The final eight players returned to the Mantra Resort on Saturday afternoon to play for the title of champion at the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour Punta del Este. The battle was not for the faint of heart or the deep of stack, and Team PokerStars Pro Jose “Nacho” Barbero emerged from the ten-hour slugfest as the last man standing to earn himself a stout metal trophy and $273,330.
"All-in with ace-rag" was the recurring theme in the early stages of the final table, and the first elimination hand saw Barbero’s leading Roman Suarez’s . Suarez was hoping to at least chop the pot, but the board of made Barbero the winning trips and sealed Suarez's eighth-place exit ($20,850).
Bernardo Dias (seventh place, $31,270) was the next victim of the ace-rag fun fest when his could not overcome Andres Korn’s . Shortly thereafter, Marco Caicedo was next to bow out, although his weak ace was the better hand when the money went in. Caicedo put his stock in , and Barbero called him down with . The eventual champ paired up on the flop and tripped up on the river, and the board of ushered Caicedo out in sixth place ($41,690).
Daniela Zapiello (fifth place, $52,110) put on a fine show for her Brazilian fans, at times dominating the field full of men in what became quite a compelling plot line. Unfortunately though, the final table was not so kind to the 23-year-old with the contagious smile.
Just after an hour-long break, Zapiello saw her chip stack decimated by Korn's pocket aces. On the following hand, her small stack went in with , and sure enough, it was ace-rag that finished her off. Big stack Norbert Ludger was a favorite with , but Zapiello pulled out to a big lead on the friendly flop of . The raggy on fourth street didn’t change much, but the river gave Ludger Broadway and forced Zapiello off the stage and into the arms of her friends on the rail.
The pace of the knockouts began to quicken as the levels ticked away. Ludger (4th place, $72,960) went broke with against Nicolas Cardyn’s , and Korn (3rd place, $99,020) ran his into Barbero’s . After a long grind down to the final five players, heads-up play arrived with a quickness.
Cardyn and Barbero were the two left standing, and by that time the stacks were too short to play much poker. Barbero began the heads-up part with a significant lead, but Cardyn managed a quick double with the increasing blinds driving the action. The two men were dead even in chips, but it would only be a few more hands before things went very lopsided again. Cardyn tried a shove with after he missed a flop of . Barbero had three-bet preflop with , and he called Cardyn’s bluff to cripple him down to just a couple big blinds.
On the very next hand, Cardyn (second place, $161,550) was all-in, but he was in excellent shape with his dominating Barbero’s . The board was uneventfully raggy until the spiked the river, and the crowd burst into a explosion of celebration at the sight of the final card of the tournament.
Capped off by that nail-biting three-outer, Nacho Barbero completed his impressive run through the field of 307 players. When the last card was out, he looked as relieved as he did joyful, perhaps the result of what was surely a taxing day and week of poker. In claiming this title, Barbero became the first member of the Team PokerStars Pros to win an LAPT event, an honor that seems to mean as much to him as any cash prize or metal trophy ever could.