Vamos Mexico! Americas Cup of Poker ends in cheers for Team Mexico
Pancho Villa and Emilio Zappata -- just two of the names Mexicans can recall when asked to list their famous sons. Well, now you can add names like Julio Cesar Torres Orpineda, Cristobal Mancbeo del Castillo, Fidel Efren Montoya Rodriguez, Arieb Ortega Leon and Erick Jair Amaro Aguilar to that list.
The exploits of these five men in the Americas Cup of Poker over recent days might not rank quite as high as their revolutionary countrymen, but try telling them that, or those lucky enough to witness Mexico's romp to victory in the Imperial Ballroom today.
"MEXICO! MEXICO! MEXICO!"
For two solid minutes after Erick Jair Amaro Aguilar had prevailed in the fifth and determining heads-up match, those tree syllables reverberated around the Imperial Ballroom.
One by one, players in the Main Event, the High Roller, the cash games and those innocently wandering by stopped to look at the happiest five guys in the room. Some even left their tables to join the celebrations. The image summed up a spirit of togetherness that has defined this year's Americas Cup.
However, for every winner created a loser is never far behind. This year that unfortunate distinction went to Team Chile, who can console themselves with $25,000 in prize money and the fact they didn't go down without a fight.
By the time the final heads-up matches came to be, all 30 players in this year's Americas Cup had notched up some table time. At the start of the day, each of the six live final teams were invited back: some to play their way to the finale, some to make sure they wouldn't be this year's wooden spoon recipients.
After the first round of matches had concluded, it was Team Argentina who left with potential splinters. You can find out more about those opening matches here.
Only Chile and Mexico enjoyed a chance at final glory. The format was fairly simple: every player in the final would take part in one of five heads-up matches. First team to win three would share $32,500.
On Table 4, Cristobal Mancbeo del Castillo put Mexico in the lead by overcoming Chile's Sergio San Martin Fonseca, before Pablo Nicolas Encina Zapata levelled things up on Table 5. Julio Cesar Torres Orpineda would restore Mexico's slender advantage on Table 2, only for Leonardo Enrique Game Zerega to keep Chile's hopes alive behind them on Table 1. That left Erick Jair Amaro Aguilar and Carlos Alexis Beltran Fuentes to carry the full weight of their teammates' hopes in a back-and-forth decider.
Each team huddled round the table, phones in hand, Facebook at the ready.
"All of our Chilean friends back home are rooting for us," said Chile's Astrid Silvana Periera Fernandez. "Not many people get to represent their country in anything. And every single one of us played our hearts out."
"We're amateur poker players and there's an unbelievable feeling of pride."
10 minutes later we were still no closer to crowning a winner... And then it happened.
"Poker in Mexico is still at a low level, but there's great potential for it to explode," a smiling Arieb Ortega said to me after the noise had died down. "This is a great feeling. First we're going to take a few pictures, and then maybe we'll have a few cocktails."
A lot more money has and will be won in The Bahamas this week. In fact, the entire $32,500 in Mexican prize money would only buy one bullet in the ongoing $25,000 High Roller. But if anyone who manages to get their hands on a shiny PCA 2014 trophy enjoys it more than a small group of Mexican's currently out drinking somewhere within the Atlantis, we'd pay to see it.
Congratulations to Team Mexico, and to all who took part in the 2014 Americas Cup of Poker.
Americas Cup of Poker
Date: January 11-12, 2014
Entries: Six teams
Prize pool: $100,000
1st: Mexico $32,500
2nd: Chile $25,000
3rd: Colombia $17,500
4th: Peru $12,500
5th: Brazil $7,500
6th: Argentina $5,000
See below for more photos from a great day at the PCA.
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.