Espinar, who only started playing poker in December of last year, defeated Costa Rica's Alex Brenes in heads-up play to capture the biggest win of his fledgling poker career, earning $241,735 in a winning effort after outlasting Brenes in an epic heads-up battle.
Almost 11 hours before he clinched the title, Espinar joined seven other finalists at the climactic table of the LAPT's Uruguayan adventure, entering the third and final day of competition third in chips behind Team PokerStars pro Alexandre Gomes and online qualifier Gylbert Drolet, from Canada.
Also joining the final-table party were Brazilians Paulo Ribeiro and Sidney Chreem and Argentineans Lisandro Gallo and Juan Jose Perez.
Due to some scheduling misunderstandings with the Fox Sports film crew, action didn't get under way until an hour past the noon (11 a.m. EDT) start time, but once the bird got off the ground it flew, boy, it flew.
Only three hands into the final table, Ribeiro decided he'd had enough, calling off his stack on a K-K-6 board holding pocket jacks and finding himself up against Espinar's K-Q. A queen on the turn gave the Spaniard the boat and the case king on the river meant quads, booting Ribeiro from contention for an eighth-place finish and $17,025 USD in spending money.
A few hands later it was Perez's turn. The cash-game pro got his short stack all-in good holding a pocket pair of aces against Espinar's suited ace-jack, but the Q-T-2 flop gave the rookie a gut-shot draw. Even though Perez turned top set he couldn't do much against the K♦ that spiked on the river to give Espinar broadway. Perez earned $25,535 for his seventh-place finish.
Sidney Chreem entered the day with the shortest stack but "flinstom" managed to grind out a few extra dollars courtesy Ribeiro and Perez. He'd eventually be forced to the sidelines in sixth place after his desperation shove with Q-9 failed to improve against Gallo's pocket sevens. Chreem hit the road taking $34,045 from the prize pool.
That left only five players remaining and none of them seemed particularly inclined to leave. Five-handed play lasted for almost two hours before a short-stacked Drolet shipped it all-in with jacks and found himself racing Gallo's A♣ Q♥. The flop came all clubs to give Gallo the flush draw, and after the turn was a brick the river was the K♣, completing the draw and eliminating Drolet in fifth for a $51,070 score.
Following Drolet's elimination the average stack for the four remaining players hovered around 40 big blinds, and both Alex Brenes and Alexandre Gomes found themselves right around that marker. That didn't stop either player from gambling, however, as the two would play the biggest pot of the tournament up to that point when Gomes decided to commit his stack with a myriad of draws holding Q♠ 7♠ on a 6♠ 4♠ 3♣ board.
Brenes, for his part, held A-5 for ace-high and the open-ended straight draw, but he'd get there on the turn when the 7♥ hit. Gomes couldn't find a spade on the river, watching the 9♦ fall instead, and thus was the last remaining PokerStars representative rendered busto in fourth place, taking $68,100 in prize money as he left.
Brenes, Espinar and Gallo would then play three-handed for the title and, as brother Humberto called the action tableside the Costa Rican would jump out to a substantial chip lead, courtesy a rivered full house against Espinar's aces-up.
Espinar would get chips back, however, when he doubled through Gallo in a hand that featured a number of questionable decisions on the part of the Argentinean, culminating in his moving all-in on a T-6-2-J board holding third pair and getting an instant call from Espinar, who held A-J.
The hand would cripple Gallo and a few hands later he was gone, out in third place courtesy Brenes' pocket aces and earning $93,630 for his troubles.
Espinar would take nearly $2 million of the roughly $3.5 million chips in play into heads-up action but it would take nearly five hours of back-and-forth poker to decide a champion. The former central heating salesman would hold as many as $2.6 million to Brenes $900,000 but the wizened pro would battle back.
By the time Level 27 rolled around, he had taken a very slim lead. Then disaster struck.
With blinds at $50k/$100k and holding $1.77 million, Brenes raised to $450,000 on the button. Espinar moved all-in over the top and after a bit of thought, Brenes decided to make the call, showing A-9 and finding himself in a world of trouble against Espinar's A-T.
The pro-Costa Rican crowd pleaded for a nine and when the dealer peeled the flop they were rewarded. Brenes raised his hands exultantly in the air as his brother explained to the audience that the game wasn't over yet.
One card later and the Shark was proven terribly right as the dealer turned a ten on fourth street, giving Espinar the lead once more and leaving Brenes drawing for one of two outs that never materialized.
Down to his last $40,000 after the hand, Brenes was all-in pre-flop on the next one and in surprisingly good shape, holding A♥ T♣ to Espinar's K♣ 3♣. The flop, however, came K♦ 9♣ 7♣ to give the rookie top pair and a flush draw, and after the board finished out 4♠ 9♠ the game was over and the Spaniard was champion!
For his runner-up finish, a devastated Brenes takes home $127,675, while Espinar gets the aforementioned $241,735, as well as two vases of varying sizes and a truckload of confetti.
Congratulations are in order to both finalists, as well as to tournament director Mike Ward and his staff and the crew at PokerStars.net, and to the LAPT in general for a wildly successful first season. The tour will resume Nov. 3 in San Jose, Costa Rica and reportedly will feature six events in total. We'll see you there!