perez, lasting an hour-and-a-half before Lopez came from behind to claim the victory.
The final eight players came from a variety of backgrounds, with a couple of Chileans and two Brazilians among the group. One of the latter, Jefferson Melo, arrived with the chip lead, just as he had ended both Day 1A and Day 2 out in front.
Meanwhile both Raul Pino of Panama and the other Brazilian, Guilherme Pita, started the day on the short side, and as it happened both would be eliminated early on. First Pino -- having made his third LAPT Main Event final table -- was knocked out by Lopez when his Q♥J♣ failed to outrun the latter's K♦8♠.
Then Pita ran pocket tens into Lopez's pocket kings just a few hands later to go out in seventh.
For Lopez, the day couldn't have started any better, especially since he had been all in himself and at risk during the final table's first orbit. But his pocket aces had held up in that hand versus Melo, and after knocking out Pino and Pita he was suddenly the new leader.
The lone North American at the final table, the Chicagoan Robert Lipkin who qualified online playing from Canada, went out next in sixth after his pocket fours fell to Lopez's pocket sixes.
Lopez had slipped again prior to that hand and was in fact a short stack just before, and so his topsy-turvy early afternoon continued with another bounce back into contention.
The final five played a short while before that break was taken to talk about a deal, and after none was made Johann Ibanez of Colombia next fell in fifth when his 9♣8♦ couldn't get there against the A♦K♣ of Luis Resk. The fifth-place finish improves by a few spots Ibanez's ninth-place as LAPT6 Peru last summer.
Then came the deal, at which point Perez led and so was guaranteed the most while Melo was the short stack. Perez secured $120,000, both Resk and Lopez $95,000, and Melo $90,000 with $22,991 left for which to play.
The all-ins kept coming after that, and before long they were down to two. First Resk was unable to survive when his A♦J♥ didn't hold against Melo's Q♥9♠ after a nine appeared on board, sending the player from Chile out in fourth.
Then Melo committed on a nine-high flop with A♠K♣ against Perez but the latter had a pair with T♣9♥. Two blanks followed for the Brazilian, and he was out in third.
That set up heads-up play between Lopez and Perez, which as mentioned lasted quite some time. It might have ended in one hand, actually, as Perez began with a better than 3-to-1 advantage, and had Lopez all in right away. But Lopez's A♦8♦ held against Perez's A♥3♣, and after that double Lopez chipped up further to seize the lead away.
Eventually it would be Perez all in with A♠Q♦ against Lopez's pair of tens, and when a queen fell on the flop it appeared the battle would be continuing. But the T♥ crashed down on the turn to give Lopez an unbeatable set to end Perez's run one spot shy of the win.
The victory marks the biggest cash of Lopez's career, just a little more than the six-figure score he enjoyed for winning an event in Argentina last fall. Here are the final table payouts, which show that runner-up Perez actually took away a little more than Lopez thanks to the four-way deal:
LAPT7 Chile Main Event
Date: Mar 19 - 23, 2014
Prize pool: $915,631
1 - Mario Lopez, Argentina, $117,991*
2 - Rodrigo Perez, Chile, $120,000*
3 - Jefferson Melo, Brazil, $90,000*
4 - Luis Resk, Chile, $95,000*
5 - Johann Ibañez, Colombia, $47,620
6 - Robert Lipkin, Canada, $37,260
7 - Guilherme Pita, Brazil, $27,560
8 - Raul Pino, Panama, $18,960
*reflects the results of a four-way deal that left $22,991 in play for the winner
Lopez's win also marks the seventh title for Argentina in the LAPT's storied history, with Lopez following Fabian Ortiz (LAPT2 Chile), Team PokerStars Pros Nacho Barbero (LAPT3 Uruguay, LAPT3 Peru) and Leo Fernandez (LAPT5 Panama), Julian Menendez (LAPT4 Colombia), and last year's winner here Pablo Tavitian (LAPT6 Chile).
It's been a fantastic week in Viña del Mar and a successful kickoff for the LAPT's new season. See you in late May for the tour's next stop in Sao Paulo for LAPT7 Brazil where we'll discover together the next winner of an LAPT Main Event trophy.
Photography from LAPT7 Chile by Carlos Monti.
Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.