After three days of play and a grueling final table, Jose Miguel Espinar found himself atop the field at the end of the PokerStars.net Latin America Poker Tour Punte del Este championship, adding an LAPT win to his PokerStars Caribbean Adventure cash, a good start to a career that began only in Decemeber 2007. His victory of 350 other players in the Uruguay event netted him $241,735, and a wealth of credibility in the live poker arena. Espinar started Day 3 in the middle of the pack, with the final-table chip counts as follows:
Alexandre Gomes - 763,000
Gylbert Drolet - 691,000
Jose Miguel Espinar - 675,000
Lisandro Gallo - 465,000
Alex Brenes - 457,000
Paulo Cesar Ribeiro - 281,000
Juan Jose Perez - 167,000
Sidney Chreem - 93,000
Three rapid-fire eliminations marked the beginning of the final table, with Paulo Cesar Ribeiro the first to fall. In one of the first hands of the final, Jose Miguel Espinar raised preflop from early position. Ribeiro re-raised, and Espinar called. The flop came down , and Espinar checked. Ribeiro led out, and Espinar check-raised all in. Ribeiro called with pocket jacks, only to see Espinar table . The on the turn left Ribeiro drawing dead, and Espinar rivered the case king for quads as Ribeiro headed to the rail in eighth place ($17,025).
Espinar then took out another opponent, sending Juan Jose Perez home in seventh place ($25,535). Perez raised from early position, and Espinar re-raised from the button. Perez moved all in with , and Espinar called with . Espinar picked up a gutshot straight draw on the flop, and the on the turn gave Perez a set. The river was the , making a Broadway straight for Espinar, and busting Perez on a nasty beat.
Sidney Chreem was the next to fall when he ran his into Lisandro Gallo's pocket sevens and didn't improve to bust in sixth place ($34,045). Chreem moved all in preflop, and only Gallo called. The board ran out , and Chreem was eliminated.
After the initial spate of eliminations, play calmed somewhat. Several hours passed before Gallo claimed another scalp, this time that of Gylbert Drolet, who fell in fifth place ($51,070). Gallo opened for a raise from the button, and Drolet moved all in from the small blind. Alex Brenes got out of the way in the big blind, and Gallo called with . It was a classic race situation, as Drolet held pocket jacks to Gallo's overcards. The flop added more outs for Gallo, and the on the turn changed nothing. Everything changed with the on the river, however, as Gallo made his flush and Drolet was sent packing.
Day 2 chip leader Alexandre Gomes headed to the rail in fourth place when he tangled with Alex Brenes in a big hand. All the money went in on the flop of , and Team PokerStars Pro member Gomes showed for two overcards, a gutshot straight draw and a flush draw. Brenes held A-5 for an overcard and a straight draw. The turn gave Brenes the straight, and the river was no help for Gomes, who picked up $68,100 for his three days' work. That hand moved Brenes into the chip lead as play went three-handed.
Three-handed play went for over two hours before Alex Brenes sent Lisandro Gallo to the rail in third place ($93,630) to set up the endgame. A short-stacked Gallo moved his chips in from the button with , only to run into Brenes' pocket aces. No help came on the -K-x board, and Gallo was eliminated in third place.
Jose Miguel Espinar took a slight chip lead into heads-up play, with the chip stacks looking like this:
Jose Miguel Espinar: 1,993,000
Alex Brenes: 1,528,000
The heads-up match lasted for several hours as the two remaining players jockeyed for position and avoided making big mistakes. Finally, after the tournament ran longer than the initial schedule had levels, Brenes came in on the wrong end of an A-10 vs. A-9 confrontation, and found himself crippled. The last of his chips went in the middle on the very next hand, as he woke up with . Espinar called with , and Espinar hit the flop hard as it came down . Brenes found no help on the turn, and the on the river ended his tournament one spot earlier than he wanted, in second place for $126,625.
Jose Miguel Espinar, who picked up poker less than a year ago, claimed his first major tournament victory and the $241,735 first prize at the PokerStars.net LAPT Punta del Este!