Next time you're in a poker tournament, take a good look around the table. If you're accompanied by a chatty Costa Rican fellow dressed in a brightly colored tracksuit, sun visor, two pairs of glasses and a music headset, it might be best to just walk away.
That man is Humberto Brenes, a well-liked professional poker player with two World Series of Poker bracelets and millions of dollars in career tournament winnings to his name.
Brenes was born May 8, 1951 in Costa Rica. By the age of seven, he had learned to play cards by observing his father gamble socially with friends. Though he eventually became a skilled card player, Brenes opened himself up to other opportunities by attending the University of Costa Rica, where he earned a degree in industrial engineering.
Despite a penchant for making easy money by outplaying tourists at local casinos, Humberto chose a career of building businesses in Costa Rica. Over the years Brenes has owned a television station, a nut company, a construction business, a number of restaurants and a chocolate and cookies business.
The money came easiest, though, from his casino play. At gambling resorts in the Bahamas, Brenes excelled at craps and baccarat, at one point winning $377,000 in one craps tournament. But as the novelty of the quick buck wore off, Brenes found himself questioning whether he had the skills to play cards against the professionals. In need of a challenge, he decided to take up serious poker play.
Humberto Brenes, aka The Shark
In May 1987, Brenes played his first WSOP event - the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship. Though he placed 14th, Humberto was back at the WSOP each year until he won two gold bracelets in 1993 in the $2,500 Limit Hold'em and the $2,500 Omaha Pot-Limit events.
In the following years, Brenes continued to be a familiar presence on the poker circuit - as did his brothers, Alex and Erick, who both hold World Poker Tour titles. After several final table seats and a handful of tournament wins, Brenes found his first big poker score at the Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica in January 2002. There, he claimed $500,000 in prize money at the No-Limit Texas Hold'em Championship event.
Though he has yet to top his 2002 tournament win, Brenes consistently earns final table seats on the tournament trail and has many second- and third-place finishes under his belt. At the 2006 WSOP, he cashed $330,000 in winnings after placing 36th in the $10,000 No-Limit Texas Hold'em Championship event.
Despite his limited English - brother Alex often accompanies him and helps with translation - Brenes is very popular with his poker peers. Besides, he says, "In poker I know all of the important words - raise, re-raise." He loves to chat, but when he starts losing multiple hands Brenes turns up the volume on his earphones and hums along to the music in order to stay focused.
Brenes makes his home in San Jose, Costa Rica, with his wife, Patricia, and their three children. He also owns a home in Florida.
In the poker world, Brenes is also known as a spokesman for PokerStars.com, where he plays online. So next time you're up against a player by the name of "Humberto B." in the poker room, you might want to think twice about re-raising him.