LAPT9 Panama: Andres Carrillo carries the day, wins Main Event, $138,225
Andres Carrillo had been one cool customer the entire week. A chip leader early and always among the big stacks as the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event moved towards its final stages, he always seemed in control of himself and often the table as well.
That sense of calm continued all of the way to three-handed play with Aaron Mermelstein and Ruben Suarez, and remained the case as Mermelstein fell in third and Carrillo took a lead during heads-up.
But for a moment things started to look doubtful for the Colombian. Suarez' loud rail of supporters, some waving Venezuelan flags, may not have rattled him, but losing a few pots -- including once folding the best hand after Suarez had bluffed him -- might well have.
But Carrillo regrouped. He found a spot and pushed it. And he won.
Carillo becomes the second Colombian ever to win an LAPT Main Event title, following Weider Gutierrez who won in Medellin back in Season 6, and earns a handsome first prize of $138,225 for his efforts.
When the final eight arrived for today's final day -- all that was left from a 553-entry field -- it was the Spaniard, Raul Paez leading the group chip-wise with Mermelstein of Philadelphia not far behind to start the day.
Meanwhile Alcides Gomez brought the shortest stack to today, and it only took about a half-hour for him to put it all at risk with ace-jack. Alas for the Miami-based pro, Austin Peck picked up kings in the small blind, and five cards later Gomez was on the rail in eighth.
Paez continued to maintain his lead as Carrillo became the short stack. But Carrillo -- sitting to the left of Paez -- began to accumulate while Paez began to lose chips, and while there were no busts it was Carrillo ascending to take the lead while Suarez found himself in seventh position.
The Colombian Anderson Blanco -- at one time a chip leader himself early on Day 3 -- then got short as well, and got all his chips in on a ten-high flop holding pocket aces while Carrillo had an open-ended straight draw.
Blanco wanted to see blanks, but the turn card filled Carrillo's straight and soon Blanco was out in seventh.
With six left Carrillo looked in control, but the short stacks kept doubling, perhaps most dramatically in a hand that saw Mermelstein all-in with pocket fours against Paul Cukier's kings, and spike a four on the river to survive. Not too long after that Mermelstein -- like Carrillo -- had gone from worst to first in the counts as the blinds and antes got bigger and the stacks more shallow.
That hit helped end Cukier's run more quickly than he'd have liked. The Costa Rican grandson of WSOP bracelet holders Max and Maria Stern would put his chips in behind jack-ten, get called by Suarez who had queen-ten, and fail to improve to fall in sixth.
Moments later Suarez took care of another short stack, stopping Paez in fifth after the latter's king-jack couldn't improve versus Suarez's pocket nines.
And right on the heels of that hand came another flip, this one between Mermelstein's king-queen and Peck's pocket tens. A king on board sent Peck down to just a single blind, and one hand later Mermelstein won that, too, to send the 20-year-old out in fourth.
Three-handed play between Mermelstein, Suarez, and Carrillo lasted much longer than it seemed it might. The stacks were shallow to start, but they made it through a couple of levels to see them get even shallower, with the lead changing hands constantly and all-ins turning into day-saving double-ups over and again.
Indeed, in one hand Carrillo was all-in with ace-king against the king-ten of Suarez, and a ten on the flop looked as though Carillo was destined to finish third. But an ace fell on the turn and Carrillo kept his seat.
Finally Mermelstein -- a two-time World Poker Tour champ looking for an LAPT title to add to his collection -- saw his run stopped in third when his queen-ten failed to catch up to Carrillo's ace-queen.
Suarez had the edge to start heads-up play, but as noted above Carrillo seized it, lost it, seized it again, and finally sealed the deal. The final hand was a heart-stopper -- Suarez all-in on the flop with a pair and Carrillo drawing to a flush, with the river card completing both the flush and Carrillo's quest for an LAPT title. Meanwhile Suarez came one spot shy of becoming the tour's first Venezuelan champion.
Carrillo more than triples his career tournament earnings with this win. Indeed, after earning that big six-figure score, it isn't surprising to see Carrillo looking cool and calm once more.
LAPT9 Panama Main Event final table results
Places paid: 79
Prize pool: $721,665
1. Andres Carrillo (Colombia) $138,225
2. Ruben Suarez (Venezuela) $86,880
3. Aaron Mermelstein (USA) $62,200
4. Austin Peck (USA) $48,500
5. Raul Paez (Spain) $30,040
6. Paul Cukier (Costa Rica) $29,880
7. Anderson Blanco (Colombia) $22,300
8. Alcides Gomez (USA) $15,440
Thanks for following our coverage all week from the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino. Here are each day's live updates, where you can relive it all:
The LAPT takes a break for a few months before returning in late September in Punta del Este for LAPT9 Uruguay. Until then, beunos noches from Panama!
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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.