LAPT9 Panama: Main Event Day 1A coverage archive

It's hot in Panama City, even at the stroke of midnight. And just as the clock turned over from Wednesday to Thursday, the Frenchman Maxence Debar was about as hot as a poker player can get, having catapulted far into the chip lead to end Day 1A of the LAPT9 Panama Main Event with an eye-popping 298,900 chips.

That's nearly 15 times the starting stack, and more than 100,000 better than anyone else on this first of two Day 1 flights. Sizzling!


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Maxence Debar

There were 218 entries total today, with 63 players surviving to make it to Day 2. It was the Raul Paez show for much of the first half of the day today, as the Spaniard swiftly leaped ahead of the field to be the first player to 100,000, and for a couple of hours had more than twice what anyone else had. From such dizzying heights he'd eventually fall back to merely above-average status, however, with others overtaking him before he ended the night with 130,500.

The first to pass Paez was the American, Hunter Cichy, doing so just after the dinner break as he appeared in control of his table. But then a table break sent Debar to join him -- taking a seat on Cichy's left -- and before long the columns of chips began appearing in front of Debar to move him into first position as the final levels played out.

Meanwhile LAPT stars Oscar Alache, Amos Ben, Carter Gill, and Raul Pino all found themselves on the rail, joining the likes of Aaron Mermelstein, Horacio Nicolas, LAPT9 Chile champion Rodrigo Strong, and Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez.

In addition to Debar and Paez -- and Cichy who finished with 123,600 -- others ending the night with big stacks included Nicolas Baliner (184,900), Jessica Perez (178,900), Guido Ruffini (162,300), Jeiko Palma (113,000), Luis Perez (111,500), and Eugenio Pernia (110,400).

Also making it through to Saturday's Day 2 were Daniel Brenes (97,100), Andres Jeckeln (95,500), Ivan Freitez (88,300), Jin Wen Yu (84,900), David Santarelli (83,800), Mario Lopez (81,400), Erick Brenes (76,900), Andy Hwang (53,200), Nacho Barbero (52,600), Ricardo Chauriye (46,900), Joey Spanne (41,400), and Pierce McKellar (33,500).

Click here for a complete list of all 63 Day 1A survivors and their chip counts.

Day 1B begins tomorrow at 12 noon CT, with all of those who busted today having the opportunity to re-enter tomorrow. We'll be re-entering the fray as well, so be sure to return then as we find out together who becomes the next LAPT Main Event champion. --MH

DAY 1A LIVE UPDATES:

12:01am: Day 1A concludes
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

Day 1A is done, and it's more than apparent than Maxence Debar is going to be the overnight chip leader after the Frenchman added still more to his stack during the night's final hands. Back shortly with a recap of today's exciting action. --MH

11:48pm: Three more hands
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

Clock paused. Announcement made. End nigh. --MH

11:46pm: Asuncao keeps Brazil alive
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

Brazil's Rodrigo Strong is the most recent LAPT victor and while it didn't go too well for Brazil today, their lone Day 1A survivor just scored a much needed late double up. Manoel Asuncao three-bet shoved after a player opened to 2,400 from under the gun, with his all-in weighing in at 18,300.

The table folded to the big blind and it looked like he had a decision to make. He was behind close to 45,000 and he elected to not go for the knockout, flashing pocket tens to those seated next to him before folding. The opener then called the bet but saw he was behind, holding 7♥7♣ to Asuncao's J♣J♠.
 
The big blind was behind too, until the K♥T♠9♥ flop fell. He shot out of his chair and Asuncao smiled, knowing he got away with one with his opponent folding a sizable pocket pair to his short stack shove. The player in the big blind continued to bemoan his decision as the 4♥ fell on the turn and all of a sudden, Asuncao had an actual sweat. 

The player that did call picked up a flush draw but it missed after hte 4♠ completed the board. So the player that did call lost and the player that didn't would have rivered a full house. A lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda while Asuncao stacked up just shy of 40,000 chips heading into the final few minutes of Level 10. --WOC

11:41pm: No show, Noceda takes the pot
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

The action seems to be centered around Jean-Christoph Ferreira's table, as he was just involved in another sizable pot. This time, he was on the losing end though, as a big river bet forced a fold from Ferreira and moved Arturo Noceda up near the 100,000 chip mark. 

Action was picked up pre flop, with Ferreira opening the button to 2,600. The small blind called and Noceda, in the big blind, three-bet to 6,700. Ferreira called and the small blind got out of the way before the T♦9♦4♠ flop fell. Noceda gave up the betting lead, checking to his in position opponent. 

Ferreira took that opportunity to bet, pushing out 6,600. Noceda called and the 3♦ fell on the turn. The same betting pattern occurred, with Noceda check-calling 9,400. The 5♦ then put four to a flush on board and Noceda didn't check, instead betting 17,500. Ferreira went into the tank for close to three minutes before he eventually folded, showing the K♦ before pushing his hand towards the muck. 

Noceda looked like he was going to show his cards as he was getting shipped the pot but instead elected to keep his opponent guessing. There's no guessing about how Noceda is going to end this Day 1A flight, as he's working just over 100 big blinds heading into the homestretch of Level 10. --WOC

11:31pm: Maxence setting Debar high on Day 1A
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

Preflop back-and-forthing had built what looked like the start of a big pot, then after Maxence Debar check-called a bet after a K♠A♦J♦ flop it looked like things might continue to escalate.

But both the J♣ turn and 9♥ earned checks from the two players, and Debar didn't appear too excited when he tabled Q♥Q♠. But it was good as his opponent mucked, and the Frenchman collected yet another pot.

He's the clear leader at the moment with 218,000 with a half-hour to go in Day 1A. --MH

11:16pm: Freitez feeling fine
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

Ivan Freitez has seemed especially relaxed during the latter levels tonight. The massage he's been getting for the last hour-plus may well have helped encourage such an impression. 

Or perhaps it's his play. Just now we watched his neighbor to the right raise from early position, Freitez three-bet, and when it folded back around the raiser relented. Freitez flashed a black seven and with one hand scooped his winnings. He's stacking up around 65,000 at the moment as the massage moves into hour number two. --MH

11:09pm: "Cero por ciento" against Ferreira's full house
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

Earlier today, Jean-Christoph Ferreira scored a double-knockout and while he just sent one player to the rail on this occasion, it was a big elimination that shot him up the Day 1A leaderboard. Action pre flop was missed but on a board of Q♠9♠9♣, Ferreira put out a continuation bet on the button and was then check-raised to 12,000. 

He called and after the 3♣ fell on the turn, his opponent, who was in the big blind, shoved for just over 40,000. Ferreira couldn't cal quickly enough, tabling Q♥Q♦ for a flopped full house. His opponent shook his head and tried to slide his cards into the muck but the dealer made him show his A♠8♠

The player then turned the hand back over, as it was drawing dead and it seemed as though he didn't want to look at his meaningless nut flush draw any longer. Nacho Barbero, who was seated across from the action turned to Ferreira after the 6♣ fell on the river and smiled before saying, "Cero por ciento." 

That translates to, thanks Google, "zero percent" and Ferreira could only laugh. His opponent was drawing dead on the flop and was buried when the chips got in. The Canadian wasn't complaining, though, as he is now working the better part of 125,000 moving through the final level of the night. --WOC

11:01pm: Last level
Level 10 - Blinds 500/1,000 (ante 100)

The 80 players still left in the Day 1A field have now moved into the final one-hour level of the night. Maxence Debar remains the pace-setter -- we'll see if he can hang onto the lead for another few orbits before the bagging commences. --MH


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10:46pm: Baliner ballin'
Level 9 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Nicolas Baliner has continued to add to his stack as the night wears on, and just now grabbed a few more while lessening the Day 1A field by one.

Baliner called a short-stacked player's all-in with A♦K♥ and saw his opponent table J♥T♥. The A♠Q♣9♥ flop and 6♥ turn provided escape opportunities for Baliner's opponent, but the 2♣ was a blank and Baliner is now up to 138,000. --MH

10:38pm: Barbero into SCOOP #17-H quarterfinals
Level 9 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

We've referenced players playing PokerStars on their phones or tablets a few times today and when we approached Nacho Barbero's table to him celebrating, we quickly realized that it wasn't because of a pot he just won. Barbero is still working an average stack late in this Day 1A session but he's already locked up a win for the day in SCOOP Event #17-H: $2,100 PL Omaha [Heads-Up], $150K. 

That event saw 175 players take their seat and Barbero was one of them after winning a $500 satellite. He just won his Round of 16 match, meaning he's into the quarterfinals which will be the final round for tonight. If he's able to win that, he'll be into the semi-finals and lock up a $35,000 score. 

He has his sights set on the top prize though, joking, "Be pretty cool to win $100K on my phone." 

While SCOOP events don't have live updates, the PokerStars Blog will be bringing you all the SCOOP coverage you can handle over the next few weeks. Check out those event recaps here and keep your eyes out for Nacho 'PokerLoans1' Barbero in Event #17-H. --WOC
 
10:21pm: Field further winnows
Level 9 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Amos Ben, LAPT9 Chile champion Rodrigo Strong, and Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez are among the fallen here during the latter levels of Day 1A. All can return tomorrow, if they wish (and likely will). --MH

10:14pm: Top two on Table 1
Level 9 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Table 1 will be the feature table on Monday when the LAPT9 Panama Main Event gets down to it's final table but for now, Table 1 is home to the top two stacks in the room. Hunter Cichy is still playing close to 160,000 but a player we mentioned earlier is above that number. 

Maxence Debar lost a pot to Andy Hwang earlier but after re-entering, he's shot up the leaderboard and is now pacing this field through Level 9. The Frenchman is playing just over 180,000 and he's also coming off his first career live victory.

Maxence Debar-LAPT Panama-2016-8997.jpg

Maxence Debar, one half of the top two

Debar won a $1,000 Turbo side event at the EPT Grand Final last month and he's also had his fair share of LAPT success as well. He finished 2nd in the 2012 LAPT5 Lima Main Event, for $138,000 and he could be trending towards another deep run, as he's the chip leader late in Day 1A. --WOC

10:06pm: Back from break, two more levels
Level 9 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

The remaining ten tables are back from the final break of the day and just two levels, meaning two hours, separate them from Saturday's Day 2 restart. As it stands, less than 50% of the original 218 player field is still working towards the bags and it remains to be seen how many will advance to the weekend. 

If players aren't able to, or have already busted from this Day 1A flight, Day 1B will run tomorrow, with late registration open until around 7:45 PM. We'll get to preparing our coverage of that flight after we finish the task at hand, with the PokerStars blog brining you all the updates from the final two levels of the night. --WOC


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9:44pm: One more break

They've reached the end of Level 8 and the last 15-minute break of the night. There are 90 players left now from the 218 entries here on Day 1A. --MH

9:40pm: We lose Leo

The lone Team PokerStars Pro in today's field, Leo Fernandez, has lost the last of his chips to see his Day 1A end early. The Argentinian will no doubt be back tomorrow to continue his effort to repeat his successful run here in Panama four years ago on his way to the LAPT5 Panama Main Event title. --MH


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Fernandez falls

9:27pm: Rosenkrantz on the rise
Level 8 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Costa Rica's Jose Rosenkrantz has nearly three decades' worth of tournament cashes to his credit, including a couple in LAPT Main Events and a victory in the World Poker Tour Costa Rica Classic back in 2002 -- the first WPT event outside of the U.S.


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Jose Rosenkrantz

He's done well here today so far, and presently sits with 55,000 as they move into the last levels of the night. --MH

9:13pm: Field falls below century mark, Cichy leads
Level 8 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

With Hunter Cichy still appearing to be holding onto his Day 1A chip lead, the Main Event field has now shrunk to less than 100 players. It's no less quiet in the tournament area, however, as side action from this 17-event series continues apace at the neighboring tables. --MH

9:01pm: Big slick sends two to the rail
Level 8 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

In one of the first hands of Level 8, Jean-Christoph Ferreira scored a double knockout with ace-king to send two short stacks to the rail and move himself up near the 45,000 chip mark. That hand was picked up with Ferreira opening to 1,200 from early position and after a player called in middle position, the button and small blind quickly sent their chips in to the middle. 

The shoves weighed in at 8,000 and 6,500, respectively, and once it got back to him, Ferreira quickly called. He turned over A♦K♦ and while the button held A♣Q♥, which was dominated, Ferreira had to hit to send both players out, as the small blind held Q♠Q♦

He didn't have to wait long to hit, as the A♥J♥2♦ flop shot him into the lead. The A♠ gave him some additional support on the turn and after the 5♦ completed the board, his double knockout was also complete. His king-high kicker played and when the dust settled, the Canadian was playing just over two starting stacks. --WOC

8:51pm: Gill gone
Level 8 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

LAPT6 Grand Final Main Event champion Carter Gill nursed a short stack for the first hour following dinner, all the while playing online as he did. Then came the time to commit his last 5,000 or so with J♥T♠, but unfortunately for him he found himself caught between two opponents holding Q♣Q♠ and A♠K♦.

The board ran out 5♣8♣4♣9♦J♠, not quite enough for Gill, and he's out on Day 1A. "You play tomorrow," Gill was asked by a tablemate as he was about to depart. "Yeah, for sure," he replied. --MH


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8:39pm: The Brenes bunch
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

Eric Brenes, nephew of Humberto, is here and steadily accumulating, presently sitting behind an above average stack of about 45,000. 

Eric is hoping to add another deep run to an already succesful career that includes chopping the Sunday Million on PokerStars last year for a $120K-plus score where he plays as "Uniceja" (or "unibrow"). 


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Eric Brenes

Another Brenes is in the field, too, and another of Humberto's nephews -- Eric's brother, Daniel. He currently is doing even better than Eric, having spun his stack up to 55,000 to this point.


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Daniel Brenes

And Alex Brenes, Humberto's brother, is also here representing the family well with average chips. Alex has over $1.3 million in live cashes including a runner-up in the LAPT Punta del Este Main Event way back in Season 1. --MH


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Alex Brenes

8:22pm: The equity we need is all around us...
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

Pierce McKellar, who finished 7th in last year's version of the LAPT Panama Main Event just doubled with pocket kings but that's not the story here. The story here is the difference between seven-high and suited seven-high. 

McKellar held K♥K♦ and his opponent, we're not sure how he got to the pot or the river, held 7♣5♣. By the river, McKellar improved to a flush to beat his opponent's rivered two pair and after he got pushed the pot, the American said, "Get out of there with seven-high."

His opponent, who's name we'll withhold to protect the innocent, seemed to take offense to that comment, correcting McKellar that he held "suited seven-high". While McKellar seemed to ignore the comment, deciding to stack up his nearly 35,000 instead, a player at the table took the comment to heart. "He has kings, you'd rather have suited seven-high. Yeah, you're right."

We don't advise trying to crack aces with seven-five any time soon and we are not responsible for any chips lost while doing so if you do try. We are here to inform you that yes, you are better off holding suited seven-five, a 4.46% better chance to be exact. --WOC

8:11pm: 218 entries
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

We've gotten word there were 218 entries total here on Day 1A, although that'll still need to be confirmed officially. Day 1B will be bigger for certain -- perhaps close to twice as much -- so the overall field and prize pool for LAPT9 Panama is going to be a large one. --MH

8:09pm: Checking on the chips
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

A quick post-dinner tour of the room is a good way to work off those calories added during the evening meal. It also helps us to update some selected chip counts, as well as to eye those big stacks. As noted below, Hunter Cichy has jumped ahead of Raul Paez here in Level 7, taking away the lead Paez has enjoyed pretty much all of Day 1A. A selection of big stacks. --MH

        
NameCountryChips
Hunter CichyUSA164,000
Raul PaezSpain153,000
Carlos LamMexico85,000
Mario LopezArgentina84,000
Kenneth WatsonUSA72,000
Andres JeckelnArgentina63,000
Nicolas BalinerArgentina60,000
Ricardo ChauriyeChile55,000

8:05pm: Hunter Cichy takes chip lead
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

For the first time in a long time, Raul Paez is no longer leading this Day 1A flight. That's because Hunter Cichy has come back from the dinner break on a tear, increasing his stack up just shy of 165,000. 

Cichy was mentioned as one of the bigger stacks prior to the recent 75-minute recess and since Level 7 began, he's done more than just contend for that lead. He's now alone at the top of the leaderboard and with just over three and a half levels remaining in this opening starting flight, we could see Cichy end the night as the flight's chip leader. 

For a complete update of post-dinner chip counts, consult the critically acclaimed LAPT9 Panama Main Event 'Select Chip Counts' tab provided on the top and right of this page. --WOC


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Hunter Cichy, chip hunter

7:55pm: Lam returns from dinner to 'murderer's row'
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

Before the dinner break, we mentioned the tough table draw that Andres Jeckeln has now that Mario Lopez moved to his immediate left but that table just got even tougher. Reigning LAPT Player of the Year Oscar Alache has fired another bullet and he's to Jeckeln's right.

Add in the previously mentioned Joseph Spanne, who is to Lopez's left, and three of the more experienced players are all to Carlos Lam's left. Lam returned from the dinner break with just shy of 80,000 and with some sizable stacks all seated together, murderer's row could provide some serious action over the next few levels. --WOC

7:47pm: Play resumes
Level 7 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

Players are back in their seats and cards are in the air once again. They'll play four more one-hour levels tonight before bagging up. Meanwhile, late registration has now closed -- we'll find out soon just how many entries there were on this first of two Day 1 flights in the LAPT9 Panama Main Event. --MH


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725050050

6:32pm: Dinner break

Level 6 had come to an end and the 75-minute dinner break has arrived with Raul Paez still the chip leader but the chase pack starting to edge closer. Players will return at approximately 7:45pm CT. --MH

6:30pm: Just under 200 heading into dinner
Level 6 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

This Day 1A flight is just a few minutes from the dinner break and that means that there is just over 75 minutes left to get into today's starting flight. Once Level 7 begins, the field will be frozen and with 198 players currently entered, we imagine that the 200 player mark will be eclipsed once play resumes.

Last year's LAPT8 Panama Main Event drew 422 entrants at a $2,500 price point. This year, the entry fee has been lowered to $1,500, meaning we could and should see an over 500 player field come together over the next few days. --WOC

6:21pm: Jeckeln jumps back, jumps up
Level 6 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

We mentioned earlier Andres Jeckeln sitting in the uncomfortable seat to chip leader to the right of Raul Paez, and eventually being stacked and forced to leave it. We spotted Jeckeln back in the tournament again just now after having re-entered, and while he's clear across the room from Paez, he still looked a little uneasy.

The player on his left this time had pushed all in for nearly 13,000 -- about twice the pot -- on a 6♣5♥2♥ flop, and Jeckeln was deep in thought as he decided what to do. Finally he came up with a call, saw his neighbor table K♥Q♥ for overs and a flush draw, then showed his Q♣2♣ for bottom pair and the current lead in the hand.

The turn was the 4♠ and river the 2♦, and Jeckeln's hand held up. The Argentinian is up over 60,000 now with the dinner break approaching.

Hold on a sec, though... it looks like Jeckeln's fellow countryman and two-time LAPT champion Mario Lopez is being moved into that seat to Jeckeln's left, and he's bringing a stack of nearly 85,000 with him. It's never easy. --MH


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Lopez leaping up the counts

6:10pm: Two above everyone except Raul Paez
Level 6 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

The tournament area for this LAPT9 Panama Main Event has nearly 30 tables on level ground, with two other tables on a high rise on one side of the room. Those tables will likely be saved for big final tables heading through the rest of this LAPT festival but right now, they're home to two of the bigger stacks in the room. 

Hunter Cichy and Nicolas Baliner are working either side of 80,000, meaning that they're above, literally and figuratively, everyone in this 1A flight other than Raul "El Toro" Paez. The Spaniard has continued to climb and we wouldn't be surprised to see him enter the dinner break dangerously close to the 200,000-chip mark. 

Cichy and Baliner will hope to approach the century mark over the next 20 minutes, which is when that 75-minute dinner break begins. The PokerStars blog will bring you an updated list of the chip counts when that dinner break does begin and counts throughout the day can be found through the 'Select Chip Counts' link at the top and righthand side of the page. --WOC

5:56pm: Try, try again
Level 6 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Amos Ben soon bought back into the event after busting a short while ago, and indeed many of those who have gone out so far have quickly returned as the re-entry period remains open through the dinner break (coming up after this level). --MH

5:48pm: Watson's blades cut down Borenstein
Level 6 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

While American Andy Hwang is moving up the leaderboard, two of his countrymen are heading in very different directions after a sizable pot developed on a central table. Jonathan Borenstein lost just shy of 30,000, leaving himself a starting stack after Kenneth Watson found pocket aces in a great spot. 

Action was picked up with Borenstein calling a 3,000 chip three-bet to see a K♥8♥2♠ flop. Borenstein the check-called a bet of 4,000 to see the 6♦ fall on the turn. The out of position player quickly checked for a second time and Watson calmly threw out 10,000. 

Borenstein gave Watson the up and down, staring at his stack a few times before taking a quick inventory of his 50,000 or so remaining chips. Eventually, he called and after the 6♠ paired the board on the river, he checked again. Watson didn't slow down though, firing a third barrel weighing in at 13,000. 

Borenstein took close to two minutes to make his turn decision but he didn't need nearly that amount of time to come to a decision on the end. He quickly called and then quickly mucked, after Watson turned over A♦A♣. When the dust settled, his blades had moved him up near the 80,000 chip mark, good for second in this Day 1A flight. --WOC

5:36pm: Ben bounced
Level 6 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Catching up on the flop with the board showing 8♣2♣T♦, we saw Amos Ben pushing all-in over a bet and raise and getting called by one of his two opponents.

Ben had J♥9♦ and was hoping his open-ended straight draw would be happily improved by one of the two remaining community cards, however his opponent was drawing, too, with A♣7♣, which took away a couple of straight outs for Ben although meant he could still win with a non-club jack or nine.

The turn was the 3♦, then the river brought a nine... but it was the 9♣. Ben congratulated his vanquisher and headed railward. --MH


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5:28pm: Eyes on the Paez
Level 5 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

We didn't see how the Argentinian Andres Jeckeln went out a short while ago, but sitting to the right of overwhelming Day 1A chip leader Raul "El Toro" Paez could not have helped his cause very much. 


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Jeckeln from earlier, in the most uncomfortable seat in the room

Andy Whang (introduced below) has now taken the seat left empty by Jeckeln, and we just saw him open a pot, call a three-bet from Paez, then check-fold after a raggedy king-high flop. Whang has 24,000, a bit above the starting stack, but Paez has 165,000 now.

That means Paez has more than twice anyone else in the room right now -- and we checked all 180 or so of the others, just to make sure. The closest we're seeing at the moment is the American, Kenneth Watson, who is sitting behind a stack of about 80,000. --MH

5:23pm: Nearly 200
Level 5 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

As they near the end of Level 5, the big board is showing 198 entries so far today, with 145 of those players still with chips. With Day 1B promising to attract a field perhaps twice as big as today's, that's adding up to a big turnout for LAPT9 Panama. --MH

5:14pm: Debar doesn't get there, Hwang chips up
Level 5 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

We've mentioned a few American players throughout the first half of this Day 1A flight and another who just recently took his seat has already increased 20,000 chip stack. That's former WPT champion Andy Hwang and the Texan is now playing close to double starting after fading a flush draw with one card to come. 

The hand was picked up on the turn, with the board reading 6♣4♥3♣5♣ and Hwang checking from the big blind. Another player checked in middle position before Maxence Debar bet 3,325 from the cutoff. Huang thought for a few moments and then check-raised to 14,000, which was enough to put Debar all-in. 

The player between them quickly folded and Debar had a decision on his hands. If he were to call and be wrong, it was his tournament life on the chopping block but if he were to call and be correct, he was looking at an over 100 big blind stack. Eventually, he elected to call but he'd have to hit to stay alive, as he held 4♣4♠ to Hwang's T♠7♠. The Texan had turned a straight but Debar had outs to both a flush and full house. The 2♦ was not one of those outs though, meaning he was hitting the rail while Hwang was scooping the pot.  

Over the last calendar year, Hwang has recorded tournament scores across the globe, from California and Chicago to the Czech Republic and Ireland. He's now looking to add Panama and the LAPT to his lengthy tournament resume this weekend. --WOC

5:04pm: Mermelstein runs into kings
Level 5 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

Aaron Mermelstein had already bought in a couple of times today, and just now we spotted him engaged in a postflop battle once again that saw him check-raising a stack all-in on the turn with the board showing 3♥T♦Q♥4♠.

Mermelstein's opponent called his shove and turned over K♠K♥, and Mermelstein shook his head as he showed A♦Q♠ for a lesser pair. The river was the T♥, and Mermelstein was stacked again. 

Mermelstein may or may not be re-entering again today, as there is just a level-and-a-half left to go before that door closes on Day 1A. If not, there's always Day 1B. --MH


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Mermelstein in action

4:48pm: Set of fours fails Nicolas
Level 5 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

LAPT Season 7 Player of the Year Horacio Nicolas just saw his Day 1A come to an abrupt end during the first part of Level 5. 

We caught the aftermath, with Nicolas staring down at his iPad playing on PokerStars as he got up from the table. The 4♥4♣ in front of his seat had made a set on a 4♦Q♠T♥2♥Q♣ board. But an opponent who showing T♣T♦ had made a better one to claim the last of Nicolas' starting stack.

The Argentinian doesn't appear as though he's re-entering today, engaged as he is in his game online, though can always come back tomorrow for Day 1B. --MH

4:40pm: Doesn't matter where the chips come from
Level 5 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

To win tournaments, you have to win flips and while players likely don't want to be in 50/50 encounters early and often, Joseph Spanne isn't complaining about a recent win. Or maybe he is, as Spanne just won a flip to eliminate a Costa Rican player and then said, "Hate to take from Costa Rica." The California native spends a majority of his time there playing online but he's now looking good in an attempt to notch his first LAPT score. 

Action was picked up late, with Spanne moving all-in from the blinds for just shy of 25,000. His opponent, donned in a Costa Rican hat and patch on the side of his shirt, had what looked to be a four-bet already out in front of him and he called all-in for nearly 22,000. He tabled Q♥Q♦ and he needed to hold to stay alive, as Spanne showed up with A♠K♠

That flip was more or less over after the A♦T♣6♠ flop, with Spanne improving to trips after the A♥ fell on the turn. The slightly shorter stack needed one of two outs on the river but the 8♣ was not one of them. The Costa Rican hit the rail and Spanne, who has well over $3,000,000 in career online tournament earnings, stacked up just under 55,000 heading towards the midway point of Level 5. --WOC


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4:16pm: Break it up

They've reached the end of another two hours' of poker, and players are now taking another 15-minute break. --MH




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4:09pm: "El Toro" raging
Level 4 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Four players saw a flop come single-suited -- 6♠8♠2♠ -- but only two of them found those three cards interesting enough to stick around, with our early chip leader Raul "El Toro" Paez calling a leading bet from the first-to-act player.

The turn brought the Q♣ and another bet from Paez' opponent who fired 4,200 into the 7,000-ish pot. Paez responded by raising to 11,000, and when his opponent shoved for the 25,000 or so he had left, Paez was quick to call.

Paez flipped over A♠J♠ for the nut flush, and his opponent chuckled through a grimace as he showed his K♠T♠ for the second-best hand. The river was no matter, and with one less player in the field Paez is now up to 132,000, a total that looks to be about twice the nearest challenger as they near the end of Level 4. --MH


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Raul-ing along

3:45pm: Gill goes for another
Level 4 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

We're just a few minutes from the second break of the day and while Carter Gill's 2013 LAPT6 title came in Uruguay, the American has had his fair share of success in Panama. The Oregon native was the last player to hoist a LAPT trophy last year, winning the final side event for a $10,000 score. 

His best Panama finish came a year earlier though, as Gill took down the Latin Poker Series Millions event in March of 2014 for a $175,000 score. That win helped push Gill over the $1,200,000 mark in terms of career earnings, with his only bigger scores coming from that 2013 LAPT victory and a podium finish in a $2,000 NLH event at the 2008 World Series of Poker. 

Over the last few years, Gill has done a majority of his live tournament damage in Central and South America, so it's no suprise to see him back on the felt in an LAPT Main Event. We also wouldn't be surprised to see him make another deep run and potentially join the previously mentioned two-time LAPT champions. --WOC

3:28pm: Paez almost past century mark
Level 4 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

While this field eclipsed the 100 player mark after the last break, the Day 1A chip leader is now approaching the century mark heading into the second half of Level 4. Raul Paez looks like he's increased his starting stack significantly since joining the action close to 90 minutes ago, as he's up near 95,000.

It's not surprising to see Paez near the top of the leaderboard, albeit early. The Spaniard has over $1,800,000 in career tournament earnings, with his most recent sizable scores coming from last year's World Series of Poker. 'The Bull', as he's known in these parts, nearly final tabled two Pot Limit Omaha events and he's doing just as well today with two cards. 

The PokerStars blog will track 'The Bull' and this field throughout the day with live updates but for chip counts, check out Martin's hugely successful 'Select Chip Counts' link on the right hand side of the page. --WOC

3:16pm: Chauriye charging; Alache (alas) loses stack
Level 4 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Ricardo Chauriye has had a strong afternoon thus far, having spun the 20,000-chip starting stack up to 56,000 already by early in Level 4.

Meanwhile we saw his fellow Chilean Oscar Alache -- whom we noted had only arrived a short while ago (see below) -- was swiftly short on chips and now he's lost that starting stack. Chances are high, however, Alache will be re-entering, an option available to anyone busting prior to Level 7. --MH


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Oscar! Oscar!

LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
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3:01pm: Reigning LAPT Player of the Year, Oscar Alache
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200


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Oscar Alache awarded LAPT8 POY on his home turf

We're now two for three on two-time LAPT champions, as Oscar Alache just joined the field. The Chilean won his first LAPT title in late 2014, beating a nearly 700 player field in Peru, before claiming his second in his home country early in 2015. That LAPT8 Chile win also more or less solidified Alache as the player to beat to win that season's Player of the Year honors and while he walked away empty handed from this year's Chile stop, he was presented with the LAPT8 POY trophy. 

He's got a ways to go to try to achieve back to back Player of the Year titles in Season 9, but Alache is now looking to get back to his winning ways in Panama. His early draw isn't the best though, as he has PokerStars Team Pro Leo Fernandez to his immediate left at a central table. --WOC

2:40pm: Lopez looks to open Panamanian account with third LAPT title
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200

If you followed the my and Jack Stanton's PokerStars Blog coverage of the last LAPT Main Event in Chile, you know our fascination with two-time LAPT champions. There are four multiple title winners in LAPT history, with Fabian Ortiz, the previously featured Nacho Barbero and Oscar Alache holding that honor along with the newest Day 1A entrant, Mario Lopez. 

He wasn't able to make a Main Event run in Chile, failing to make the money, but he did finish runner-up for a LAPT side event title. Since then, Lopez has recorded scores in his native Argentina and won a side event at the EPT's most recent stop in Monte Carlo. Those results dwarf in comparison to some of his bigger tournament scores, including a $451,000 win in the Estrellas Barcelona Main Event in 2015 and a runner-up finish in the Little One for One-Drop event at last summer's World Series of Poker. 

Despite nearly 50 career live cashes, totaling over $1,800,000, Lopez has never recorded a tournament result in Panama. He'll hope to change that this weekend while also looking to set himself apart with a third career LAPT title. --WOC

2:24pm: The expanding field
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200

The main area of the tournament room is starting to fill rapidly as the day's third level begins, with two dozen tables now filled as play continues. --MH


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2:00pm: Break time

They've reached the end of Level 2 and players are now taking their first 15-minute break of the day. --MH




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1:55pm: Paez playing, Freitez on the felt, Nicolas among newcomers
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Spain's Raul Paez is here, winner of more than $1.8 million lifetime in tournaments including a third-place showing in the LAPT5 Main Event.

EPT7 Grand Final Main Event champion Ivan Freitez is part of the field as well, the Venezuelan having made the trip over from Monaco where he was playing last week and picked up a couple of cashes.


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Ivan Freitez

And LAPT Season 7 Player of the Year Horacio Nicolas of Argentina has arrived as well, not too far removed from a victory in the Circuito Argentino De Poker High Roller event in Buenos Aires just a month ago. --MH

1:47pm: "Cacho" catches cards
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Andres "Cacho" Korn just enjoyed a fortunate hand, one of those runner-runners (and nothing's funner).

All-in before the flop with ace-king versus an opponent's pocket queens, a Q-5-5 flop looked about as dire as it gets for the Argentinian. But the turn and river brought two kings, improbably giving him an better full house and allowing him to keep his seat. --MH


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Kings save Korn

1:24pm: Team Pro joins the field
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

This Day 1A field has been steadily growing over last 90 minutes and heading into the second half of Level 2, the lone LAPT9 Panama attending PokerStars Team Pro has taken his seat. That's Argentina's Leo Fernandez, who has claimed victory in Panama before. 

In 2012, Fernandez outlasted a 338 player field to claim the LAPT5 Panama Main Event for a $172,000 score. That was at the last LAPT Panama venue though, meaning Fernandez is still looking for his first breakthrough at the new Sortis Hotel. 

He'll try to record his second Main Event cash of Season 9 this weekend, while also attempting to add to his over $2,000,000 in career tournament earnings in the process. The PokerStars Blog will be tracking our Team Pro throughout this event. --WOC

1:12pm: Have a seat!
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Early in the second level, more than 100 players are in action already here on Day 1A. Late registration -- as well as the option to re-enter should a player bust -- is open until the start of Level 7. 

More than 90 players qualified online at PokerStars for this event as well, with many of those likely to come for tomorrow's Day 1B, so we expect the field to continue to grow. --MH


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Day 1A action

1:06pm: Three Americans walk into Panama...
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

While the majority of players we'll be featuring this weekend will come from Central and South America, this early Day 1A session has a few token Americans scattered around the tournament area. While two are looking to open their LAPT and Panama accounts, one is hoping to regain the form he had in last year's series en route to another deep Sortis Hotel run. 

Hunter Cichy is seated at Table 1, on the high riser overlooking the rest of the poker room. The Minnesota native now calls Florida home but he's had success across the United States over the last few years. His best domestic-based score came last summer, when he finished 2nd in the first ever online bracelet event at the World Series of Poker. His best career result came at the end of last year in the Dominican Republic though, as Cichy took down the Peter's Poker Tour Main Event for $123,000.

Austin Peck has scores from across the continental United States as well, with some of his best finishes coming this year. Peck opened 2016 with a WSOP Circuit win in February, before heading north of the border to record a 20th place finish in the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic Main Event. He then returned to Florida, where he does most of his damage, to notch a final table run in the WPTDS Jacksonville Main Event. He's now looking to add a Panamanian flag to his tournament resume but Philadelphia native Aaron Mermelstein has a few of those already. 

The two-time World Poker Tour champion ended last summer with a Jackie's Poker Tour III Main Event win, good for $67,000. That followed up a podium finish in the LAPT8 Panama $5,000 High Roller, where Mermelstein finished 3rd for $30,000 result. Those two scores have Mermelstein sitting third on the Sortis Hotel all-time cashes leaderboard, a standing he hopes to change this weekend. 

In total, those three Americans boast close to $2,500,000 in career tournament earnings so while they may not be familiar faces on the LAPT scene, they'll all be contenders throughout this LAPT9 Panama Main Event. --WOC


LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
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12:52pm: Chauriye takes a chair
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

More players continue to arrive, including Ricardo Chauriye who is seeking yet another LAPT Main Event final table.

During Season 8 Chauriye made two final tables at Main Events, taking eighth at LAPT8 Peru in Lima in July, then finishing fourth at the LAPT8 Grand Final in São Paulo in November. The Chilean has amassed over a quarter million in tournament cashes since 2013. --MH


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Chauriye in action

12:39pm: The field gets Strong
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

LAPT9 Chile champion Rodrigo Strong has joined the proceedings in the early going, looking for back-to-back titles after having topped a 565-entry field to earn a handsome $120,565 first prize. 

Since that win in March, Strong has kept busy picking up cashes in Madrid, Marrakech, and Kyrenia. All of which runs counter to the memory of our photographer Carlos Monti, who just now recalled Strong suggesting a couple of months ago that he may be walking away from poker after his big win. 

"Enjoy me now," he said (says Monti), "because I am done with poker." 

It appears, though, that poker isn't done with the Brazilian. --MH


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A Strong smile

12:28pm: SCOOPing pots with Juan Pablo Martinez
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100


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Juan Pablo Martinez SCOOPing

"Yeah Martin, I'm not really a big fan of hands early in Day 1s," he said before opening his LAPT9 Panama account with just that, a hand history. To be fair, hands this early in a tournament aren't usually meaningful but a 100-big blind pot at any stage of tournament has to count for something. 

Early in Level 1, a player in the big blind called a four-bet of 2,200 from Juan Pablo Martinez. While his opponent seemed to be eagerly awaiting the flop, Martinez was relatively uninterested, tapping and swiping his iPad where he was playing some PokerStars SCOOP events. The A♣J♣4♥ flop brought a check from the big blind and Martinez quickly peered up to throw out 1,200. 

The big blind shot a look across the table, one that Martinez missed as his head was still buried in the virtual action, before clicking it back with a check-raise to 3,200. Martinez seemed annoyed that his SCOOP concentration was broken twice on one street but he called to see the 2♦ fall on the turn. Both players quickly checked, with Martinez using the reverberations of his opponent's check to know that it was his turn to tap the table as well. 

The A♣ paired the board on the river and the big blind bet 3,800. Martinez finally seemed interested and after a few seconds of thought, he had to get back to SCOOP you know, he called. His opponent tapped the table to signify "good call" and it was, as he could only muster 9♥9♣

Martinez turned over K♦K♠, with his bigger pocket pair winning him the sizable early pot. After quickly stacking up his nearly 30,000 chips, a 50% increase on his Day 1A starting stack, Martinez went right back to his iPad to take in more pots, both virtual and real. --WOC




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12:16pm: Early arrivals
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

There are already 10 tables' worth of players seated in the early going here in the tournament area of the Sortis Hotel Spa & Casino, with more streaming in to take their seats.

Among the early arrivers is two-time LAPT Main Event champion Nacho Barbero who made the quick trip over from Monaco. Barbero cashed four times during the EPT12 Grand Final series, including making two final tables and finishing 65th in the Main Event. --MH


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"I have two LAPT titles already," Nacho reminds us
 

12:00pm: Shuffle up and deal!
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

With a scattering of players seated the first hands of the LAPT9 Panama Main Event are underway! Players start with 20,000 chips with the blinds at 50/100. --MH


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LAPT9 Panama has begun!

LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
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10:15am: Welcome to Panama! Who will be the next LAPT champion?

Buenos días again, everyone! The Latin American Poker Tour is back in action this week with the next stop of Season 9 here in Panama City, returning again to the beautiful Sortis Hotel Spa & Casino. The weather is warm outside, with temps in the 80s (Fahrenheit) making it nice to sit poolside and jump in every now and then, too. 

The action will be heating up inside, too, in a little while, as the first of two Day 1 flights for this $1,500 buy-in Main Event begins at 12 noon (that's Central Time). And we expect a lot of players to be jumping in here as well. 

So far during this Season 9 we've witnessed the Greek player Georgios Sotiropoulos top a field of 607 to win LAPT9 Bahamas, then Rodrigo Strong of Brazil outlast a 565-entry field in Viña del Mar to win the LAPT9 Chile title. Meanwhile last year at the Sortis it was the Canadian Shakeeb Kazemipur beating out everyone for the LAPT8 Panama trophy, where there were 422 entries for a higher buy-in $2,500 event. 

This marks the fifth time the LAPT has visited Panama's capital city, where prior to Kazemipur's win it was Fabian Ortiz of Argentina earning his second LAPT title here in Season 7, Galal Dahrouj of Colombia winning in Season 6, and Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez triumphing in Season 5.

Today's schedule calls for 10 one-hour levels with a dinner break after Level 6. Players who bust prior to dinner can re-enter as many times as they want until the start of Level 7, after which they'll still have an option to come back and play tomorrow's Day 1B, if they wish.

The PokerStars Blog live reporting team will be on hand every step of the way from today through Monday's finish. Stick close for live updates, chip counts, photos, and more starting at 12 noon CT as we find out together who is going to be the next LAPT champion. --MH 


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The LAPT returns to the Sortis Hotel Spa & Casino


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PokerStars Blog Reporting Team at LAPT9 Panama: Will O'Connor and Martin Harris. Photos by Carlos Monti. Follow the PokerStars Blog on Twitter: @PokerStarsBlog

Live reporting team
@PokerStars in Panama