2008 World Series: To Rio, via Rio and San Jose

For some of us, the road to the Rio this year has taken some unlikely turns. Thanks to the advent and success of the PokerStars Latin America Poker Tour (LAPT), we've had the chance to visit the Rio of "de Janeiro" fame, that small place on the south coast of Brazil, home of Christ the Redeemer, the Maracana, Ipanema and Copacabana, as opposed to the other Rio, home of Penn and Teller, the Chippendales, and "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" on W Flamingo Road.

In its first season, the LAPT was characterised by raw, sometimes unhinged, enthusiasm as a whole new region of the world came to grips with the PokerStars tournament treatment. We had swarms of supporters, boisterous rails, dancing girls in body paint, and some all new stars on the poker scene. At the very centre of all the hijinks and hilarity there was usually a man named Brenes, if not always the Team PokerStars Pro Humberto, then definitely someone directly influenced by the Shark and somewhere on the same family tree.

In San Jose, Costa Rica, in particular, it sometimes seemed as though a poker tournament had been arranged in the Brenes family home, such were the number of players there bearing that name. And all were welcome: in Humberto, there was the gracious ease of a host to whose private party the hordes had finally found their way.

That was then, and this is now. That was there, and this is here. But surprise, surprise, any spectator taking a quick walk through the remaining 15 tables of the $1,000 re-buy event happening adjacent to the HORSE, will soon see that there's a Brenes in the line-up, the man himself, Humberto. And he's every bit as comfortable here as he was last month in Costa Rica. And why not? Humberto Brenes cashing in the World Series is about as common as a 100 degree day in Las Vegas. It seems to happen all the time.

This year has been no exception. Brenes has been in the money three times so far this series, for the 49th, 50th and 51st occasions in his career. That is a phenomenal record by anyone's reckoning, and he looks likely to add another in-the-money this time out. The $1,000 rebuy currently has 144 of its 879 entrants remaining, and Humberto has round about the average stack of 47,000.

He and the 143 others are contesting a prize pool of $3,240,174, of which the winner will snaffle $693,392. With one eye on that prize, Humberto is beaming away, shark protector sitting prettily alongside his heaps of chips. It should be another few hours, at least, before it gets its flashing mouth anywhere near the middle of the table. And by then, it'll probably just be to chomp down all the cash.