2008 World Series: A familiar face at the cashiers' cage
Twenty-one years, one month and 15 days ago, a 37-year-old poker player from Costa Rica visited the cashout cage of Binions Horseshoe Casino, Las Vegas, to collect his first winner's cheque from the World Series of Poker. It was worth $12,500 and represented 14th place in the main event of the 1987 series, a relatively modest profit of $2,500 on a $10,000 buy-in to poker's glittering showpiece.
Something like two hours ago, the same man, now 58, visited a World Series cash-out cage again. By now, he pretty much has his own window there: it was the 52nd time he had done so in the intervening years, and the fourth time in the past fortnight. This time he picked up another relatively modest sum, $7,776 for squeaking into the money in the $1,000 re-buy event. But his trips to that cage have contributed a significant portion to the former baccarat player's $5,221,884 lifetime earnings from major tournament poker.
No prizes for guessing the identity of this star, this PokerStar. He is Team PokerStars Pro Humberto Brenes.
"I think that's the 52nd cash," Brenes half-told, half-asked me when we caught up in the corridor of the Rio shortly after his latest result. I told him he was right. "The fourth this series," he said with some assurance, before looking quizzical again. "But I don't remember all of them. Do you know if there is a list somewhere?" For the past half hour, I have been copy-pasting Humberto's WSOP cash list from the various poker databases and forwarding it on.
It wasn't one of the most exciting jobs I have ever undertaken, but it made for some impressive reading. Humberto has two bracelets to his name, both from 1993, and three or four runners-up results from approximately 20 final tables. Not all of the older, pre-internet tournament professionals have managed to adapt their game to cope with the online invasion into live poker. But Brenes is an exception, and 20 of his cashes have come post-Moneymaker, including three final tables last year.
"What are you playing next?" I asked, just so I could tip off the cashiers to start inking "Brenes" on another cheque. "I don't know. What tournament is on now?" But he didn't fancy the stud hi-lo that had just started in the Brazilia room. "Mañana," he said. "I play mañana." And with that, he was off again, weaving through the corridors of the Rio and back to the family.
Mañana it is then. Get the chequebook out.