Seems like ages ago that 422 players were seated all over the Mantra Resort and Casino, each with hopes of claiming an LAPT title and the cool $244,720 that went along with it. But it has only been three days, during which time all but eight from that starting field have survived with chips, all still able to battle for the trophy and cash prize.
There were 27 left following the first two days' of poker. Of that group -- representing 11 different countries -- Cassio Kiles of Brazil returned today as the only one of the bunch with more than 1 million chips.
Kiles would maintain that lead during the first hours of play while a rapid series of eliminations took place, among them Portugal's last representative, Jose Luis Rodrigues (in 25th), the last player from Chile, Jose Munoz (in 24th), one-time chip leader Juan Jose Perez of Argentina (in 22nd), and the last Costa Rican in the field, three-time WSOP bracelet winner Max Stern (in 21st).
Stern's cash coincided with his 50th wedding anniversary, something his wife Maria spoke with us about earlier today. Maria is a poker player herself, and thus well understood the obligation Max had on their special day. In fact, Maria owns a WSOP bracelet herself, having won the $1,500 seven-card stud event in 1997!
A little later Olaru Cristian of Romania went out in 16th place, and soon Kiles' fortunes changed for the worse in rapid fashion. Two tough-luck hands -- both preflop all-ins in which river cards snatched pots away from the Brazilian -- saw Kiles hit the rail in 15th.
Soon after, Christian Pereira and Il Suh (both of Argentina) went out in 14th and 13th respectively, then the pace slowed down as the final dozen battled at two six-handed tables for over an hour. The lone remaining Austrian Erik von Buxhoeveden next went out in 11th and Luis Bonnet of Argentina was eliminated in 10th.
By that time, Uruguay's own Alex Komaromi had built a sizable lead, hovering around the 2 million-chip mark with Engelberth Varela of Venezuela his nearest challenger with about 1.3 million.
Play slowed considerably after the final nine were assembled around a single table. Both Komaromi and Varela steadily chipped away at the others, putting distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.
Finally a short-stacked Oded Minond found himself all in with pocket tens against Komaromi's king-queen, a king fell on the turn, and the final eight had been determined.
That last pot meant Komaromi had added a few more chips to his lead. Here's how the stacks will look when players return for Sunday's final day of play.
Seat 1 - Rafael Monteiro (Brazil) -- 810,000
Seat 2 - Felipe Pasini (Brazil) -- 345,000
Seat 3 - Nelson Neto (Brazil) -- 405,000
Seat 4 - Carlos Watanabe (Peru) -- 430,000
Seat 5 - Alex Komaromi (Uruguay) -- 2.92 million
Seat 6 - Claudio Piedrabuena (Argentina) -- 490,000
Seat 7 - Fernando Araujo (Brazil) -- 860,000
Seat 8 - Engelberth Varela (Venezuela) -- 1.84 million
Thanks for following our coverage today, and do come back to the PokerStars blog tomorrow to find out if Komaromi can hold off the other seven -- including the four Brazilians -- to claim the LAPT Punta del Este title for his home country.