As the WSOP was trying to steal the attention of the world by making changes to its involvement in poker within Europe, something big was going down in South America. The first leg of the 2011 PokerStars Latin American Poker Tour was underway in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This LAPT event had a field of 536 players, a record for this tournament, with a host of Brazilian players in the mix to maintain hope of a home champion. The prize pool was a magnificent R$2.3m which made this a very appealing proposition for any poker player.
Alex Manzano was to gatecrash this Brazilian carnival though. The final table of eight players had five Brazilians present, notably led by online prodigy Joao Neto. It was all set for the Argentinian Leandro Csome to break Brazilian fans’ hearts as he entered the final table with a solid chip lead. The table started slowly and looked to have flattered to deceive. For a region that is so famous for its flair and color, the final table had started lifeless and bland.
Bruno Politano was the first to exit the table. He was looking to spark proceedings into life and he did so by doubling up against Santiago Nadal by hitting an Ace on the river. His luck wasn’t to last long though. He went all in against Alex Manzano and fell victim to the talented player’s cards. A huge hand between Joao Neto and Leandro Csome soon after changed Csome’s game completely. Neto hit a Jack on the turn to win an all in effort, where a defeat would have ended his tournament. Neto was now in charge and Csome had gone from being the big fish to the shrimp in just one hand.
Manzano was soon at it again, executing his opponents mercilessly. This time it was the turn of Henrique Bernardes. Leandro Csome pinched some chips back by shortly eliminating the struggling Santiago Nadal. Nadal had been up against it from the off as a short stack so Csome had taken it upon himself to put Nadal out of his misery. Marcelo Fonseca had been keeping a low profile all game but put himself back in contention when he doubled up against Manzano sending the home ground into ecstasy. A Brazilian winner was still on the cards.
Leandro Csome’s unfortunate final table experience came to an end soon after when Joao Neto hit pocket 9s against Csome’s King and 5 unsuited. He entered the final table as a firm favorite but had lost his grip as the game progressed. The man dubbed ‘Kamikaze’, Marcio Motta made his subdued exit when he lost out to Neto’s pair of 6s. Neto was now staring victory in the face. With over 7 million chips he was almost 5 million chips ahead of 2nd placed Fonseca.
Fonseca was fighting for the Brazilian corner; Neto was representing Argentina whilst the little known PokerStars qualifier Alex Manzano was hoping to become the first Chilean LAPT Champion. In 20 minutes, Manzano turned the tide. He doubled up against Neto twice leaving Neto fighting for his tournament life. Suddenly, Manzano had taken control. This left Neto and Fonseca fighting it out for the heads up berth with Manzano. Eventually, it was Manzano who took the bull by the horns and eliminated Fonseca. Manzano wanted to win this tournament as soon as possible.
Entering the heads up Manzano had 6.8 million chips whilst Neto had 3.9 million chips. It only took a matter of quick hands before Manzano put Neto to the sword and walked away as the first Latin America Poker Tour Champion of 2011. He won it with a nut straight holding a 5 and 6 of clubs compared to Neto’s Ace high effort. It was a stylish way to finish a tournament that Manzano initially seemed unlikely to win, particularly going into the final table. He played the right game though and deservedly walked away as the LAPT Sao Paulo 2011 Champion. Battling through a crowd of players that included such famous names as Humberto Brenes, Andre Akkari and Nacho Barbero, this humble man from Chile had defied the odds and made a name for himself across the South American poker community.