LAPT Sao Paulo: PokerStars qualifier Alex Manzano tops largest-ever LAPT field
If you spent any time inside the ballroom at the Sheraton WTC this week, it was clear that the natives had one thing on their mind-- crowning a Brazilian LAPT champion. After four seasons in the southern hemisphere, a Brazilian player had yet to bring home an LAPT title, but with more than 60% of the field comprised of their countrymen, they had an excellent shot. Five of our eight final tablists hailed from Brazil, led by Joao Neto, a 24 year-old online wizard who plays under the name "joao bauer." As his chip stack grew, the media and audience alike took to calling him "Jack Bauer," after Kiefer Sutherland's danger-dodging character on the TV series 24. Although Jack Bauer saved the world eight times over on the show, his Brazilian counterpart unfortunately could not do the same at this final table. In a comeback for the ages that came with a shocking finish, it was Chile instead who crowned their first LAPT champion, as PokerStars qualifier Alex Manzano rode a wave of late-game momentum to victory.
Here's how the final eight stacked up as play commenced:
Seat 1: Santiago Nadal (555,000)
Seat 2: Marcio Motta (1,205,000)
Seat 3: Marcelo Fonseca (1,245,000)
Seat 4: Joao Neto (1,395,000)
Seat 5: Alex Manzano (1,730,000)
Seat 6: Leandro Csome (2,875,000)
Seat 7: Bruno Politano (1,030,000)
Seat 8: Henrique Bernardes (440,000)
The final table got off to a slow start. Power outages plagued this particular neighborhood of Sao Paulo in the early afternoon and after a one-hour delay from our 1 pm start time, the cards finally went in the air just after 2pm. We only got through a few hands before the stage lights dimmed once more and after another unscheduled break, the action got going for good around 2:40.
Santiago Nadal came into play as the second-shortest stack, but got to work early, scoring a double-up through Bruno Politano when his pocket kings held up against pocket nines. He wasn't able to hang on to those chips for more than a few minutes as he quickly found himself involved in another all-in situation. With the blinds at 25,000/50,000/5,000, Politano open-shoved from the hijack seat for 385,000 and Nadal re-shoved behind him for 850,000. The rest of the table folded and the cards were turned up, Nadal holding pocket tens against Politano's A♣5♥. By the turn, the board read J♣6♥3♦9♣ and Politano was down to three outs; only an ace could save him.
Aware of his plight, someone from the peanut gallery called out "ace on the river!"
And the poker gods complied, the A♥ landing to double Politano to 750,000.
Politano's new lease on life was unfortunately short-lived. Less than twenty minutes later he was all-in again, this time against Alex Manzano. Manzano's A♠K♣ improved to two pair on the K♠Q♠4♠A♣5♣ board, sending Politano's pocket tens up in flames. For his eighth-place finish, Politano earned R $45,440.
Then, there was the hand that changed everything. Sitting with slightly more than an average stack, Joao Neto opened for 115,000 and Leandro Csome three-bet to 330,000. The action folded back around to Neto, who pulled the trigger and moved all-in for 1.6 million. Csome made the call and turned up A♥Q♦. Neto could only show J♥T♦.
The crowd leapt to their feet, shouting in a deafening mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Neto remained at the table, while Csome sprinted offstage to join his supporters, including LAPT circuit regular Damian Salas. The 6♥3♠2♦ flop was safe enough for Csome, but the roof practically lifted off the ballroom when the J♦ hit the turn. Neto's arms shot into the air, but it wasn't over yet. Csome could still catch an ace or a queen to win. It wasn't to be, however, the K♥ on the river sealing Neto's double-up. Suddenly, he was the runaway chip leader, with 3.3 million in his stack.
Henrique Bernardes was the short stack as the final table began and he played a pretty cautious game today. At last, he pulled the trigger, getting the last of his chips in the middle preflop and earning a call from Alex Manzano. Manzano's A♣K♠ held against Bernardes' Q♠J♥ and he exited in seventh place. A recreational player who typically sticks to home games, Bernardes' R $69,350 was by far a career-high score for him.
Santiago Nadal was the next to depart, moving in for his last seven big blinds with A♦J♣ only to run headlong into Leandro Csome's K♥K♣. Although the T♣8♠4♣ flop was no help to Nadal, he picked up a few more outs on the turn with the Q♠. The crowd chanted for a "Rey" to fill his gutshot straight draw, but the river blanked out with the 7♠, sending Nadal home R $93,270 richer for his sixth-place finish.
Marcelo Fonseca was by far the tightest player at this final table, but finally found a hand he could go with when he looked down at A♣J♥. He moved all-in for about a million and got a call from Alex Manzano, who had him dominated with A♠Q♣. Every Brazilian in the room was on their feet as the flop came down 9♥7♦4♠. That left little hope for Fonseca, who appeared resigned to his fate until the T♣ came on the turn.
"OITO! OITO!" screamed the Brazilians, the loudest of them all Team Pro Maria "maridu" Mayrinck, who cheered for her countryman from a front-row seat. And there it was. Boom. The 8♥ hit the river, the decibel level inside the ballroom approaching that of an NFL playoff game. Fonseca doubled to two million, leaving Day 2 chip leader Manzano just short of 900,000.
Argentina's Leandro Csome ended Day 1 as the chip leader, almost did it again on Day 2, and arrived today sitting atop the pack, with over a million more chips than his nearest competitor. He lost a large chunk to Alex Manzano when his Q♣7♥ fell to A♠7♠, leaving him on the short stack. He made his last stand with K♦5♥ but did not improve against Joao Neto's pocket nines, the board running out Q♠7♥3♠T♠3♣ to send him to the rail in fifth place. Although he was clearly disappointed, R $117,190 isn't a bad consolation prize.
Neto kept on rolling, taking out Marcio "Kamikase" Motta. Motta moved all-in preflop with A♥T♥ and Neto made the call with 6♥6♠. Although Motta picked up a slew of outs on the turn, the Q♥7♠4♣8♥2♠ board ultimately favored Neto and Motta departed in fourth place, earning R $165,000.
As play turned three-handed, it looked like Neto had this thing in the bag with nearly 7 million in chips to Fonseca's 2.1 million and Manzano's 1.7 million. But as we know all too well in tournament poker, chip counts can turn around on a dime. Within twenty minutes, Manzano doubled through Neto not once, but twice. In the first hand, Manzano's A♣3♣ held up against Neto's K♣J♥ in a preflop all-in. Next, Manzano led out on a 8♠4♦2♦ flop, Neto raised, Manzano shoved and Neto made the call. Although Manzano flopped top pair with T♥8♥, he was actually a slight underdog to Neto's A♦5♦. Neither the 7♥ on the turn nor the Q♠ on the river helped Neto, and he slipped to third in chips while Manzano seized the lead.
Minutes later, Neto was racing for his tournament life, all-in with 3♣3♠ against Marcelo Fonseca's A♣K♦. Neto's pair held up, leaving Fonseca with less than three big blinds. They went into the pot on the very next hand, both Neto and Manzano making the call. Manzano and Neto checked down the T♦7♠2♠7♥J♥ board until Manzano made a small river bet. Neto folded and Fonseca turned up A♠K♠, but Manzano had him with T♥8♠ for two pair, tens and sevens. Fonseca was eliminated in third place, collecting R $224,800.
As heads-up play commenced, Manzano held a 6.8 million to 3.9 million lead over Neto. After only a few hands of play, the tournament broke for dinner and 75 minutes later they were back in action. It only took three hands before confetti descended from the rafters and we had a new LAPT champion.
Manzano opened for a 270,000 raise and Neto called from the big blind. The flop came down 3♦2♠2♣ and Neto check-called Manzano's 275,000 bet. The turn came the 7♣ and Neto checked again. Manzano bet 615,000 and Neto looked him up. When the 4♦ hit the river, Neto checked a third time and Manzano tanked for several minutes before declaring himself all-in. Neto squirmed in his seat, appearing truly tortured by the decision he faced. The dealer spread the pot. The crowd fell silent. And after more than five minutes of thought, Neto made the call.
Manzano didn't need to see his opponent's hand. He thrust his arms in the air, tabling 5♣6♣ for the nut straight. A crestfallen Neto pushed his cards toward the middle, face-down where they remained for more than a minute before the dealer finally turned them over-- A♠8♦. Ace-high.
With that Brazil's hopes for finally crowning their first native LAPT champion were crushed. Their loss, however, was Chile's gain as Manzano became the first Chilean to earn an LAPT title. No doubt we'll see him on the felt again next month as the tour moves to Vina del Mar, a scant 75 miles from Manzano's hometown of Santiago.
We've enjoyed every moment here in Sao Paulo-- beautiful weather, friendly people, amazing churrascaria, and caipirinhas, caipirinhas, caipirinhas (google it and try to make one, you won't be sorry). If you missed any of the action today, click over to our Levels 25-30 live updates page to relive all the major hands. Portuguese speakers, we've got you covered on the PokerStars Brazilian blog and if you'd prefer to read en espanol, check out the PokerStars Latin American blog. To see just how many Reias everyone took home, stop by the LAPT prizes and winners page.
Until then, bon noite e boa sorte.
All photography © Carlos Monti.