So far it looks like the poker gods have chosen Weider Vanegas to smile upon today.
Vanegas started out strong, including picking off a river bluff by Hernan Villa in a three-way pot. Vanegas only had a lowly pair of deuces, but it was good enough against Villa’s ace-high. That pot had to give Vanegas a confidence boost; eliminating Felipe Perez gave Vanegas the first scalp of the day.
With Perez out, blinds up and Vanegas vacuuming up all the chips, the other short stacks made their moves. Ruben Ospina was first. Sitting in the big blind seven-handed, Ospina called a raise to 80,000 made by Vanegas from first position. It was a curious call, as Ospina had only 185,000 left behind. It looked like he wanted to execute a “stop and go” play, and indeed when the flop came 5♦A♠Q♠ Ospina moved all in. Vanegas snap-called, having flopped top pair with A♦J♣. Ospina rolled his eyes, sighed and exposed 5♣2♣ for bottom pair of 5s. The board bricked out; Ospina was gone in 7th place.
The next hand, Hernan Villa, about as short-stacked as Ospina had been, moved in with K♦10♥. Vanegas showed up with the goods for the third time, calling the all in with A♥Q♦. The board was five blanks, J♣7♣4♠3♣9♦, sending Villa to the rail right on Ospina’s heels.
Villa started the day in 5th chip position, with fewer than 20 big blinds. His elimination in 6th place is about what he could reasonably have expected. Ospina, on the other hand, got caught with bad luck early when his pocket queens didn’t hold up against Villa’s bluff shove. From there Ospina’s stack ticked down, a few chips at a time, until he was left with a desperation play that didn’t pan out.
For his part, Vanegas now has about 3.7 million in chips. That’s well more than half the chips in play with just five players remaining. He is controlling the table now, opening lots of pots and somehow always having the cards to back up his raises when players play back at him. We’ll see if Raul Paez is able to slow Vanegas down but right now, it’s his tournament to lose.