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Humberto Brenes

By Paul McGuire

Humberto Brenes is considered the best poker player from Central America and is known as the “Godfather of Costa Rican players.” He’s also an established tournament veteran and is one of the premiere poker players in the world. In his personal life, the jovial and charming Brenes is a successful businessmen in his home country of Costa Rica. He owns an Univision television station, a construction company, several restaurants, and at one point in his life was involved in the export business of chocolate, nuts, and other fruits and vegetables.

Humberto Brenes
Humberto Brenes- Source: Las Vegas & Poker

Humberto Brenes started playing poker with his father in 1958 when he was seven years old. He watched his father continuously win. Afterwards he’d often give his winnings back to the other losing players. Humberto did not appreciate that the other players were taking advantage of his father’s generosity. That’s where he developed his winning attitude.

Humberto played cards through college and earned an industrial engineering degree in Costa Rica. He worked in several different business ventures and was in the cookie business with his brother for a while. When he wasn’t working hard, he gambled against tourists at the many casinos in Costa Rica. Brenes excelled in baccarat and craps and even competed in tournaments. He once won $300,000 in a craps tournament. At the suggestion of a friend, he started playing poker tournaments. He applied his business savvy and ability to make excellent decisions to his poker game. Brenes eventually evolved into an excellent all around poker player who has won $3.7 million in his career on the tournament circuit. He always stressed the importance of concentration during tournaments.

“Talent is something that you are born with, but concentration is something that you must teach yourself. I am hoping to have the discipline, skills, and the concentration to win,” Brenes once said about his game.

Humberto Brenes loved playing poker in Las Vegas, especially at Binion’s Horseshoe. He made 18 final tables during his career at the World Series of Poker and won two bracelets. Brenes came close to winning his first bracelet in 1992, but he lost to WPT creator Lyle Berman heads up. Brenes would have to wait one more year to achieve WSOP immortality. 1993 was a breakthrough year for Brenes after he won two bracelets. His first victory was in Pot Limit Omaha and his second was Limit Hold’em. In 1995, Brenes missed his third bracelet after Mickey Applebaum beat him heads up in the $5,000 NL event.

Brenes would finish second place two more times in WSOP events. He came close to winning 6 bracelets and if he caught a little luck any of those instances, he’d easily have more first place victories. In 1999, Josh Arieh beat Brenes heads up in the $3,000 Limit event. In 1999 he took second in the $5,000 Seven-card Stud event. Despite the second place finishes, Brenes emerged as an excellent all-around player. However, it was his No Limit skills that made him into an international television superstar.

The always amicable Brenes loves music and he also enjoys singing. He brings music with him to the poker table because it’s soothing and calms him down in tough situations. He’s been known to croon his fellow players at the table. Of course the TV crews love it when Brenes sings to the table or stands up and performs his trademark “all-in” move as he cups is hands and makes a pushing or sweeping symbol in mid-air.

In 2002, Brenes won the Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, MS. He beat out a difficult final table that was one of the toughest he ever faced. He had to beat Erik Seidel heads up and had to survive Andy Bloch, Chris Bigler, Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot, and Barry Shulman.

In 2003, Brenes was the bubble boy at the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic and missed making his first TV final table appearance on the WPT. By the end of 2004, Brenes made three TV tables in all, with two second place finishes. At the WPT Invitational in Los Angeles, Brenes lost to Phil “The Unabomber” Laak heads up. He endured another tough final table that included John Juanda, Antonio Esfandiari, Harry Demetriou, and Jose Cassidy. Later that year at Foxwoods, Brenes took third place in the World Poker Finals. Tuan Le ended up winning. His final table had tough players such as David “The Dragon” Pham and Brad Berman. In December at the Bellagio’s Five Diamond Classic, Brenes lost heads up to Daniel Negreanu at a final table that also included Jen Harman. Although Brenes never won a WPT event, he emerged as one of the most popular players on the tour.

Brenes also made the final table of a Pot Limit Omaha event at the 2005 WSOP. That was a special final table because Johnny Chan ended up winning his 10th bracelet, becoming the first player to ever do so. Brenes sat at the final table along with Phil Laak and Jeri Thomas.

One of the only knocks against Brenes is that he cannot close out a poker tournament on a strong note. Some poker experts argue that he’s not a very good heads up player and that’s the cause of his several runner-up performances. It’s true, Brenes has over a half of a dozen second place finishes combined at the WSOP and on the WPT. However, Brenes is good enough to consistently make it to final table and that’s the stat that should matter the most. Statistically speaking, Humberto Brenes is one of the best tournament players in the world no matter if the game is No Limit Hold’em, Seven-card Stud or Pot Limit Omaha. He cashed in over 83 major tournaments and won nine.

Brenes is part of the “CRC” otherwise known as the Costa Rica Connection that features his fellow countrymen Jose Rosenkrantz and his brothers Alex and Erick, who are both poker players. Humberto Brenes has a house in south Florida and lives in Costa Rica with his wife and three children.

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