The inaugural Latin American Poker Tour organised by online poker giant Poker Stars.com ended in victory for the nineteen year old Dutch player Julien Nuijten this week. The Hollander prevailed over an entry field of 314 poker fans who travelled to Rio for the event, either stumping up the $2 500 buy-in, or winning entry packages online through Poker Stars satellites.
The tournament, held at the Intercontinental Hotel, attracted some respected international names hunting down the top prize of almost $223 000. Vanessa Rousso, Chad Brown, Humberto Brenes, Chris Moneymaker, Gavin Griffin, Isabelle Mercier and Greg Raymer all made an appearance, together with more ‘homegrown' stars like Fabio Deu_Zebra, Decano, Andre Akkari, Igor Federal, Sergio and Alessandra Braga and Sequela.
By Day 2 the field had been thinned out to 103 players, and after some thrilling and aggressive poker 39 of these had fallen by the wayside by the first break. The attrition continued through to Day 3, when the final table formed, headed by Julien Nuijten with an almost three-to-one chip lead over his nearest opponent, Vitaly Kovyazin from the United States.
The other players seated around the table constituted a veritable United Nations of poker, hailing from Costa Rica, Germany, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Switzerland.
Severin Walser of Switzerland was the first elimination, battling against a short stack and taken down by Rafael Pardo. A few hands later it was Juan Carlos Burguillos's turn to head for the rail, eliminated by Oliver Kugler. Seventh placing went to Pardo, who was shown the door by Julien Nuijten, and German competitor Oliver Kugler followed him in sixth position after tangling with American Vitaly Kovyazin and his big chip stack.
Eduardo Henriques of Brazil fell victim to a wired and aggressive Nuijten, heading for the exit and a fifth placing pay check worth just over $47 000. Alex Brenes, brother of Poker Stars team member and international pro Humberto, exited in fourth place after a confrontation with Nikolai Senninger, earning himself respect and a $63 000 payday.
With a heads up in sight, play intensified as Kovyazin, Nuijten and Senninger – in that order on chip counts with the American well ahead – entered the final phase of three handed play to decide the heads-up players. Some exciting moves and counter moves took place over the next 30 minutes, but in the end it was Senninger who left the table in third place, taken down by the confident Dutchman Nuijten. Senninger pocketed a well-earned paycheck of $86 350 for his journey back to Germany.
Going into the heads-up, Kovyazin on 1 740 000 held a comfortable but not unassailable 340 000 chip lead over Nuijten, with both players confident that the cards were with them, playing with skill and an aggression that made for highly entertaining poker for the spectators.
With the chip lead swinging from one player to the other it looked like a closerun and exciting finish as the game neared its climax with the young Dutch player pushing his luck to the limit with some major 100 000 chip bets. His bold strategy paid off as the American player was eliminated and Nuijten took the title and the main prize of $222 940, leaving Kovyazin with second place and a reward of $117 750.
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