LAPT8 Brazil: Ariel Celestino's star is rising

The field gradually continues to shrink in the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final Main Event in São Paulo, Brazil. There were 109 players who returned from the dinner break not too long ago, and now as they cross into Level 16 just 84 remain gathered around 11 tables.

They're leaving empty tables along the side, meaning the ones left are those nearest the feature table up in the front of the Golden Hall -- appropriate as that will be the ultimate destination for the final eight players who make it to Sunday's finale.

Maximiliano Gallardo has continued to maintain his big stack since we last checked in, increasing his count up toward the 350,000-chip range. But he's been passed on the leaderboard by the Brazilian Ariel "Bahia" Celestino who looks to be the first player in the field to have cracked the 400,000 mark.

Currently one of the top 100 ranked tournament players in the world according to the Global Poker Index -- and the highest-ranked Brazilian (at No. 90) -- Celestino has a lengthy history of success on the LAPT. That said, despite collecting many cashes in the BSOP, the EPT, the WSOP, and elsewhere this year, he hasn't recorded on here on the LAPT during Season 8.

With the money bubble starting to near -- they are about 20 spots off of it bursting now -- Celestino looks in fine shape to rectify that situation shortly. His highest previous LAPT Main Event finish was 11th at LAPT2 Chile, and Celestino also won a BSOP Main Event right here at the WTC São Paulo in 2012.

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Ariel Celestino

Other big stacks at the moment include a couple of LAPT Main Event winners. Alex Manzano won the LAPT4 Brazil Main Event here in São Paulo, and right now the Chilean is looking healthy with a stack of 300,000. And his fellow countryman Patricio Rojas, winner of LAPT6 Peru, is also comfortably above the average with about 200,000.

Meanwhile two-time LAPT Main Event champion Oscar Alache has been eliminated, ending his chance here to add to his LAPT Season 8 Player of the Year lead.

Photography from LAPT8 Brazil by Carlos Monti. You can also follow the action in Spanish here and in Portuguese here.

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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.