A taste of Mexico at WPT Prime Gold Coast

It’s always a treat for the Australian poker player to have the World Poker Tour bring an event to our shores, especially to the iconic Gold Coast.

But in recent times we’ve also seen an increase in international talent drawn down under, to an extent not seen since the pre-COVID days at events like the Aussie Millions.

Last September’s WPT Australia festival here at the Star Gold Coast boasted strong contingents from both Japan and India.

According to WPT’s Live Events Specialist Danny McDonagh, there were at least 20 players that travelled from Japan to play in the series, including the likes of Shimizu Nozomu, Hayato Kitajima, Shiina Okamoto, Masato Yokosawa, Motoyoshi Okamura, Hirokazu Kobayashi, Yuto Suzuki, Yasuhiro Waki, Hayato Kitajima and Kazuhiko Yotsushika. Those 10 names alone boast a total of more than US$10,600,000 in tournament winnings between them.

A smaller group from India also found success on their first visit to Australia, with Ankit Ahuja, Gaurav Sood, Paawan Bansal and Abhinav Iyer all collecting one or more finishes in the money within the same series. Between the four of them, they’ve earned more than US$5,380,000 in tournament winnings.

Sood found his best live cash here, finishing runner-up to Amin Riyazati in the Survivor Bounty, taking home $34,392. Ahuja went on to claim his best live cash of US$362,365 in Cyprus, winning an EPT event merely two weeks after the WPT Australia series. He was also later spotted running deep in the US$10,400 WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas last December, cashing for US$132,500 in 34th place.

This time around, we welcome another group of internationals, with some of Mexico’s finest touching down in Australia for the first time ever.

Angel Guillen

Thanks to a strong recommendation from WPT Ambassador and Gold Coast local Angel Guillen, we welcome anther four members of Mexico’s top 100 on The Hendon Mob’s All Time Money List.

Bernardo Crespo, Tomás Szwarcberg, Sergio Barrios and Victor Shuchleib are loving Australia, both on and off the felt.

Crespo spoke with PokerMedia Australia on Friday, explaining, “He (Guillen) invited us to play here and to travel around a little bit.”

Australian circuit regular Andrés Vásquez was also heavily involved in bringing Crespo and his crew to the other side of the world, with the Colombian joining them on their travels.

On their first trip to the country, Team Mexico’s first stop was Sydney for the Australian Poker Open series. Crespo ultimately won the $10k “Trojan” event, collecting $220,000 after besting a field of 68 and a final table boasting notables Sean Ragozzini, Ehsan Amiri, Daniel Veljkovic and Mostafa Haidary.

Bernardo Crespo

Post-win, Crespo spoke of the differences he found playing in Australia, compared to his experience in the Americas.

“It’s really amazing because the quality of the organization is top notch. It’s as good as Vegas, if not better,” he said.

“But the environment of the people is way better. You can tell by far that here people enjoy the game. It’s not such of a degenerate vibe or a gambling vibe. It’s more of a competitive vibe, and I really, really like it so far.”

Szwarcberg also found success in the $5,000 High Roller PLO, collecting over $17,000 for a 4th-place finish.

The Mexican crew then made their way to the Gold Coast, where they’ve had the opportunity to enjoy a coastal lifestyle, taking some of Australia’s offerings outside of poker. Crespo’s said his favourite part of the trip has been his new routine of waking up to an ocean view and heading to the beach each morning.

For Szwarcberg, it’s has been all about meeting the locals.

“The people,” he explained. “That’s what I’m taking back, I’m just having a lot of fun.”

Tomás Szwarcberg

Post series, they plan to stay on the Gold Coast for the upcoming APLPT at Southport Sharks before heading back to Sydney for both the TopJoy Poker Tour and the upcoming Sydney Champs at The Star Sydney.

In the meantime, this WPT Prime Gold Coast series has already seen success fall the way of the Mexican group, with Victor Shuchleib finishing seventh for $14,272 in the Mystery Bounty. Crespo also finished in third place early in the series in the $1,650 Mix-Max Event, collecting $21,728.

At time of writing, Crespo sits second in chips in the $1,000 Shark Attack Survivor Bounty, having locked up a minimum payout of $8,052 on top of his $9.000 in bounties. There is $38,660 reserved for the winner.

The rest of Team Mexico now sits in the Main Event in what is expected to be a huge field with a prize-pool to match.

Regardless of their results from here, they have assured us they are already planning their next trip Down Under.

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