NAPT Venetian: Day 1, levels 3 and 4 (150-300)


4:29pm: Break time
This is the midway point for day 1. Players are now on a 15 minute break

4:23: It's not a chicken Caesar salad
If only Bill Chen and Jason Mercier had waited for the salad announcement. They've already had their lunch. Mercier seems to have devoured a big chicken quesadillia. Meanwhile, across the room, Bill Chen is chowing down on a breakfast sandwich. Yeah, it's after 4pm, but when you're a poker player, you eat breakfast whenever you want.

4:20pm: Young gun shootout
Isaac Haxton and Chad Batista are well-known in the online and live poker arenas. Today, they're seated at the same table, and they're most recent battle turned into a do-or-die situation for one of them.

The two fought it out as the dealer gave them a 8♥ J♦ J♥ flop and K♥ turn, but it was on the A♣ river that the fireworks began. Haxton checked. Batista bet 7,200, and Haxton spent some time running the math and deciding on his next move, which ultimately was simply all-in. Batista called, but when Haxton showed his A♥ J♣ for the full house, Batista simply pushed his cards into the muck.

Haxton's substantial double-up propelled him toward the top end of the leaderboard, while Batista was left without much to work with.

Moments later, Batista was seen leaving the tournament area.

4:15pm: Who's hungry?
We just heard an urgent announcement over the PA: "Players, if you ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad and are at Table 14, your salad is here. If you are still in the room and ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad, please raise your hand."

There was no response. As far as we know, this was not some strange way of indicating Phil Hellmuth had arrived. The announcer then took a new approach.

"All right players, if you want a Chicken Caesar Salad, please raise your hand and let us know...."

4:02pm: Nice flop for Phillips
Team PokerStars Pro Dennis Phillips raised from UTG and both blinds came along. The flop came Q♥3♠Q♣, and all checked. The turn brought the 2♣and this time the small blind made a tiny bet of 300. The big blind folded, then Phillips made it 1,100. The SB quickly called.

The river brought the 9♦ and a check from the small blind. Phillips carved out 2,300, and again came a rapid call. Phillips showed K♠Q♠ for trip queens, and his opponent mucked. Phillips is now back close to his starting stack with about 30,000.

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Dennis Phillips

3:58pm: Climbing and tweeting
As we near the middle of Level 4, the average chip stack is approximately 32,340. But a few players have clearly found their stride and chipped up nicely as the day progressed. And they're finding time to report it on their Twitter feeds. Erica Schoenberg is up to 56K and reported that she "turned my swag on." And Christian Harder claims to have 61K as a result of "hitting some hands."

You tweet, we report.

3:54pm: All about the kicker
Vanessa Rousso found herself in a battle of the blinds. She took her big blind into action, and we caught up when the board showed 6♠ J♠ 2♦ 4♣. The small blind bet, Rousso raised, and the small blind responded with an all-in move. Rousso ran through the numbers and the action in her head, as her analytical nature is programmed to do, and she called with J♦ 7♦. But the small blind showed J♥ T♣ for that top pair with the better kicker.

The 5♣ on the river changed nothing, and the small blind doubled up.

The real kicker? Rousso still shows more than 50K in her chip stacks.

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Vanessa Rousso

3:49pm: Idol Talk
While a couple of tablemates were embroiled in a lengthy hand, David "Chino" Rheem and Sorel Mizzi took the opportunity to discuss this season's "American Idol" as well as seasons past.

"What was the guy... 'She bang, she bang'...?" asked Rheem of Mizzi, who shook his head, unable to respond.

Finally, as one player was eliminating the other, his turned set of jacks besting the loser's flopped set of sixes, Rheem remembered: "William Hung!"

Rheem's stack is currently about as woeful as Hung's singing voice, sitting under the 10,000-chip mark. Meanwhile, Mizzi is singing a sweeter song with around 50,000.

3:43pm: Where is the Brat?
Phil Hellmuth was all "I'm playing the NAPT" last night, and we were all, "Okay," and today he has been all "I'm not there yet" and we've been all "Okay," and then he posted to Twitter, "Just finished massage in my suite and now on treadmill,,,NAPT tourney started at noon!! But needed workout for improved performance!!" And we're all like "Okay."

3:39pm: Sad Saul sacked
We saw Kevin Saul a little while ago looking sort of sad. We didn't bother him, as he was on the rail. We put two and two together and figured he was out. True story. Kings into aces and it's a short day, both below and above.

3:32pm: Level up
We've moved to Level 4, with blinds now 150-300.

3:28pm: River queen unwelcome to Kid Poker
With the board Q♥7♠5♠5♣ and a smallish pot having developed, Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu tossed out a single 1,000-chip and his opponent, sitting to his immediate left, thought a moment before calling. The river then brought the Q♦.

Negreanu, leaning forward while getting a message, rapidly tossed 2,500 worth of chips forward with both hands. His opponent again paused, but this time reached for chips to raise, making it 10,000.

"Ack," Negreanu said frustratedly, sitting up. He showed one card -- the 5♥ -- then folded. He now has about 38,000.

3:25pm: Still climbing
We don't know where the final number of entrants officially is right now, or where it's going to end up. With that understood, the big board in the room declares 866 entrants with 813 remaining. We're expecting an official number sometime in the next little bit.

3:08pm: Standing room only
Think it's busy in here?

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3:07pm: Liebert's quiet rubdown
Eric Levesque is a brash Canadian. He's fun-loving, talks a lot at the tables, and has made buddies with Kathy Liebert in the early-going. A couple minutes ago, he bet into an opponent three times and got calls the whole way on a K♣J♥4♠3♠4♥ board. When his opponent made the final call, Levesque didn't turn over his cards. He announced, "Two pair" but kept his hands over the two cards in front of him. See, two pair could mean just about anything here. He could have deuces and still have two pair. Finall, he flipped over K♠J♠, for the second most powerful two pair he could have. His opponent mucked.

Liebert, a veteran of the game, quietly asked Levesque, "Have you ever heard the term 'slow roll'?"

2:55pm: "Deep Stack" is right
Patience is the rule here in the early going. For most, anyway. We're about halfway through the third level (blinds 100-200), and 821 players still remain. That makes the average stack 31,535 or more than 150 big blinds.

2:41pm: Ye of little faith
With the board showing Q♥[10s]8♥7♣ and about 12,000 already in the pot, PokerStars Team Pro Jason Mercier pushed all in for his remaining 16,000 or so, sending his opponent into a deep, anguished period of contemplation.

Mercier sat hunched forward with a stoic expression, cap turned backwards, chin in hand. His opponent exhaled, adjusting his cap with the single word "FAITH" written across its front. Finally he called, and Mercier quickly showed him the bad news -- J♦9♠ for the flopped straight. He showed A♣A♠, meaning the K♦ on the river was of no consequence.

With that hand, Mercier has bounced back up to about 44,000.

2:29pm: Back in action
The players are back from break and cards are in the air.

2:14pm: New level, new blinds
Players are currently fighting for spots in the bathroom. The Venetian has more than enough restroom places, but when more than 800 players go to the bathroom at the same time, it can get crowded.

When they all get back, they will be playing at 100-200.

While we wait, here's a picture of Tom McEvoy.

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NAPT Venetian reporting comes courtesy of bloggers Martin Harris, Jennifer Newell, Brad Willis and photographer Joe Giron.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in North American Poker Tour