It was a record turnout for the 2014 PPC Aruba World Championship $2,200 Main Event with a total of 138 entrants taking part in the poker action in beautiful Aruba. Ten of those players returned Monday, already in the money, with their eye on the $62,764 that would be handed out for first place.
Aristoteles Neto came into the final table with the chip lead and he would assume command from the very get go. It was a lead he would not relinquish until play was heads up. He battled his way back against eventual runner-up Steve Karp to claim the title and the first place prize money as well as a guaranteed return trip to the 2015 PPC Aruba Main Event.
Neto became a poor man's Chris Moneymaker story, turning a $65 satellite entry into this impressive score. "I played a $65 satellite at Foxwoods into their $450 PPC Aruba qualifer and was able to win a package to come down here," Neto explained. The commercial truck driver from Boston said he plays poker, mainly cash games, four nights a week.
"We had a blast down here," said Neto as his girlfriend nodded in agreement. "We'll definitely be back next year. Everyone was great."
FINAL TABLE RESULTS
Things started off with a bang with double ups by Aftab Shakoor and Steve Karp on the very first two hands of play. Ted Ely would not be as fortunate as he would be the first one eliminated when his could not best the held by Ryan Franklin.
Neto would win the first of many big pots at the final table when he sent Richard Bowers out in ninth place with against when a king arrived on the turn. John Ott would be the next player eliminated in eight place when he shoved with only to run into the of Joe Ebanks. Not all was lost for Ott though as his finish moved him into first place on the PPC Player of the Year leaderboard ahead of Parry Shaw.
Neto continued his surge when he knocked out Jimmy Pashaj when a frustrated Pashaj four-bet shoved with only to find out that Neto had a hand with his . Pashaj would not improve and was eliminated in seventh place. Aftab Shakoor would follow Pashaj to the rail when he was eliminated at the hands of Steve Karp when his could not outdraw Karp's .
Ebanks, a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and the runner up in the 2013 version of this event, was eliminated in fifth place by none other than Neto in a crazy hand. It started with Ebanks four-bet shoving pre-flop with and Neto snap-calling with . Ebanks flopped huge when it came to give him trip tens, but running jacks on the turn and river gave Neto the pot and sent Ebanks to the rail.
Josh Kay was the next one out, finishing in fourth place, when he moved all in withbottom pair against Ryan Franklin's top pair and was unable to improve. Franklin, who was zipped up tight in a Spiderman hoodie throughout the final table, was next out in third place. He lost a big chunk of his stack when Steve Karp hit a river miracle and then fell at the hands of Neto with to Neto's . Franklin did walk away with a $5,000 2015 PPC Aruba package, however, as the final three negotiated money out of the prize pool to make that happen.
The final two players agreed to a save that would see $50,000 go to second place and the remainder to the winner. Heads-up play was a see-saw affair with Karp bouncing back from a big chip deficit to take a big chip lead of his own after flopping a full house to best Neto's two pair. Neto bounced back with a double up and then slowly chipped away at Karp until he took the chip lead back.
That led to the final hand when the two exchanged quick raises until all the chips were in the middle. Neto held and Karp and Neto would win the hand when a king came on the flop. "Yes!" the excited Bostonian yelled, giving his girlfriend of eight years a huge embrace. He'd turned $65 into $62,764. That's a pretty good return on investment.