Ruben Costa snares Day 1A lead in PokerStars Festival New Jersey Main Event

November 01, 2016

A poker tournament kicked off today in the Resorts Hotel Casino here in Atlantic City. On the surface it appeared similar to many tournaments, with an eager starting field working itself down to a gritty fraction who survived, and plenty of dramatic rises and falls of players’ fortunes punctuating the proceedings.

But there was something special about this one. For the first time in a long time, PokerStars is back hosting tournaments in the United States, with today’s PokerStars Festival New Jersey Main Event heralding in a new era of live poker. 

In today’s first of two Day 1 flights, an 81-player field battled through 10 one-hour levels and just 25 ended with chips to carry to Thursday’s Day 2. Of that group Ruben Costa of New York ended with the biggest stack of those left, bagging 222,500 to conclude the day.

Ruben Costa_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4937.jpg

Ruben Costa

Other big stacks and notables at night’s end included John Gulino (196,700), Ryan Hohner (157,300), Sridhar Sangannagari (120,600), Jack Duong (111,300), David Vamplew (95,400), and Matt Affleck (51,700).

John Gulino_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4934.jpg

John Gulino

The red spade brigade were in full force for this one, with Team PokerStars Pros Chris Moneymaker, Barry Greenstein, Andre Akkari, Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, Felipe Ramos, and Victor Ramdin all in action. From that group, only Ramdin (with 69,200) and Greenstein (with 34,200) made it through to the bagging. 

Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4908.jpg

Ramdin ran it up

Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4761.jpg

Greenstein grinded

Among those not making it through Day 1A included Elio Fox, Aaron Mermelstein, Jonathan Little, Rachel Kranz, Albert Daher, and Natasha Barbour.

Click here for a full list of end of Day 1A chip counts.

Things are only getting started. The second and last Day 1 flight kicks off tomorrow at 11am ET, and we’ll be back then as well for coverage all day and night. Join us then as we’ll continue to learn together who will be the first ever PokerStars Festival New Jersey Main Event champion. –MH

Day 1A coverage:

11:26pm: Play concludes

With 25 left and Ruben Costa appearing as though he has finished as the Day 1A chip leader, play has concluded for the night. Back shortly with a recap of an exciting day of poker. –MH

11:18pm: Ryan Hohner puts on the pressure
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200)

Barry Greenstein raised to 2,500, Ryan Hohner called in the cutoff, Victor Ramdin called in the small blind, and Kevin Crombie called in the big blind.

The flop came K♥8♥2♥ and action checked to Hohner, who bet 5,500. Ramdin folded, Crombie called, and Greenstein folded.

The turn brought the 6♣ and Crombie checked again. Hohner calmly set out a stack of 5,000 chips, which had Crombie’s remaining 16,000 or so easily covered. Crombie deliberated for a little while, then slowly slid his cards towards the muck. After the hand, Hohner is closer to the top of the counts with around 155,000. –JW

11:15pm: Three more hands
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200 ante)

The tournament clock has been paused and now players on each of the tables will be playing three more hands before ending for the night. Right now 27 are left. –MH

11:11pm: Flushed
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200 ante)

A 2,600 button open from David Vamplew was called by both Norman Michalek (small blind) and 
Javier Negron (big blind). On the 8♦7♠Q♥ flop Negron led for 1,300 and both players called. The pattern repeated itself on the 2♠ turn card with Negron betting 2,500 and that didn’t shake either player off.

On the 4♠ river Negron fired again, betting 6,000, Vamplew folded but Michalek moved all-in for around 26,000 and Negron snap called. Michalek showed Q♠J♠ but Negron had him beat with K♠8♠ and he was eliminated. Negron up to 105,000 as a result. –NW

11:05pm: Jason Mercier eliminated by Bovic Gabriel
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200)

Bovic Gabriel raised to 3,000 from the cutoff and Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier moved all in from the small blind for 9,600 total. Gabriel called with A♦J♣. Mercier showed K♠Q♦.

The K♣10♥5♦ flop favored Mercier, as did the 5♣ turn.

The river Q♠ improved them both, but Mercier’s two pair was no match for Gabriel’s straight.

“Oh,” Mercier said when he realized the card helped him, but hurt him more. “So I gotta get up?”

Mercier got up and wished his tablemates, which include the last two remaining Team PokerStars Pros Victor Ramdin and Barry Greenstein, well. –JW

Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4912.jpg

Mercier must go

11:00pm: Guan, baby, gone
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200)

With less than three big blinds in his stack, Ricky Guan shoved from the button with 10♥8♠ and got called in both blinds. After the Q♠J♣10♣ flop, Sridhar Sangannagari bet out of small blind and forced Shawn Daniels to fold from the big. That seemed a little odd when he revealed his ace-high with A♦9♠.

“We’re ahead,” Guan (he of the royal ‘we’) exclaimed.

He (and presumably the mouse in his pocket) stayed ahead on the Q♣ turn. Alas, the A♣ on the river (one we’re sure Sangannagari saw in a fever dream over night and was sure was coming) appeared on the river, thus sending Guan to the rail. –BW

10:47pm: Battle of Britain
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200)

There are only two players from the UK in the field today and they’ve been sat at the same table from the get go. The two just clashed in a pot with Peter Smyth raising and David Vamplew calling in position.

On the 2♣9♥3♥ flop Smyth looped a single 5K chip into the pot and the EPT7 London champion smooth-called. The 6♦ fell on the turn, Smyth bet again, and this time 11,000 was the price to continue. “How much have you got left?” inquired Vamplew and it was established that Smyth had 30,900 behind. Call from Vamplew.

The 4♥ completed the board, Smyth checked, Vamplew shoved, and Smyth sighed before folding. –NW

10:38pm: (Cue the groan)
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200)

Matt Affleck had come in for a raise to 2,600, and Shawn Daniels called out of the small blind. That’s when Albert Daher did something a little strange. He fiddled with his stack (a mismatched mess that looked somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000), looked over his shoulder in the direction of either the WSOP broadcast or Jason Mercier, hemmed and hawed for a second, and then put his stack across the line. (For a clue regarding Daher’s behavior, see below, 10:10pm.)

Affleck didn’t take long to fold, and Daniels didn’t wait before calling.

Daher let loose a sort of half-groan half-big-balloon-deflating-squeal. Daniels revealed J♦J♥. Daher only had 9♦9♣. He stood to leave, but Daniels implored, “Slow it down a little.”


There’s that flop. They one you were all ready for. The one with the doggy 9♥ in the window.

Daher slowed his departure to see the rest of the flop: Q♦8♥.

The 4♦ on the turn was the most boring part of this hand, because, yes, indeed, there on the river:


There was a brief groan of appreciation for the late night drama, and Daher made his way to the door. –BW

10:41pm: Wayne Gerichten up to par
Level 10 – Blinds 600/1,200 (200)

A short-stacked player moved all in from early position for his last 10,100 and Wayne Gerichten called in the cutoff with K♦K♥. His opponent showed A♥J♥, got no help from the Q♦8♦6♣5♠3♠ board, and now Gerichten is just over average with 62,000. –JW

10 600 1,200 200

10:29pm: Affleck dents Chadha
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

It folded round to Carlos Chadha on the button and after the Canadian raised it up to 2,300, Matt Affleck defended his big blind with a call.

On the A♦Q♥J♥ flop, Chadha bet 2,500, Affleck check-raised to 6,000, and Chadha made the call. On the 4♦ turn, Affleck bet 11,000 and Chadha folded. After that hand Affleck is up to 82,000 and Chadha is down to 27,000. –NW

10:26pm: Victor Ramdin has an opening in his schedule
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

Victor Ramdin had an important question.

“What time do we restart tomorrow?”

There was an awkward silence at the table before someone decided to spill the beans. “You don’t play tomorrow. It is Day 1B.”

Ramdin’s face fell a little, but quickly perked back up after an important realization.

“That means I can go out drinking tonight!” –JW

10:16pm: More for Sangannagari
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

From early position Sridhar Sangannagari raised it up to 2,200 and Dylan Smith was his only customer. The flop fell 6♦Q♣3♦, Sangannagari c-bet 3,200, and Smith decided he wanted to see a turn card.

The J♦ turn was checked by both players, then the 2♥ was the river card. After pausing a few beats, Sangannagari bet 4,200 and Smith instacalled. Sangannagari rolled over Q♦7♦ and it proved to be the winner. He’s up to 110,000 and Smith drops to 16,500. –NW

10:10pm: Albert Daher Needs to Last Longer
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

Albert Daher raised to 2,300 from under the gun, then Thomas Revello reraised to 7,000 from middle position. Action got back around to Daher, who studied the situation a bit, then studied another situation he had to consider.

Albert Daher_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4853.jpg

Daher, in thought

He rose from his seat and called out, “Hey Jason,” drawing Jason Mercier’s attention.


“How much you have? Honestly.”

“I have 15,000,” Mercier told him. “You?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Daher responded hurriedly, then slid back into his seat.


“Uh, I’ll tell you after the hand.”

Whatever the friendly competition was going on with Daher and Mercier was, it was apparently worth enough to Daher to fold, leaving himself with 16,000 and roughly 90 minutes to go before play ends for the day. –JW

10:05pm: Wrong time, right analysis
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

Down to around 17,000, Thomas Dougher saw play folded around to him on the button, so he shoved with K♦8♦. Bad timing. Javier Negron had kings in the small blind.

With no more emotion than a small smile, Dougher offered his analysis: “That’s a pretty good hand.”

Indeed it was. Nothing weird happened on the board, and Dougher left batting a thousand in hand analysis (and not as good on timing). –BW

9:57pm: Craig Socha doubles through Elio Fox
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

The action folded to Craig Socha, he opened to 2,200 from the hijack and Elio Fox then three-bet shoved for around 29,000. It was actually Socah who had the shorter stack and he elected to call. He was all-in for 17,600.

Fox: A♦Q♥
Socha: 7♦7♠

The 10♣Q♦7♠ flop meant Socha flopped a set and was a 96% favorite to win the hand. The 2♣ turn gave him a lock on the hand and the 5♣ completed the board. So Socha doubled, while Fox dropped to 11,000.

Edit: Fox was eliminated a short time later. –NW

9:53pm: Artim Zhuta eliminated by Ryan Hohner
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

Victor Ramdin raised to 2,100 from under the gun before Ryan Hohner reraised to 6,200 on the button. Artim Zhuta was in the small blind and moved all in for 28,400 total. Ramdin got a count, then folded. Hohner called with A♦K♦.

“Stay black,” Zhuta said as he showed his A♣A♥.

“And don’t flop me a set,” Ramdin chimed in.

The dealer didn’t adhere to Zhuta’s request, bringing Hohner a flush draw on the J♦6♦6♠ flop. The 8♥ on the turn was safe for Zhuta, but the 4♦ river gave the pot to Hohner, moving him to 76,000 and sent Zhuta packing. –JW

Artim Zhuta_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4881.jpg

Zhuta down to zero

9:45pm: Easy money, no spoilers at Ramdin’s table
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

This took a lot of self-discipline.

With the World Series of Baseball game now not much of a contest (Spoiler Alert: the Cubbies are crushing), the Main Event field’s attention has turned to the World Series of Poker Main Event final playing out on ESPN.

Over here at PokerStars Blog HQ, we have been following along in real time, and we know where things currently stand in Las Vegas. That also means we know exactly the fate of Cliff Josephy in the most recent hands.

Victor Ramdin does not know these things.

In fact, in a hand that just played out on TV (but played out half an hour ago in Vegas), Josephy got ace-ten all in against king-eight.

“My $100 on the king-eight to anybody’s $200,” Ramdin said. “Easiest hundred you’ll ever make.”

Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4907.jpg

The unknowing Victor

I knew the outcome of this hand already, and I assumed any of the others players at the table might have as well. No one took Ramdin up on it. Not Jason Mercier. Not Barry Greenstein. No one.

After the flop and turn, Ramdin was still ready. Still no one took it.

There was a part of me that desperately wanted to give him… well, the illusion of action, but a bigger part of me wanted ANYONE else at the table to do it. No one did, Josephy doubled up, and Ramdin saved his Benjamin.

That being said, near as we can tell, Ramdin is still spoiler free, so if you need some free money, head on over.  –BW

9:29pm: Play resumes
Level 9 – Blinds 500/1,000 (100)

The break lasted slightly longer than planned as players were given a little extra time to linger before the television sets showing both of those World Series events going on right now — the baseball one, and the poker. Cards are back in the air now, though, with two more one-hour levels scheduled tonight. –MH

9 500 1,000 100

9:04pm: Let’s take a break

With 41 left from the 81 who started Day 1A, players are off once more for a last 20-minute break of the day. –MH

9pm: Double-up for Cipoletti
Level 8 – Blinds 400/800 (100)

Down to just 13,000 Timothy Cipoletti moved all-in with A♦K♠ and Craig Socha gave him a spin with A♥J♦. The 5♣A♣10♣9♦10♥ board meant Cipoletti survived, while Socha drops to 19,000. –NW

8:55pm: Big stacks
Level 8 – Blinds 400/800 (100)

Almost half the field has been eliminated so far today, making the average stack a smidgen under 50,000. However, some players have way more than that with a six-figure stack being mighty impressive at this juncture. Those currently in possession of such a rare fortune include:

John Gulino – 149,000
Ruben Costa – 129,000
Victor Ramdin – 103,000
Sridhar Sangannagari – 101,000

While Ramdin is flying the flag for Team PokerStars, he’s backed up by Barry Greenstein (34,500) and Jason Mercier (16,000). –NW

8:48pm: Is there an emoji for sighing?
Level 8 – Blinds 400/800 (100)

If there isn’t, just make it a picture of Manuel Jaime. On a flop of 9♥Q♣Q♥, he looked pleased as punch to get Albert Daher all-in. Jaime held A♦Q♦, and Daher was sitting behind A♥4♥.

You just knew what was going to happen. The heart peeled off on the turn, Jaime didn’t boat up, and Daher doubled to around 30,000. Jaime is still alive, but will need a double-up soon. –BW

Tournament  Area_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4731.jpg

Day 1A continues

8:39pm: Huge pot for Hohner
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

There was already 30,000 in the pot by the time John Gulino and Ryan Hohner made it to the river of the 3♥J♣Q♠6♥J♠ board.

After a check from Gulino, Hohner bet 8,000, and Gulino made the call. Hohner took the pot down with A♥J♥ and rises to 75,000 while Gulino drops to 158,000. –NW

8:30pm: “Just quads”
Level 8 – Blinds 400/800 (100)

Kevin Crombie raised to 2,100 from middle position and Joseph Delgrosso reraised to 6,500 from the cutoff. Crombie called, then the flop fell J♣9♦9♥. Crombie checked, Delgrosso bet 12,500, leaving around 3,500 behind, and Crombie quickly moved all in, having Delgrosso covered.

Though the majority of his chips were already in the pot, Delgrosso thought a bit before calling with A♦K♣ for a gutshot.

Crombie turned up 9♣9♠, prompting someone at the table to announce, “Just quads.”

Unsurprisingly, the quads held up on the 4♦ turn and the J♥ river, sending Delgrosso to the rail and sending Crombie’s stack up to 65,000. –JW

8:19pm: WSOB
Level 8 – Blinds 400/800 (100)

The post-dinner break action here in the Main Event has taken a slightly distracted turn as the World Series has popped up on some nearby TVs. No, not the one you care about. The World Series of Baseball is back on the tube, and players are spending a lot more time craning to see the coverage in between hands.

Count on the action slowing down a bit here with three hours left in the evening… and a ball game that will likely last just about the same amount of time. –BW

8 400 800 100

8:02pm: Matt Affleck still kicking
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Manuel Jaime raised from under the gun to 1,500 and Matt Affleck defended the big blind. The flop came 8♠3♦2♦. Affleck checked, Jaime bet 2,100, and Affleck called.

The two players checked the K♥ turn, then the river brought the A♣. Affleck bet 7,500, which amounted to roughly half of Jaime’s remaining stack. Jaime folded. Affleck took the pot to chip up to 47,000. –JW

7:55pm: Rudnik takes from Ramdin
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Another hit for Victor Ramdin, this time in a hand against Andrew Rudnik.

The Team PokerStars Pro opened the action, Rudnik then three-bet to 4,000, and Ramdin stuck around. On the Q♥5♣4♦ flop, Rudnik c-bet 3,000 and Ramdin decided to call. On the 7♠ turn Rudnik moved all-in for 10,300 and Ramdin released his hand. –NW

Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4887.jpg

Ramdin releases

7:50pm: And that’s it for De Melo
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Fatima Moreira de Melo, down to her last 7,500, shoved all-in under the gun. She didn’t seem displeased to get the first call from Joseph Delgrosso. It seemed more ominous when John Gulino called in the big blind.

On the 9♣7♥3♣ flop, Gulino led for 6,000. Obviously, that didn’t look like good news for De Melo. It looked worse when Delgrosso min-raised to 12,000. Still, it could be worse, right?


Gulino jammed, Delgrosso gave up, and Gulino showed his aces. De Melo only had ace-ten. She needed runner-runner, didn’t get it, and made her way to the exit. –BW

Team PokerStars Pros Fatima Moreira De Melo_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4815.jpg

Fatima felted

7:42pm: Ramdin takes a hit
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

For the past few hours one of the biggest stacks in the room has belonged to Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin but he just took a hit in a hand against Dan Pipitone. They’d already reached the turn of a 4♣6♣6♠2♣ board, Ramdin bet 2,300, Pipitone called, and Renata Colache folded.

So it was heads-up to the 2♠ river. Ramdin bet 3,200 and Pipitone called. “Two pair,” announced Ramdin although he didn’t show. “I’ve got eights,” said Pipitone showing 8♠8♥. It was good as Ramdin mucked. Despite that hit Ramdin still has 98,000, while Pipitone has 46,000. –NW

7:40pm: That’s one too many flops, sir
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Everybody makes mistakes, so it’s great when you run into a “no harm, no foul” situation. In this situation, it could’ve been capital “B” bad. With a pot that had been opened, called, and seen a flop, the dealer burned, and… oh, lordamercy… dealt three more cards face-down.

What. Do. You. Do?

In this case, it turned out it was an easy fix. With all three cards in a stack face down, it was relatively simple to find the turn, the next burn, and the river, and the hand continued without any further incident. –BW

Card Protector, Chips, Flop_2016 PSNJ Festival_PokerStars Cup Day 2_Giron_8JG4584.jpg

Cards, get on yer backs!

7:38pm: Richard Sysko should’ve listened to his mother
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

There was around 4,000 in the pot and the board read 10♥9♣7♥K♦. Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier checked from the big blind, then Richard Sysko bet 2,300 from middle position. The river was the 8♠. Mercier bet 6,100, leaving 6,100 behind.

“My mother would fold,” Sysko told Mercier. Even with that knowledge, Sysko called with 6♦6♥ for the dummy end of the straight. Mercier had A♣J♦ for the big end of the straight to take the pot.

“Should’ve listened to my mother,” Sysko muttered. –JW

7:31pm: Easy work for Affleck
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Matt Affleck didn’t have to do a lot of work to get it done, but just dispatched Natale Kuey from the event. Kuey only had around 5,000 left and open-shoved with K♣J♠. Affleck made the call with A♠10♦. Neither hand improved, and Kuey was gone. Forty-seven players remain in the Day 1A field. –BW

Matt Affleck_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4785.jpg

Affleck picks off Kuey

7:28pm: Stealth Bear
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

We’re not saying Barry Greenstein has been playing quietly, but his most recent opening bet was met with surprise.

“Barry Greenstein! When did you get here?” someone asked.

Greenstein, never without a reply, deadpanned, “I’ve been here for three hours. You were out to lunch.”

(Greenstein won the hand, confirming at least for the moment, that he is, in fact, still here and playing). –BW

7:25pm: Carlos Chadha catches to survive
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Carlos Chadha opened to 1,200 and Joseph Montervino called from the big blind. On the A♥Q♠4♦ flop Montervino checked, Chadha bet 1,200, and Montervino called.

The A♠ fell on the turn. Montervino tapped his middle and forefinger on the felt to check, and Chadha did likewise, although he only used the one finger.

The 8♦ then completed the board. Montervino bet 1,800, then Chadha riffled chips for a little while before jamming for 8,000 total. Montervino swiftly called and Chadha showed 8♣8♥ for a full house. Montervino pulled a face that said he’d been rivered, and although he didn’t show his cards the velocity with which he mucked them told you all you needed to know.

Montervino’s down to 7,000 now, while Chadha’s up to 22,000. –NW

7:20pm: John Gulino in six-figure territory
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Chip Leader John Gulino and Artim Zhuta were heads-up on a flop of 10♦3♣2♦. Zhuta checked in middle position, Gulino bet 3,500 behind him, and Zhuta called.

Both players checked the 10♠ on the turn, then the river brought the 5♦. Zhuta bet around 4,000, then Gulino raised to 10,000. Zhuta thought it over before calling with 6♦8♦ for a flush. Gulino had the bigger flush though, and his A♦K♦ took the pot.

Zhuta let out a sigh, then lamented. “You couldn’t have just had ace-ten?” Apparently Gulino could not, so now he is sitting on around 135,000. –JW

7:08pm: Climate adjustment requested
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Yes, it’s a little bit chilly in here, but it’s not really freezing. If you were looking in through the window, however, you might believe we’re in the Arctic. Aylar Lie is bundled up in a heavy winter coat with her hood pulled up over her head. She is not trying to hide a tell.

“I’m from Norway,” she yelled. “I should be warm!”

Nevertheless, she isn’t. Her dessert appears to be the culprit.

“I had ice cream. Most stupid thing ever!” she said.

Obviously, she should’ve kept her furball friends with her a little longer. –BW

7:05pm: Play resumes
Level 7 – Blinds 300/600 (100)

Players are back from dinner and cards are in the air once more. The plan at present is for them to play four more one-hour levels, then call it a night. –MH

7 300 600 100

5:45pm: Big appetites at dinner break

As we head to the dinner break, we’re putting Angel Lopez on the chip lead at around 100,000. Not too far behind sit Shawn Daniels, John Gulino, and Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin.

Players will be back around 7pm to play another four hours before breaking for the night.

Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4888.jpg

Victor Ramdin

John Gulino_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4894.jpg

John Gulino

5:40pm: Crombie keeps seat
Level 6 – Blinds 250/500 (75)

Kevin Crombie was among the bigger stacks earlier, but just now he was open-raising his last 4,525 in from early position and both blinds called including Timothy Cipoletti in the small. The 4♠Q♣10♠ flop then prompted a bet into the side pot by Cipoletti to scatter the lone live opponent, and he opened Q♦J♠ for queens while Crombie had J♦9♦.

“Got outs,” said Crombie, and just like that the turn brought one of them — the 8♣ to make a straight. The river was the 7♦, and Crombie survived. He won the next pot as well to chip back around 20,000, which Cipoletti has 38,000. –MH

5:30pm: Shawn Daniels Chipping Up
Level 6 – Blinds 300/600 (75)

There was already 4,700 or so in the pot before the flop came out Q♥8♣4♦. A player in early position checked, Shawn Daniels bet 1,800 from the cutoff, and Joseph Montervino raised to 4,200 on the button. The early position player folded and Daniels called.

Both players checked the 5♥ turn, then the river brought the A♥. Daniels bet 9,300 and, after around three minutes of internal debate, Montervino folded. Daniels is chipping up nicely and sitting on 83,000. –JW

5:28pm: Angel hovering above field
Level 6 – Blinds 250/500 (75)

2011 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event champion Elio Fox has joined the field, and just now he tangled with one of the big stacks, Angel Lopez.

The pair had built a pot of about 7,000 before the 5♠6♦10♦ flop, and after Lopez checked Fox fired 3,000. Lopez sat in contemplation for a good while before calling, then both players checked the 7♥ turn.

The river was the 8♥, and again acting with deliberation, Lopez pushed out a bet of 5,500. Fox folded, and is now with about 12,000 or half the starting stack. Meanwhile Lopez is flirting with the 100,000-chip mark. –MH

5:25pm: Ask not what the dealer can do for you…
Level 6 – Blinds 250/500 (75)

The Poker Gods do not like requests it seems as Rachel Kranz’s pleas fell on deaf ears. She was all-in for 5,375 and Renata Colache was looking to score a knockout blow with Q♣10♥. Kranz asked the dealer to be kind, but the 9♦K♦J♦ flop was anything but as Colache flopped the nuts. The 4♣[ and 9♣ completed the board and Kranz was on her way. –NW

5:10pm: Sixes work for Zhuta
Level 6 – Blinds 250/500 (75)

Behind mirrored specs and from under a gray hoody — and from under the gun — Artim Zhuta opened for 1,550, and got one caller in Jason Mercier in the cutoff.

The flop came Q♥9♦6♣. Zhuta check-called a bet of 1,800 from Mercier, then both players checked the K♦ turn card.

The river was the 7♦, and acting quickly Zhuta fired 3,500. Mercier thought for a short while and folded, and Zhuta showed his 6♠6♥ for a set of sixes before collecting the pot.

Zhuta shoots up to 52,000 while Mercier has about 30,000. –MH

Artim Zhuta_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4879.jpg

Artim Zhuta

5:07pm: Change issue leads to elongated pot
Level 6 – Blinds 250/500 (75)

The floor was needed over on table five where the was an issue with the wrong amount of chips being in the pot. It was a heads-up pot between David Johnston (button) and Anthony Lanteri (small blind) and it had occurred right at the end of level five, that’s important due to the size of the ante changing.

Each player had put in 3,000 pre-flop and Lanteri had then bet 4,500 on a 10♣10♠Q♠ flop, a bet that had been called by Johnston. This is where the error was made. Each player had bet using a single blue 5k chip and was due in return a single red 500 chip. That’s what Johnston had received, but Lanteri had actually been refunded the full 5,000 (or possibly 4,000) in 1k chips. The players knew what had happened and started reverse engineering the pot to work out how much should be in there.

The floor had arrived and Lanteri put back in the 4,000 that he thought he’d been given back, the floor counted out the pot and it was still 1,000 light and Lanteri gave up the 1,000 with no fuss as he wasn’t sure if he’d got 4,000 or 5,000 back in error. So now the pot was correct, the hand could continue. On the 9♠ turn (which had been on the felt the whole time by the way) Lanteri shoved his final 8,000 with K♠K♦ and Johnston snap called with 8♠7♠. The river was the J♦ and Johnston’s flush held up to send Lanteri to the rail. –NW

4:58pm: Natasha Barbour eliminated by David Vamplew
Level 6 – Blinds 300/600 (75)

Natasha Barbour got her last couple thousand in preflop from middle position holding A♣4♥ and David Vamplew, who was on the button, called her with K♦10♦.

Vamplew paired up on the K♥Q♠5♠7♥6♣ board and Barbour was eliminated. Vamplew, meanwhile, is up to 45,500. –JW

Natasha Barbour_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4843.jpg

Natasha Barbour

4:55pm: They say your chips are like your children
Level 6 – Blinds 300/600 (75)

“Hold the baby!”

So said Ricky Guan just now, the “baby” here representing his lead in the lead versus Natale Kuey once the chips went all-in.

With 8,000 in the middle and the board showing 5♣J♦5♥, Guan had gotten his last 11,975 in there with K♠J♠ for jacks and fives, and had to fade the A♠K♥ of Kuey.

The turn was the 6♥ and river the Q♦, and the baby held. Proud papa Guan has around 30,000 now while Kuey slips to just over 10,000. –MH

4:46pm: Recent eliminations
Level 6 – Blinds 250/400 (75)

Soung Kim and Joshua Berardi are among the more recent eliminations.

6 250 500 75

4:44pm: Aaron Mermelstein eliminated by Craig Socha
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

There was approximately 10,000 in the pot and the board read Q♥9♦7♥ when Craig Socha bet 6,000 out of the big blind, local pro Aaron Mermelstein called from under the gun, and Victor Ramdin folded in the cutoff.

The turn brought the 4♥. Socha bet enough to put Mermelstein to a decision for his remaining 13,775 chips. After a couple of minutes thinking it over, Mermelstein decided to call with J♥9♠ for a pair and a flush draw. Socha was out front with A♦Q♠ for top pair.

The queens held up on the 10♠ river and Mermelstein was eliminated late in the level, while Socha chipped up to around 55,000. –JW

Aaron Mermelstein_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4872.jpg

Aaron Mermelstein

4:43pm: How has the Bear fared?
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Checking in on Barry Greenstein, just now he was involved in a hand with Carlos Chadha to his right in which “The Bear” fired a 10,000 bet on the river — nearly what Chadha had behind — and his opponent had to let it go.

Greenstein has about 36,000 at present at the end of Level 5. –MH

Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4757.jpg

Barry Greenstein

4:40pm: Quads are good
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Natasha Barbour is down to around five big blinds after losing a big pot to Javier Negron. I picked up the hand on a 9♥6♠6♥ flop, on which Barbour bet 3,900 and Negron check-called. On the 3♠ turn Negron elected to lead, he bet 5,000 and Barbour made the call. The J♥ was the final community card and Negron again bet 5,000. This gave Barbour a big decision, she had just 7,000 back and after a minute or so in the tank she did make the call. “Quads,” said Negron who showed J♣J♠. “Quads are good,” smiled Barbour. –NW

Natasha Barbour_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4850.jpg

Natasha Babour

4:36pm: Gulino gaining
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Fatima Moreira de Melo just won a small pot in a three-way hand, raising with pocket nines, having a flop c-bet called, then checking it down to finish best.

That gives us an occasion to update her stack at about 20,000, but also the chance to tell you about one of her opponents in the hand, John Gulino on her left. He’s up around 85,000 now, which is about as big a stack as we’ve seen in this early pre-dinner portion of play. –MH

4:22pm: Thomas Dougher Doubles Through David Vamplew
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

After some unknown preflop action, David Vamplew had made it 2,700 to play on the button and Thomas Dougher moved all in from the big blind for 13,750. Vamplew had his opponent easily covered, but he thought a while nonetheless before calling with J♠J♣. He was racing with Dougher’s A♥K♣.

Dougher improved to two pair on the A♣Q♦9♠6♣K♠ board to take the pot. Vamplew is still in fine shape with an above-average stack of 45,000. –JW

David Vamplew_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4712.jpg

David Vamplew

4:21pm: Revello trips up Crombie
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Kevin Crombie raised to 1,100 from under the gun and got a couple of callers, including Thomas Revello in the big blind.

Revello checked the 7♥3♦A♠ flop, and after a bet of 1,600 from Crombie scattered the other player Revello stuck around. Both then checked the board-pairing A♣ turn card.

The river was the 9♦, and when Revello bet 2,000, Crombie called almost as fast as his opponent was able to toss the chips forward. Revello then tabled A♥10♠ for trip aces, and Crombie mucked.

Crombie is back down around 35,000 now, while Revello bumps up to 30,000. –MH

4:20pm: Cunningham cut down
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

By the time I joined the action at the table there was a bet of 1,350 in front of Victor Ramdin, who was on the button, a bet of 4,000 in front of Andrew Rudnik in the small blind and a call of 4,000 in front of Glenn Cunningham (middle position). Piecing together the action it looks as if Cunningham had limped. Ramdin had three-bet, Rudnik had four-bet and Cunningham had limped and then called. After a bit of deliberation Ramdin let his hand go and a 4♥10♥2♥ flop rolled off.

After about five seconds Rudnik bet 17,000 which was more than enough to set Cunningham all-in. The latter called off his final 7,000 and showed A♣K♦. It was behind to Rudnik’s 10♦8♦ and that’s the way it stayed as the 2♣ turn and 5♠ river boosted Rudnik to 45,000. –NW

4:19pm: Jaime, Kevin, & Lee on Twitch

If you’re looking for something to do while you wait for coverage tomorrow, check in on the PokerStars Twitch channel to see Jaime Staples, Kevin Martin, and Lee Jones chat. That happens at 10:30am ET Wednesday morning. You can also go back on the Twitch channel videos and see the previous chats, including this morning’s with the PPA’s Bryan Spadaro.

Lee Jones & Bryan Spadaro_2016 PSNJ Festival_Twitch_Giron_8JG4701.jpg

Lee Jones with Bryan Spadaro

4:12pm: Vanessa Selbst Eliminated
Level 4 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Five players put in 1,000 each pre to see a flop of A♣J♠5♦. Frederick Ferrell checked in the small blind, Yukiko Ogasawa checked in the big blind, Vanessa Selbst bet 1,500 from under the gun. John Gulino called in the hijack, Fatima Moreira de Melo folded the cutoff, Ferrell called and Ogasawara folded.

The turn was the 3♠. Ferrell and Selbst checked to Gulino, who bet 3,200. Ferrell folded, then Selbst thought for a minute or two before moving all in for around 16,700. Gulino called immediately and tabled 5♣5♥.

Once Selbst saw Gulino’s set, she immediately mucked her cards, conceding the pot. She headed for the exit, while Gulino is now up to around 65,000. –JW

4:05pm: Some for Mermelstein
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Rocco Dicondina limped from middle position, and after the small blind also limped Aaron Mermelstein made it 1,500 to go from the big blind. Dicondina called the raise, the other player folded, and the flop came out 3♣5♥8♦.

Mermelstein — who in addition to winning a couple of World Poker Tour titles last year finished third in the LAPT9 Panama Main Event this past May — fired a bet of 1,200 and Dicondina called. Both checked the K♠ turn, then Mermelstein made a biggish 6,000 bet following the 7♥ river.

That was enough to chase Dicondina, who preserved his 35,000. Mermelstein is back around the starting stack of 25,000. –MH

4:04pm: Lopez lays it down
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Some flops are interesting, some not so much. The 10♥10♦10♠ flop definitely falls in the former and with 7,000 in the pot Artim Zhuta (big blind) led for 2,000 and Angel Lopez smooth called. On the 4♠ turn Zhuta bet again, this time 6,000 was the price for Lopez to continue. He cut the chips out, grimaced a number of times and then mucked. He’s still got a very healthy stack of 73,000, while Zhuta is up to 32,000. –NW

Artim Zhuta_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4881.jpg

Artim Zhuta

3:52pm: Damn Daniels
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Shawn Daniels finished off Felipe Ramos to end Level 4, and he returns from the break to knock out another opponent to start Level 5. Daniels used pocket aces to best a short-stack’s ace-king this time, and now he’s approaching the 70,000-chip mark. –MH

3:44pm: Annnnnnd, we’re back
Level 5 – Blinds 200/400 (50)

Players are now back for another two hours of play before the dinner break.

5 200 400 50

3:25pm: Break time

The players are now on a 20-minute break.

3:19pm: Felipe felted
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Near the end of the level, Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos opened for 700 from early position, then watched Shawn Daniels make it 2,000 to go from middle position. It folded back to “Mojave” who called, then checked after the flop came 6♥5♥5♠. Daniels fired another 2,300, Ramos called, then the turn brought the 6♠ to put a second pair on the board.

Ramos checked again, then Daniels set out 20,000 or so — well more than the 9,500 Ramos had behind. Ramos decided to call and commit his chips, saying how he might be freerolling as he did.

He wasn’t freerolling, as Daniels turned over Q♦Q♠ for a better two pair than the ones on board Ramos was playing with A♠7♠. Ramos did still have a spade flush draw, but the river was the 2♣ and he is out just shy of the second break. –MH

3:18pm: Jonathan Little Eliminated
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Jonathan Little got the last of his chips in preflop holding pocket threes to his opponent’s ace-queen. An ace on the flop spelled the end for Little, one of the early casualties in this starting flight. –JW

Jonathan Little_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4721.jpg

Jonathan Little

3:17pm: Follow the leaders
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

A couple of levels ago we were noting Angel Lopez had accumulated the most chips through the first couple of hours of play.

The next two saw Lopez slip back to the pack, though he still has a healthy 45,000. Meanwhile David Vamplew and Kevin Crombie were both up around 60,000 for a while, only to be passed by Victor Ramdin as the next break approaches.

The Team PokerStars Pro is edging toward 70,000, and appears to have the biggest stack at the moment as Level 4 nears an end. –MH

3:16pm: The rise of Ramos continues
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

From one big blind to over 40, it’s been a swingy level for Felipe Ramos. His latest boost came when he shoved for 8,550 on the turn of a A♣4♣J♦8♦. There was about 2,500 in the pot already, plus a bet of 1,100 from Manuel Jaime. One by one his opponent’s folded and Ramos took the pot. –NW

3:15pm: Lie wins, true story
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Aylar Lie of Norway opened for 800 from under the gun, getting two callers in David Johnston (small blind) and Anthony Lanteri (big blind). The flop came 3♣2♦7♥, and it checked around to Lie who continued for 1,000. Only Johnston called.

The turn was the 4♦ and Johnston checked again. Lie bet 2,500 this time, and Johnston stuck around.

The river brought the 7♠ and a third check, and yet another bet — 5,000 — from Lie. Johnston still didn’t believe she had the best hand and so called, and when Lie turned over K♠K♦, Johnston was forced to accept the truth that his hand was beaten and he mucked.

All three — Lie, Johnson, and Lanteri — are playing around 35,000 after that one. –MH

3:05pm: Victor Ramdin Learns What a Bluff Is
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Glenn Cunningham raised to 600 in the cutoff, Jeff Cole called on the button, and Team PokerStars Pro reraised to 2,800 out of the big blind. Cunningham called and Cole folded.

The flop came K♥9♠3♦. Ramdin checked, Cunningham bet 1,000, and Ramdin check-raised to 4,000. Cunningham called.

The turn brought the 8♣ and Ramdin bet 5,000. Cunningham paused for 20 seconds or so, then called.

The river was the Q♠. Using the hand not being tended to by his masseuse, Ramdin grabbed his large denomination chips and flung them in, wagering 19,000.

Cunningham thought a little longer this time, then folded. “You can have it this time,” Cunningham told Ramdin. “Good bluff.”

“If it was a bluff, that was the only way to win the pot,” Ramdin replied with a chuckle.

“It’s always a bluff if you’re not called,” Cunningham informed him. “You bet your royal flush and they fold, it is a bluff.” –JW

2:55pm: Coburn cut down
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Victor Ramdin opened for 700 from middle position, Craig Socha three-bet to 2,100 from the cutoff, then Gregory Coburn called from the button. It folded back to Ramdin who called, and the flop came 8♠J♥7♣.

It checked to Coburn who put his last 4,775 forward, and after Ramdin thought a bit and folded, Socha called.

Socha opened K♠K♥, prompting Coburn to say “I need a nine” as he showed J♦10♦. The turn was the 4♦ and river the 8♦, and Coburn is out. Socha has about 35,000 now, while Ramdin has 30,000. –MH

2:45pm: Ramos trebles up
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Felipe Ramos was all-in for just over one big blind and there was action on the side between Shawn Daniels and Eric Schwartz. The latters bet of 1,100 on the 3♠5♣9♥ flop was enough to win the side pot and it was time for the showdown. “King-queen?” asked a hopeful Ramos as he opened A♠6♠. He was in trouble as Schwartz had pocket sevens. The K♦ was a brick but the A♣ river kept Ramos in the tournament. He’s back up to 2,025 so is still very short on chips. Edit: Wait…he now has 8,000! –NW

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4763.jpg

Felipe Ramos

2:45pm: Felipe Ramos Left with Little
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Ryan Hohner raised to 700 in the cutoff, Manuel Jaime called in the small blind, and Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos reraised to 2,900 out of the big blind.

Hohner four-bet to 6,200, Manuel folded, and the decision was on Ramos. He thought for a minute, counted out his stack, determining he had around 22,000 behind, and called.

The flop fell 9♠4♠4♣ and Ramos checked. Hohner bet 5,000 and, after more counting and deliberating, Ramos called. He checked again when the turn brought the 2♥, then Hohner moved all in for 13,225. Ramos had him covered, but barely, and called.

Hohner held A♦A♣ and Ramos showed J♣J♦. The river brought paint, but the K♠ was no help to Ramos, who doubled Hohner up and was down to 725 at the end of the hand. –JW

2:41pm: The aye-yi-yi-ing call
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

You’re familiar with a “crying call,” made when the caller has little faith the call is going to result in a winner. The “aye-yi-yi-ing call” is quite similar, actually, as demonstrated just now by Richard Sysko.

The hand began with a raise to 750 from middle position by Renata Colache. Sysko three-bet from a couple of seats over to 2,500, it folded back to Colache who called, and the flop came 4♠J♦Q♣.

Colache check-called a flop bet of 3,000 from Sysko, then both checked the 2♣ turn. The river brought the K♦ and a leading bet of 6,500.

“Aye-yi-yi,” exhaled Sysko as he tossed out calling chips. Colache tabled 10♥9♥ for a rivered straight, and Sysko nodded as he showed his A♠K♠.

Sysko slips to about 27,000 while Colache is up to 34,000. –MH

2:34pm: Moneymaker departs
Level 4 – Blinds 150/300 (50)

Down to around 9,000 Chris Moneymaker committed his chips pre-flop with A♠K♣ and was put at risk by Peter Smyth, who had K♦K♠. There would be no outdraw on a 5♦9♦8♥Q♠3♣ board and Moneymaker wished the table good luck before heading on his way. –NW

Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4800.jpg

Chris Moneymaker

4 150 300 50

2:15pm: Ace on the river
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

No, not a hand involving Barry Greenstein, but rather a pot between Artim Zhuta and Angel Lopez. The latter opened to 550 from early position, Zhuata three-bet to 1,250 and Lopez stuck around. The 3♠9♣6♠ flop checked through and the 4♦ fell on fourth street. Lopez check-called a bet of 1,500 and the A♦ completed the board. A quick check from Lopez was followed by a tank from Zhuta, before he took checked behind. Lopez was the first to show, he tabled 7♠6♥ but tapped the table when Zhuta opened K♠K♣. –NW

2:14pm: Thiagarajah looking for first gear
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

“I’m stuck in neutral,” said Ragavan Thiagarajah as he got involved in a four-way pot, then lost a small amount to Wayne Gerichten.

Thiagarajah and Kush Patel (on his right) have been enjoying themselves today poking fun at one another, and in the next hand Patel raised to 1,000 from the button. Thiagarajah reraised to 3,500 from the small blind, and it folded back to Patel.

Patel hesitated a beat, then donned his novelty glasses on which an “I’ and a heart are printed over one lens and “mur.mur,” a nightclub in Borgata on the other. He turned to look at Thiagarajah, who burst into laughter.

“I can’t even look at you, bro!” exclaimed Thiagarajah, and Patel folded. They then continued joking, with Thiagarajah suggesting that same scenario was going to happen another eighty-eight times and Patel speculating how many times he’d be folding, flatting, and raising.

The dealer dealt the next hand. “I’m still at starting stack,” said Thiagarajah as he checked his cards, still looking for a way to start moving forward. –MH

2:02pm: Vanessa Selbst seeks the threepeat?
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

There was around 4,000 already in the pot and the board read Q♥9♠8♦ when Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst bet 2,100 from middle position and Joseph Delgrosso raised to 5,200 in the hijack. Selbst didn’t slow down, instead reraising to 8,300 total. Delgrosso mulled over his options and eventually turned over A♥Q♣ and pushed it towards the muck.

Selbst was confused as to the action. “You folded?”

“Yes,” he responded.

Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4822.jpg

Vanessa Selbst

Selbst is seated at a table alongside fellow Team Pros Fatima Moreira de Melo and Jason Mercier. Mercier and Selbst share more than just Team Pro status in common though. The two are used to success at live PokerStars events in the Northeast. In 2010, Selbst won the inaugural NAPT Mohegan Sun Main Event, then days later Mercier took down the first-ever Mohegan Sun Bounty Shootout. In 2011, the two remarkably repeated the feat, each winning their respective titles a second time over. Perhaps a pseudo-threepeat is in the cards for one of them?

Main Event Trophy_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4745.jpg

Main Event trophy

1:57pm: Ramdin picks his spots
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

Gregory Coburn raised to 600 from early position, Bobby Noble called from the next seat, and it folded to Victor Ramdin on the button.

“How many blues do you have?” Ramdin asked, and Coburn held up his stack containing two of the chips worth 5,000.

Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4859.jpg

Victor Ramdin

“I have four,” said Noble, pointing to his stack of about 40,000. “Oh, I don’t care what you have,” said Ramdin with a grin and the table laughed.

Ramdin called, the blinds folded, and after a 6♣2♠8♠ it checked to Ramdin who bet 1,300. Only Coburn called, then the two remaining players checked the 6♠ turn card.

The 6♦ river put trips on board, and after Coburn checked, Ramdin fired 1,800 and got a fold to earn the pot. Ramdin is up to 38,000, nearly matching Noble, while Coburn now sits with just under 9,000. –MH

1:55pm: Daher at the double
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

There was more than 8,500 in the pot by the time I picked up the action on a 6♣2♦8♥ flop. Bruce Yamron (middle position) checked, as did the cutoff and Albert Daher (button). The 4♠ hit the turn and Yamron came out firing with a bet of 6,000, Daher was the only caller. The 6♠ completed the board, Yamron shoved for a little under 10,000 and Daher snap called. Yamron had K♦K♥ but it was no good against Daher’s A♥A♦.

After that hand Albert Daher has around 50,000. –NW

Albert Daher_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4855.jpg

Albert Daher

1:43pm: Dicondina ends it on the flop
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

Jeffrey Cole opened for 500 from middle position, his neighbor to the left Rocco Dicondina called, and Gregory Coburn came along from the big blind.

The flop came all babies, crying and screaming and generally making a fuss while everyone was trying to focus.

Just kidding… the flop brought all small cards — 2♣6♦4♣ — and it checked to Cole who continued for 1,200.

At that Dicondina used his chips to make his own fuss — he pushed all-in for 14,600 total. Coburn quickly released his hand, and after pausing a few beats Cole let his go as well.

Dicondina has about 17,000 now, Coburn 20,000, and Cole 28,000. –MH

1:35pm: Felipe Ramos runs into Broadway
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos raised to 500 in the hijack and Jason Velasco called in the cutoff. Both players checked the A♥J♣6♣ flop, then Ramos bet 600 when the turn brought the 8♣. Velasco called.

The river was the K♠. Ramos checked, Velasco bet 1,000, and Ramos counted out his own stack for a minute or two before calling.

Velasco tabled Q♥10♣ for a rivered Broadway straight to take the pot. Ramos is still in good shape, sitting on a starting stack.–JW

1:33pm: Mercier and de Melo
Level 3 – Blinds 100/200 (25)

Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier arrived toward the end of the last level, and just now at the start of Level 3 he and Team SportsStar Fatima Moreira de Melo got involved in a small pot, three-way hand in which just the two of them were left checking down the river with the board showing 6♥4♦7♣9♥8♥.

In poker you need either a five or a ten to make a straight, and as it happened neither had either, as de Melo called “ace-high,” Mercier showed A♣6♣ for sixes, and the latter claimed the pot. –MH

Jason Mercier_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4839.jpg

Jason Mercier

3 100 200 25

1:10pm: Break time

Having reached the end of Level 2, players are now off on their first 20-minute break of the day. –MH

1:08pm: Lopez leads early
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

With the second level of the day coming to a close and the first break nearing, Angel Lopez looks as though he did the best for himself during the first two hours of play today, having spun his stack up around 65,000 already. –MH

1:07pm: The New Jersey online crew loses a member
Level 1 – Blinds 75/150

While one table is stacked with notables of the live tournament world, another table in the room is apparently host to some of the best players PokerStars’ online site in New Jesey has to offer. The table was in the midst of debating which online players are the most tilting to deal with, arguing over whether it was Shamo, Scooby Doo, or BadBeatDealer, when Marina Lios and Kush Patel, who claimed to be none of the above screennames, tangled in a pot.

There was around 1,800 in the pot and the board read A♦9♠2♦ when Lios checked from under the gun and Patel bet 1,025 from middle position. The turn was the 8♦ and Lios checked again. Patel inquired how much she had left and learned it was 5,695. He then bet 2,125, which she called.

The river was the 9♥. Lios moved all in for 3,550 and Patel quickly called.

“Boat? I have a flush,” Patel announced before tabling Q♦4♦. Lios had neither. She showed K♣K♦ then headed for the exit.

As soon as the hand ended, players resumed the online poker talk. One tried to get his tablemates to volunteer their screennames, but it was a no-go for the anonymous stars of the New Jersey online poker scene, who would prefer to identify as “Not Scooby Doo” for at least a little longer.–JW

1pm: Rough for diamond
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

A huge pot just played out at table five and when the dust was settled we had the second elimination of the day.

Anthony Lanteri was the catalyst for the huge action, he opened to 400 from middle position and picked up calls from Lyle Diamond (hijack) and Angel Lopez (button). Either by accident or design, there was heavy action to come on the Q♠5♠A♣ flop. Lanteri led for 750 and this is where it got interesting, Diamond through out enough chips to raise but had intended to just call (he said as much) and his bet of 1,600 stood. There then followed a call from Lopez and a re-raise to 5,300 from Lanteri. Both Diamond and Lopez called and so there was now over 17,000 in the pot as the 8♠ fell on the turn.

About 30 seconds passed before Lanteri made up his mind to check, Diamond acted far quicker, he bet 5,500 and action then paused on Lopez. He riffled chips and tanked for a long time before raising to 12,000 total. After that action, Lanteri wanted a look at Lopez’s stack (he had 14,000 back) and he then folded. Diamond snap shoved and Lopez called just as fast. The reason soon became clear, Diamond showed 4♠3♠ for the turned flush, but Lopez had the nuts with A♠7♠. The 4♦ fell on the river and with Lopez having Diamond covered the latter was eliminated.

“I didn’t want to see the board pair on the river,” said Lopez to Lanteri after the hand. “I thank you for not fast playing it,” replied Lanteri who had folded a set of queens in that hand. –NW

12:42pm: Sysko doesn’t kid, bets hand and collects
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

Joseph Delgrosso opened for 475 from middle position, earning three callers in Christopher Kusha sitting next door, Joshua Berardi in the hijack, and Richard Sysko in the big blind.

Four were in, then, to see the flop bring three big cards — Q♦K♥10♥. It checked around to Joshua Berardi who fired 1,200, and Sysko check-raised to 2,500 to clear the two in between. Berardi called that bet, then called another from Berardi after the 9♦ turn fell to bring the pot up close to 15,000.

The 6♦ river put a third diamond on board, but that didn’t deter Sysko from betting 5,000, and after a think Berardi let his hand go. “Flopped straight,” said Sysko afterwards, who climbs back to the 25,000 starting stack while Berardi slips back to 27,000. –MH

12:40pm: Little (doesn’t) go a long way
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

A new table was opening up, which meant a few players from assorted tables were needed to make up the numbers. The standard format for that purpose is to take the next big blind from however many tables you need to. One of the players who was on the move was Jonathan Little, he wasn’t even a hop, skip and a jump from his new table – just a hop really – and he takes 23,000 to his new table. That table of death just got a ‘little’ easier. –NW

Tournament Area_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_7JG9748.jpg

12:29pm: Team Pros crushing
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

While fellow PokerStars Team Pro and tablemate Chris Moneymaker crushed candy on his iPad, Andre Akkari raised to 350 from early position and Kevin Crombie called from the small blind.

The flop came 10♠10♦9♥ and Crombie checked. Akkari bet 525 and Crombie called. The turn brought the A♣. Crombie bet 2,000. Akkari mulled it over and called. The river was the 9♥. Both players checked and Akkari took the pot with Q♣9♣ to move up to 30,000.–JW

Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4796.jpg

Andre Akkari

12:18pm: Club draw for Diamond
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

Three clubs were on the board, and three players still in the hand.

That was the scene following a cutoff raise to 400 from Lyle Diamond, a call by Je Wook Oh from the button, and another call from Angel Lopez in the small blind. The flop hand come Q♣7♣2♣, and after it checked around to Oh he bet 1,375 and both of his opponents stuck around.

The 6♣ arrived on the turn, and once more it checked to Oh who bet again, this time 2,875. Lopez quickly gave his membership in the club-board club, but Diamond chose to check-raise to 10,000, causing Oh to grimace as he released his hand.

All three are hovering around the 25,000-chip starting stack at present, with Diamond having chipped up a bit closer to 30,000. –MH

12:15pm: What a cooler, sorry, water cooler
Level 2 – Blinds 50/100

On her twitter account Vanessa Selbst describes herself as, “Just an average poker-playing, sorta-actually-lawyering, social-justice-fighting, game-loving, fun-having girl next door.”

She’s just taken her seat in this event and is sat across the table from Fatima Moreira de Melo. The two of them occasionally play tennis against each other but will be facing off against each other at the poker table today. While a hand was going on Selbst went to fix herself a glass of water, she’d poured herself one but the barrel was empty. Most players would have left it there, but not Selbst, she did an excellent job of changing the water cooler barrel and sat back down in time to play the next hand. –NW

Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4820.jpg

Vanessa Selbst

12:06pm: Smyth stuck in the middle
Level 2 – Blinds 75/150

English player Peter Smyth comes to today’s tournament with plenty of tournament experience, with cashes dating back more than a decade. Seated to Chris Moneymaker’s right, he just perked up as Andre Akkari took his seat to Smyth’s left, an empty seat still left between.

Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4803.jpg

Chris Moneymaker

“It’s a Team PokerStars sandwich,” said Smyth, adding with a point of his finger how the presence of David Vamplew (on Moneymaker’s left) doesn’t make the draw any easier. He then speculated about the possibility of a third Team Pro taking the empty seat between him and Akkari.

“If one sits here, it will be a triple-decker!” he said, earning a round of laughter. –MH

Peter Smythe & Team Pros Akkari & Moneymaker_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_7JG9750.jpg

Sandwich time!

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12pm: Pots for Moneymaker and Ramos
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

We’ve already spotted Chris Moneymaker playing a few big pots and he was just involved in another against Peter Smyth. It was a blind on blind pot and the British PokerStars Qualifier led for 600 on the turn of a 6♣3♣4♥10♥ board. There was about 1,500 in the pot before Smyth’s bet and Moneymaker raised it up to 1,700. It took Smyth about 30 seconds to decided on his next move and it was to fold. Pot to Moneymaker.

Meanwhile just one table over Rachel Kranz opened to 300 from the hijack and Felipe Ramos three-bet to 1,025 from the small blind. It didn’t take Kranz too long to fold and Ramos seemed keen to hang onto his cards. “I had it,” he said. “I know, but you don’t want to show!” joked Kranz as the dealer prepared the deck for the next hand. –NW

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4768.jpg

Felipe Ramos

11:53am: Jeff Cole’s Fast Start
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

Players in the field began with 25,000 chips, but Jeff Cole is sitting on about one-and-a-half that amount after a multi-way pot.

Craig Socha raised to 325 from the hijack, Gregory Coburn called behind him, Bobby Noble called on the button, and Cole defended his big blind. The quartet took a flop of 10♦9♠5♥ and Cole checked to Socha, who bet 1,200. Coburn and Noble both called. Cole, on the other hand, check-raised to 3,950. Socha folded, Coburn called, and Noble folded.

The turn paired the board with the 5♦. Cole bet 5,200, which was too rich for Coburn’s blood. Coburn folded and Cole took the pot to chip up to one of the bigger stacks in the Day 1A field.–JW

11:52am: Another Team Pro in the house
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

Any poker tournament that starts in the morning is likely considered early by poker players . With late registration standard practice in tournaments, it’s not unusual that plenty of players missed the shuffle up and deal, but have taken their seats during the opening level.

One of the late arrivals is Barry Greenstein, the Team PokerStars Pro – know as the Robin Hood of poker – has taken a seat to the direct right of Felipe ‘Mojave’ Ramos. With Jonathan Little a few seats to the left of Ramos, there’s an early contender for ‘table of death’. –NW

11:50am: A bowl, some bread, and a bluff for Moneymaker
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

“I didn’t know they allowed you in this country!”

So grinned Chris Moneymaker just now after spotting fellow red-spade sporter Fatima Moreira de Melo who has just arrived. Moneymaker had just opened with a raise from the button for 300, and as he and de Melo exchanged greetings Sridhar Sangannagari three-bet to 900 from the big blind.

Team PokerStars Pros Fatima Moreira De Melo_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4811.jpg

Fatima Moreira de Melo

Focusing back on the hand, Moneymaker studied a moment and called while finishing up the bowl of soup and roll he’d brought to the table.

The flop came 6♥K♠Q♠ and both checked, then after the 10♥ turn card Sangannagari bet 1,500 and Moneymaker called.

The river brought the 7♠ and a check from Sangannagari. Moneymaker dug out a bet of 3,500 — about two-thirds the pot — and after thinking about a minute Sangannagari came up with a call.

“Five-high,” exhaled Moneymaker, turning over 5♥4♥. Sangannagari tabled his J♣J♦ and claimed the pot. He’s up around 34,000 now. Meanwhile Moneymaker may no longer be hungry after finishing his lunch, but he’s hungering for chips as he’s slipped back to 16,000. –MH

11:40am: Everyone loves a chopped pot
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

A pot of over sixty big blinds early on in the tournament is a rare occurrence but Je Wook Oh and Gregory Coburn just created such a pot.

There was a limp from middle position, Oh, who won the PokerStars Cup and $6,520 yesterday, bumped it up to 325 out of the hijack, Coburn called on the button and that dragged the limper in too. On the A♠6♦A♥ flop Oh continued for 350 and Coburn was the only caller. The 10♦ fell on the turn and Oh slowed down as he check-called a bet of 800 by casually tossing in a single 1K chip.

The 6♥ river double-paired the board and Oh elected to lead this street, betting 2,250. There was a brief dwell by Coburn, but you always sensed a call was coming and that’s what he did. Oh showed A♣7♠ and Coburn rolled over A♦J♥. Both players had aces full of sixes and chopped the pot.

11:32am: Chris Moneymaker Joins the Field
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

Team PokerStars Pros Felipe Ramos and Chris Moneymaker both recently joined the field. Moneymaker joined David Vamplew’s table and promptly got involved in the game.

Anthony Taormina raised in middle position and Tony Cheng reraised to 650 total. Moneymaker called from the cutoff, then Taormina called as well. The flop fell 8♣6♣6♠ and action checked to Moneymaker, who bet 800. Taormina called and Cheng folded.

The turn brought the K♠. Taormina checked and Moneymaker bet 1,500. Taormina check-raised, making it 3,500 total to play. Moneymaker thought for a good minute before folding, and Taormina took the pot.–JW

Anthony Taormina – 29,000
Chris Moneymaker – 22,000

11:30am: Take a look at Table 4
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

Table 4 is shaping up to be one to watch here at the start today, featuring several familiar players from the tournament circuit.

Rachel Kranz is one of them. She’s collected numerous WSOP cashes including a 14th-place showing in a $1K event in 2013, plus several WSOP-Circuit scores here in Atlantic City and in Philadelphia.

At the other end of her table is Jonathan Little, he of multiple popular strategy texts and $6.3 million in tourney winnings. And Matthew Affleck — winner of over $2.1 million in tournaments including a 15th-place finish in the 2010 WSOP Main Event worth a half million — just sat sat down to the left of Kranz.

It appears Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein who has bought in but has yet to arrive is due to sit at Table 4 as well. –MH

11:21am: Pipitone sets the tone
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

Dan Pipitone opened from under the gun with a raise to 250, earning two callers in Peter Smyth from the next seat over and Anthony Taormina in the big blind. The flop came 6♣9♥10♣, and when checked to Pipitone continued for 400 with only Smyth sticking around.

The turn brought the 10♠ to pair the board, and Pipitone followed with another bet of 1,200. Taormina called that one, too, but after the 3♠ river and a third barrel of 2,600 from his opponent, Taormina let his hand go.

“I had a strong hand,” nodded Pipitone as he collected the pot. Subsequent table talk suggested Taormina had flopped an open-ended straight draw, and the pair — familiar from having played against each other before — continued with talk of previous hands they’ve played against one another. –MH

11:10am: It’s a long way from Edinburgh
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

One of the notables in today’s field is David Vamplew. The EPT7 London champion is number one on the all-time Scottish money list and a regular competitor in poker tournaments all over the world.

It’s a long way from Edinburgh to New Jersey though (3,338 miles fact fans) so it’s not just the poker that’s brought Vamplew to the East Coast. “My wife’s family are from near here and it’s close enough to Thanksgiving,” he explained. –NW

David Vamplew_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4717.jpg

David Vamplew

11:05am: Shuffle up and deal
Level 1 – Blinds 50/100

The early birds are in their seats and after Resorts Casino CEO Mark Giannantonio delivered the “shuffle up and deal” directive to dealers the first PokerStars Festival New Jersey Main Event is underway.

Rachel Kranz and Jonathan Little are among the familiar faces here for the first hand of Level 1. –MH

Resorts Casino CEO Mark Giannantonio_2016 PSNJ Festival_Main Event Day 1A_Giron_8JG4708.jpg

Resorts Casino CEO Mark Giannantonio: Shuffle up and deal

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10:39am: PokerStars live events return to USA

And here we are. The last time we sat down to do live updates for a USA-based PokerStars event, it was 2011, the North American Poker Tour still existed, and we were at the Mohegan Sun. Today, we’re back.

Here in about 20 minutes, the first Main Event of the PokerStars Festival New Jersey will kick off here at the Resorts Hotel and Casino.

Stick with us for live updates all day and night long.


PokerStars Festival New Jersey live reporting team: Martin Harris, Jessica Welman, Nick Wright, and Brad Willis. Photography by Joe Giron.


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