LAPT Rio: Final day preview

Hello and welcome back to Rio for the final day of the first ever event on the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT).

We started on Friday with 314 players contesting a $785,000 prize pool and now, two days and 305 eliminations later, we're down to our final nine.

The video blog team worked long into last night to give a wrap from the tournament so far. You can watch it below, and return to PokerStars.tv to see their work and sample a taste of the Latin American action.

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When the players make their way back into the arena, here's who will be shooting for the top prize.

Seat 1 - Julien Nuijten -- Holland -- 970,000

LAPT Rio_Day 2_0115.jpgA dominant force since early on Day 1, the 19-year-old from Amsterdam has found himself with a monstrous chip lead on the final table. Julien mainly plays high-stakes cash online, but was tempted to Rio for the LAPT while holidaying in Argentina with a poker-playing friend. He won the world championship of Magic: The Gathering aged 15 and joins the likes of Team PokerStars Pros Noah Boeken and Dario Minieri in making the transition from Magic to poker. Boeken is a good friend and lives 10 minutes from Nuijten in Amsterdam, but they haven't been in touch since the tournament began. "Well, he doesn't call me when he makes a final table," said Nuijten.

Seat 3 - Vitaly Kovyazin -- USA -- PokerStars qualifier -- 380,000
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Born in Niznii Novgorod, Russia, Kovyazin emigrated to the United States in 1992, spending a few years in Tallinn, Estonia, along the way. Since then, he's quickly found a home around the American poker tables, playing in Atlantic City and Foxwoods, and making a final table of a World Series circuit event in 2006. Now the manager of a construction company, he’s also a regular qualifier for the major live tournaments from the online tables, and earned his seat here in a 10,000 FPP satellite on PokerStars, effectively freerolling to the final table. He's mixed it up en route to his stack of 380,000, getting creative while short and, by his own admission, "playing any hand." He played a flopped set of tens with great skill to eliminate Farhad Sinaei in 13th place. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and two sons, 18 and 6 years.

Seat 6 - Alex Brenes -- Costa Rica -- 324,000
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Alex Brenes, younger brother of Team PokerStars Pro Humberto, has been playing poker for 20 years. He took it up after watching Humberto and their other brother Eric play home games and when the game moved to a local casino, he started playing himself. He said: “There was a group of around 30 regulars and within a year I was one of the best. We used to have two tournaments a week and then, at the end of the year, the top ten on the leader board would play a final table. I won it every year from 1988 to 1996.” At the time, Humberto and Alex were partners in a chocolate factory but when Humberto decided to sell up, Alex threw himself into poker full-time. If he wins today, it won’t be his biggest live result – he’s come 2nd in two WSOP side events, won a WPT title in LA and a $250k first prize in a Vegas tournament. But the LAPT title means the world to him. He said: “Humberto is, without a doubt, the best poker player in Latin America and one of the best tournament players in the world. If I win today, it will put the Brenes name even more on top.”

Seat 5 - Nikolai Senninger -- Germany -- PokerStars qualifier -- 318,000
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Nikolai Senninger is only 18 years old and lives in Lindau at Bodensee in south-west Germany. He recently dropped out school to play poker – to the dismay of his parents who were also not keen on his idea to come to Brazil. But he says he’ll restart school again shortly - in case he doesn’t take the first prize in Rio. Nikolai is accompanied in Rio by his older brother Sascha, the manager of a car sales company. Nikolai paid for Sascha’s travel from his very own bankroll (“it’s big enough”) - built up on PokerStars by “playing well and a lot”. The huge sun glasses he wears are brand new, bought at the Intercontinental Hotel store as “no tell gear”. They have already brought him quite far. Nikolai says he’s pretty cold- blooded and taking his achievements at the LAPT calmly. But he says his brother’s heart is beating “like a machine gun”...

Seat 38 - Juan Carlos Burguillos -- Venezuela -- 297,000
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Juan Carlos was born in Venezuela and lives in the capital of Caracas. He’s been playing poker seriously for 18 months but started off playing Caribbean poker and was soon playing lots of live events in Venezuela. He also plays a lot on online at PokerStars, mainly tournaments. He describes himself as an enthusiastic person and a good friend to his friends. Outside of poker, Juan Carlos is a keen sailor – and came to Rio with a whole armada of friends who have been cheering him on throughout. His wife Isabel wasn’t able to come to Rio as she is six months pregnant with the couple’s first child – they are expecting a girl.


Seat 9 - Rafael Pardo -- Colombia -- PokerStars qualifier -- 278,000
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Engineering student Rafael comes from a small town near the city of Cali. He qualified on PokerStars six weeks ago by working his way up the Steps satellites over a two-day period. His biggest result before that was winning a $20 buy-in event on PokerStars a few months ago, where he bested a field of 180 players. He took up poker 18 months ago after seeing a PokerStars advertisement on TV. This is his first live event – he normally plays either online or with friends in home games. He said: “All my friends are mad about poker. Popayan is a small town and pretty much everyone I know plays poker. They were all desperately trying to qualify for LAPT Rio as well so they could accompany me, but no one else made it.” Rafael said it wasn’t until Step 6 that he really thought he could win a seat. He said: “I was really nervous during Step 6, but I made it.” He plans to use today’s winnings to help out his family.


Seat 2 - Eduardo Henriques -- Brazil -- 275,000
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Eduardo Henriques David, comes from Penha (Rio de Janeiro) and has been married for 2 years. He has only been playing poker for 6 months and is thrilled to be the last Brazilian in the first ever LAPT Final Table while his proud wife, Evelini, watches and cheers from the rail. His seat into the LAPT was a gift from his best friend, Raffaele Tamburin, who paid 90% of the buy-in in exchange for 40% of the profits. This exchange was a gesture of friendship - and a "thank you" after Eduardo did the same for his friend in a prior tournament. Eduardo says that aside from the thrill of making this final table and representing Brazil, his largest thrill was to play for hours next to his idol, Alex "Assassinato" Fitzgerald, who he respects not only as a player, but also for his demeanor and elegance at the table. He said he saw Alex take one bad beat after the other to be eliminated in 11th place. He really wishes that Alex too could be at the final table.


Seat 8 - Oliver Kugler -- Germany -- PokerStars qualifier -- 176,000
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Oliver was born in Hamburg but has been living in Rio de Janeiro for the past four years. He came here because “the weather is much better than in Hamburg, and so is the lifestyle”. He’s kind of a language genius – fluent in English, Portuguese and German. He works in Rio as a language teacher. He said: “It’s not so much the money that counts for me, but playing skilled, good poker.” He says he now likes playing high stakes and says he’s doing well. He’s a calm, fairly reserved character who finds the excitable railbirding here in Rio very amusing. He qualified for LAPT Rio in a Last Chance satellite on PokerStars.


Seat 4 - Severin Walser -- Switzerland -- PokerStars qualifier -- 175,000
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Severin has been playing poker for around five years but full-time only for the last two. He mainly focuses on online $10-20 hold’em and Omaha games. At home in this international environment at LAPT Rio, Walser speaks French, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, plus his native Swiss/German and also has a grounding in Latin. He also has a Masters degree in maths, earned in his home town of Zurich, but finances most of his global travels through poker. He made a final table at the 2007 WSOP in a $2,000 seven-card stud event, finishing fourth behind the eventual winner Jeffrey Lisandro, but sharing the table with Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu and Howard Lederer. He qualified for his seat here in Rio via the PokerStars Steps - joining at Step 2 for $27. He said: “I don’t play much live poker as it involves travelling to Austria. I had nothing but expenses doing that!” Severinis very keen to win the LAPT Rio title. “It wouldn’t change my life, but $220,000 isn’t bad!” He favours the Dutch chip leader Julien Nuijten to win however.

When the cards are finally in the air, at 2pm local time, they will play the remaining 55 minutes of level 20, with blinds at 8,000-16,000, with a 2,000 running ante.

The tournament structure, as well as further details of the LAPT, can be found HERE

The full details of the payouts, and those prize winners so far, can be found HERE