PokerStars Championship Panama: Jiachen Gong sails through to Day 1B lead

It was another full day of poker from Panama, known for its famous canal providing a passage from one ocean to another. With today's Day 1B playing down to a finish, we've made the slow, steady voyage through the early stages of the PokerStars Championship Panama Main Event, passing through on our way to the other side where eventually a winner will be determined.

The one enjoying the early part of their Panama trip today the most was Jiachen Gong who bagged 154,300, the most of those making it through today's voyage.


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Jiachen Gong

Today's second and last Day 1 flight attracted a big, eclectic bunch hailing from all over the globe, outnumbering yesterday's turnout by a wide margin. At night's end the big board was showing 259 had signed up today, and after eight 75-minute levels less than half were still with chips.


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Poker in Panama

Patrick Serda surged to the top of the counts early on, then Rafael Moraes rose to challenge for the chip lead. Both were then passed by Kenneth Smaron who began accumulating in a big way during the late afternoon just before the dinner break.

But the ascent of some necessarily came at the expense of others, with Jan Bendik, Dzmitry Urbanovich, Mike McDonald, and Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos among the talented competition failing to make it to the bagging at night's end.

Among the other big stacks to conclude were Caufman Talley (150,300), Kamal Bittar (146,700), Pablo Fernandez (133,700), Sergey Lebedev (132,600), Fernando Karam (129,700), Andres Korn (127,600), Tomas Altamirando (126,400), Alberto Meron (122,900), Rafael Moraes (121,300), Dmitry Ponomarev (118,000), Denis Timofeev (112,400), Mark Radoja (107,100), Erik Cajelais (106,700), and Jason Wheeler (105,800).

Fabian Ortiz, Martin Finger, Kenneth Smaron, Benjamin Pollak, Brian England, Dylan Lynde, JC Alvarado, Ben Heath, Luc Greenwood, Ari Engel, Dermot Blain, and Pablo Gordillo all made it through, too. And red spade sporters Jake Cody (36,100) and Jaime Staples (4,700) of Team PokerStars Pro will both be back tomorrow as well, albeit on the short side. You can see a full list of chip counts for Day 1B survivors here.

No one came close to Day 1A leader Igor Yaroshevskyy, who will start tomorrow as the overall leader with 219,300. Today's 128 survivors will combine with the 43 from Day 1A, meaning 171 will be here for tomorrow's 12 noon start, Panama time (that's ET -1), with late registration still open until the beginning of Day 2. Click here for a look at the combined chip counts for all who remain.

We'll be back then as well for hand updates, photos, chip counts, and more from tomorrow's Day 2 action as we continue to find out together who will be the next PokerStars Championship Main Event winner. Until then, buenas noches!

To see a full accounting of the day, scroll through the reports below. For more information, check out any of these links:

CHIP COUNTS | ALL PANAMA INFO | TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE | Follow us on Twitter at @PokerStarsBlog


11:06pm: Day 1B concludes

With a couple of tables taking extra long to get through their half-dozen hands, play has finally concluded for the night with something less than 130 players remaining. Jiachen Gong looks like he may have emerged as the top of the toppermost by the finish, having moved up over 150,000, but we'll sort it out and be back shortly with a final recap. --MH

10:50pm: Six more hands
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

The tournament clock was paused, a card was drawn, and each table will be playing six more hands before calling it a night. --MH

10:45pm: More candidates emerge
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Further to the 10:15pm update below, there are a couple of other candidates for chip lead tonight. Erik Cajelais has about 124,000 at this stage. Sergey Lebedev has about 120,000. And Pablo Fernandez has 131,000. -- HS

10:30pm: Late night shorties
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

It's late in the night and chips and players are flying all around the tournament area. Short stacks about and they're doing all they can to double or bust before the end of the night. About 170 players came back from dinner break, but just around 130 remain are left.

Dario Wyler was looking to stay in the ranks of those still alive and moved all-in with J♦J♠. Adrien Allain called with A♣Q♠ and Wyler was flipping for his tournament life. The board ran 8♥2♦7♥K♣5♠ and Wyler doubled up to 30,000.

There's still about 30 minutes left of play and several other short stacks looking to score a double. Some will succeed, others will bust and those that survive will do it all again tomorrow. --AV

10:15pm: Day 1B lagging its earlier incarnation
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

With about 35 minutes left on the final level of the day, it seems clear already that there won't be a soaraway chip leader at the close of play. Kenneth Smaron, who led the field for several hours, has been sliced back to around 87,000, while Mark Radoja who has also led today, has about 122,000.

Radoja is on the table that has the most combined chips as Aleks Dimitrov is also now there, with about 105,000, as is Caufman Talley, who has about 130,000.

It's possible that any two of those could collide to give us a tournament-defining pot, but it seems a little unlikely that Igor Yaroshevskyy's 219,600 stack from yesterday will be overhauled.

At time of writing there are 136 players still seated from the 259 who entered today. -- HS

10:26pm: Uemura taking some from Ortiz
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Fabian Ortiz called from the cutoff and the blinds decided they'd go along for a cheap flop.

The flop came 6♣8♥7♠ and then Ortiz made it a bit too expensive for the big blind. Ortiz bet 1,700 and only Paulino Uemura called from the small blind.

A T♦ greeted players on the turn and they responded with a pair of checks. That brought the appearance of a 2♣ on the river and another bet. This time Uemura initiated the action with a bet and Ortiz called. Uemura turned over J♠T♣ and Ortiz mucked his hand.

The hand put Uemura up to 40,000 while Ortiz is still well above average with 75,000. --AV

10:15pm: Ace-King good; Ace-King bad
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Kenny Hicks and Freddy Otero got their stacks in pre-flop. They were pretty similar in size -- around 13,000 apiece -- and they had pretty similar hands. Otero's A♠K♠ was up against Hicks's A♥K♦.

It was pretty impressive that nobody dug deep into the well of poker cliche to announce that Hicks had "two flush draws" to Otero's one. But had they done so, they may have earned a smack in the mouth when the board ran T♥J♠2♠5♦T♠ to fill Otero's flush and leave Hicks looking for the exit.

It was actually a little premature, as the dealer quickly determined that Otero had only 12,500 in his stack and Hicks had closer to 15,000. So Hicks lived to fight another day -- or scrap with shrapnel at least. -- HS

10:10pm: A chip, a chair and a hand
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

There's been a few legendary cases of players making the "chip and a chair" comeback, but that wouldn't be the case for Gilbert Diaz.

Diaz was down to just one chip -- a mere ante -- after he lost an all-in to Tanner Millen. Diaz had A♣K♣ that hand and hit a king on the flop. Millen had K♥Q♠ though and paired both his king and queen on the flop.

Players got all their chips in and after everything was counted, it turned out that Diaz still had a single chip. Diaz was on the big blind the following hand and was automatically all-in. Another dealer came over to watch the action and encouragingly patted Diaz on the shoulder.

It seemed like the table was rooting for Diaz and ceremoniously folded. But the small blind called and turned over A♣6♥. Diaz was waiting to look at his cards and revealed a lowly 3♦2♦ to the table.

It wasn't looking good for Diaz already, but then a 6♠A♥A♦ flop left Diaz drawing dead. A pair of jacks came on the turn and river and Diaz was out of the tournament.

His chip and a chair only lasted a hand. --AV

10:05pm: Korn KOs McDonald
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

The Canadian Mike McDonald's PokerStars Championship Panama Main Event run has come to an end in the last level of Day 1B, his final hand coming against Andres "Cacho" Korn of Argentina.


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McDonald out

Korn is now up around 125,000. --MH

10pm: Don't need chips to chat
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

There are some players with pretty big reputations playing pretty small stacks at the moment on one especially talkative table.

Lawrence Bailey is leading the conversation, with Anton Astapau, Ben Pollak and Mike McDonald occasionally chipping in. Bailey has 12,280; Pollak has 22,000; Astapau has 15,200 and McDonald has 21,000.

Oleg Vasylchenko, a former winner on the WPT, is also chit-chatting. But at least he has 86,000 to play with. -- HS

9:52pm: Level 8 begins
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

The last level of the night has begun. Just 75 more minutes of poker and we'll see who from Day 1B joins the 43 players surviving yesterday's first Day 1 flight for tomorrow's Day 2. --MH

9:50pm: Shatilov shuts down Smith
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Robert Smith was just all in for very little before the flop with 8♣7♣ against Andrey Shatilov's K♣J♠.

The flop came 5♣3♠4♣ to give Smith hope with both a flush draw and a gutshot to a straight. But the 9♠ didn't help him and the K♠ only improved Shatilov, and Smith is out.

Shatilov has just over 20,000. --MH

9:45pm: Ades gets a lucky bump
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Daniel Ades raised to 1,200 from middle position and Mark Radoja looked at Ades' stack. There was about 17,000 left and Radoja three-bet to 3,600 from the cutoff. Action folded back to Ades and he moved all-in.

Radoja quickly called and turned over A♣K♥. Ades tabled Q♥Q♦ for the age old classic flip. Fabian Ortiz, a fellow Argentinian, came over to give Ades a good-luck fist bump. It seems to have worked too.

Ades hit a set on the Q♠7♣5♠6♦2♦ board and doubled up to about 40,000. Despite losing the hand, Radoja is still near the higher end of the leaderboard with 110,000. --AV

9:38pm: Aces over queens help Matias
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

We came upon an interesting four-way hand in the middle of preflop action, at which point appearances suggested an early position open to 1,500 by Allberto Meran Matias, a call from the cutoff by the big-stacked Kenneth Smaron, then another call by Fernando Pfeiffer Karam on the button.

The big blind then three-bet, prompting an all-in four-bet shove by Matias for 55,500 total. Smaron reraise-pushed after that, knocking the other two players out, and the remaining two tabled their cards:

Matias: A♠A♥
Smaron: Q♣Q♥

The aces held through the J♥K♦7♠4♥9♥ board, and suddenly Matias is up around 125,000 while Smaron dips back to just over 70,000. --MH

9:35pm: Cody heading upward
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Jake Cody is always a pretty happy bloke, but it goes double when he has chips. He hadn't been much above his starting stack for most of his day today, but just picked up a crucial double to give him reason for optimism.

Cody was on the button and Guillermo Pardo was in the big blind, and it looked like they had built a pot of around 16,000 as a board of 6♣K♣3♠9♦4♥ gradually came out.

After that, Pardo checked and Cody moved all-in for precisely 12,000.

Pardo tanked for a while, looking Cody up and down but discerning little. Eventually he called and Cody turned over his K♥Q♥, which turned out to be good as Pardo mucked.

Cody now has around 40,000 and can start to play again. -- HS

9:26pm: More Finger
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Martin Finger has doubled up to about average stack.

The Finger double started when Felix Bleiker raised to 1,500 from under the gun. Finger re-raised to 4,200 from middle position, Yesid Ramirez called from the small blind, and Bleiker called as well.

A 7♥4♥4♣ flop hit the board and Finger bet 5,000. Ramirez folded, then Bleiker bet enough to put Finger all-in and Finger called.

Finger turned over A♣K♣ and had Bleiker's K♥T♥ dominated. Finger needed to avoid hearts and a ten and managed to do so when the turn and river brought a 9♣ and 8♦.

Finger doubled to 48,000 while Bleiker dipped to 37,000. --AV

9:22pm: Wheeler rolling
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Jason Wheeler just defended his big blind versus a more than 3x cutoff raise, flopped two pair, and bet his opponent off the hand on the turn. "Easy game," he grinned while collecting the small pot.

Wheeler adds more, and now sits with aobut 125,000. --MH

9:16pm: Janssen quick to depart
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Eder Takashi Murata has claimed another scalp and pushed his stack to around 125,000. Tommie Janssen open-shoved for 6,700 from early position and it folded around to Murata in the big blind.

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Eder Murata

He took a look at his cards and called, a move that made Janssen stand up and throw his K♦J♦ over in disgust. Murata had A♥Q♠ and Janssen was literally out of the door after the flop brought the 5♦A♣5♠. There was no mercy dash to rugby tackle him in the lobby necessary as the 4♥ on the turn officially left him drawing dead. -- HS

9:10pm: Buddiga bounced
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Pratyush Buddiga was a late entry today, and now he's an early exit after losing the last of his chips in Level 7.

Right now the big board shows 167 players remaining from the 256 who began Day 1B. --MH

9:07pm: Engel gets it in the end
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Humberto Brenes opened to 1,300 from under the gun and Ari Engel called from early position. The small blind called as well and Adrian Gruber went along for the ride from the big blind.

Three players checked the J♥9♦J♣ flop and Engel bet 1,800. Only Gruber called and a Q♥ landed on the turn. Both players checked that card and then checked again when the 3♥ came on the river

Engel tabled T♦T♠ and Gruber mucked. The pot put engel up to about 45,000 while Gruber was still standing strong with 85,000. --AV

9:05pm: Cody collects
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

With the board showing 7♠9♣6♣T♦, Jake Cody bet 3,000 and Brian England called, bringing the pot to just over 10,000.

The 8♣ river then put a ten-high straight on the board, but that didn't deter Cody who bet again, this time 6,200. England thought a short while, then let his hand go.

With that table about to break, England still has about 75,000 while Cody has just over 25,000. --MH

9pm: Talley slows Radoja charge
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Mark Radoja had it pretty much all his own way in the pre-dinner stages of this tournament. But he hit a hitch immediately after the break and has seen his stack dwindle to around 105,000.

He lost a few to Caufman Talley in a recent pot, when they both ended up making full houses. Talley's was the bigger and he scooped.

Rodoja was on the button and Talley in the big blind and they seemed to get to the flop for one raise and a call. Then after the J♣7♥Q♥ appeared, Talley check-called Radoja's bet of 1,300.

The 7♦ turned and Talley check-called again, this time a bet of 3,600. It took them to the J♦ on the river and another check from Talley.

Radoja saw no reason to slow down. He bet 7,600. But Talley called once more, forcing Radoja to table his 8♠7♠. Talley's A♦J♥ was best.

Talley's new tally is about 85,000. -- HS

8:56pm: Serving Serda
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Jean Bros limped from under the gun, Isaac Malca Cohen made it 1,200 to go from the next seat over, then a couple of spots after that Jose Ruiz Dominguez called. Patrick Serda called as well from the button, and the four saw a flop fall 8♥3♦8♣.

All checked around to the big-stacked Serda who fired 2,700, and one by one the others dropped out.

Serda is at about 115,000 right now, two-and-a-half times the average stack at present. --MH

8:45pm: It's a long way from Rozvadov to Panama...
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

...but Team Online's Jaime Staples is among those players to make the trip. He has now sat down in this Latin American poker room a matter of a couple of long days since playing in the Czech Republic. -- HS

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Jaime Staples: After a long journey

8:42pm: Finger directs Ladouceur to exit
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Martin Finger returned from the dinner break to a short stack, but Marc-Andre Ladouceur returned to a shorter one, and soon after play resumed the pair clashed in a hand that ended with Ladouceur heading toward the rail.


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Ladouceur out shortly after dinner

Finger has 25,000 now. --MH

8:30pm: And we're back
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Players have returned from their dinner and are hoping to play two more levels before wrapping for the day. Another side event, a no limit hold'em turbo, has just started and Kristen Bicknell, Adam Owen and Tom Hall are all seated in it, confirming their elimination from the Main Event. -- HS

7:15pm: Dinner break

Everyone is now on an 80-minute dinner break.

7:10pm: Chasing Kenny
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Some information on how Kenneth Smaron assumed the chip lead. Turns out he won two equally big pots to reach the giddy heights of 170,000. "I had ten-seven suited, raised the button and called a three-bet from a crazy Latin guy. The flop came J-T-2, he bet and I called. The turn was a four, bringing a flush draw. He bet and I called," he said. "The river was a jack that completed the flush draw and he shoved all-in and I called. He had king-nine off."

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Kenneth Smaron

A good start was compounded when he cracked aces with pocket fives in a three-bet pot. On the J-7-5 flop, he told us he made a small raise and then jammed the turn for just over pot and his opponent called with the aces. --NW

7:10pm: Chase the leaders
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

There's about five minutes remaining on Level 6 before the players head off to an 80-minute dinner break. There aren't many stacks in the room bigger than these:

Kenneth Smaron - 170,000
Rohid Omari - 155,000
Mark Radoja - 140,000

Relatively new arrivals include JC Alvarado and Pratyush Buddiga. -- HS

7:07pm: #PlayWithJake
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

As we mentioned below (see 5:26pm post) Jake Cody has arrived in Panama to play the Main Event after a journey that took a lot longer than it should of, due to flight delays meaning he had to spend last night in Miami.

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Jake Cody

What you might not know is that five followers of Jake Cody on Twitter will be following Cody's progress with extra scrutiny. He's given away 5% of his Main Event action through another of his #PlayWithJake competitions. This time viewers of his YouTube channel had to guess his cards from a big cash game pot he'd played in Macau.

If you've never entered one then more fool you, simply by correctly naming the pizza toppings Cody had earned James Raddon a slice of Cody's £133,800 payday at EPT11 London. Your chance to win a-pizza his action for this event has gone, but you still watch his vlog and check his Twitter feed (@JakeCody) to see if you were right. --NW

7:07pm: Tuning out the crossfire
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Chips are flying around Dzimitry Urbanovich's while the young Polish player is hanging on to his short stack. His folds are intercut with whatever it is he's doing on his laptop, we assume it's more poker.

In one of those hands, Kamal Abdel Bittar raised to 1,200 from the cutoff and Richard Dubini called from the big blind. The flop came 5♠K♥T♦ and Bittar bet 1,500 when checked to. Dubini called and an 8♦ came on the turn.

There was another check and another bet, this time to 2,900. Dubini called again and a 6♣ completed the board. Dubini checked one more time and Bittar bet 6,000. Dubini couldn't bring himself to call and Bittar chipped up to about 100,000 while Dubini was left with 85,000.

Urbanovich is down to about 12,000 and momentarily lifted up his head the following hand, but it was just to fold. --AV

7:04pm: Smaron keeps snarin' chips
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Kenneth "Kenny05" Smaron was just involved in a three-way hand that got checked around on the river with the board showing Q♥Q♣8♦3♣3♠, then watched as Ionut Zamfir tabled K♦K♣.

"Damn, I had a lot of outs," said Smaron as both he and the other player mucked.

Smaron has been hitting plenty of outs today, it appears. And his opponents missing theirs. Even after dropping a few in that hand, he's up to 175,000 with the dinner break approaching. --MH

7:02pm: Opalikhin doubles
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Aleksei Opalikhin, whose one and only recorded poker result was a spectacular fourth place at the PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event in January, is still in with a chance of going back-to-back. He just found a timely double up of his 17,300 stack.

Guillermo Pardo opened the pot with a raise to 1,200 from the cutoff, then after a call on the button, Opalikhin shipped from the big blind. Pardo called and those two were left alone.

Opalikhin: A♠K♣
Pardo: A♦J♥

Pardo's thrill at seeing the J♣ in the window was quickly mitigated by the K♦ beside it. After the rest of the board filled with the 6♣3♦T♣, Opalikhin completed the double. -- HS

6:55pm: Gone-zalez
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Lucas Gonzalez, the rugby star moonlighting as a Friend of PokerStars in this tournament, is free to return to the scrum after busting the PokerStars Championship Main Event. He got his last 7,000-ish in pre-flop with A♣T♣ but slammed into A♦A♠ and couldn't catch up. -- HS

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Lucas Gonzalez

6:50pm: The fall of Adam
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Across Adam Owen's dark blue sweatjacket read in white block letters "IDGAF," but we're guessing he might care just a little bit that he's no longer part of the PokerStars Championship Panama Main Event, having busted during this level.

With about 25 minutes to go before the dinner break, there are 186 players still in action from the 256 who've registered for Day 1B. --MH

6:47pm: Aces everywhere
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

The ambitious poker player closes his eyes and sees aces. Sometimes, the resigned to this life ambitious poker reporter actually sees aces wherever he looks.

On a recent stroll through the tournament floor, this happened:

Donys Agnelli Rojas had his whole stack in the middle. It was only 8,675, but it was his whole stack. Pavel Veksler had 8,675 of his stack in the middle too, paying off Rojas. Rojas, you see, had A♠A♣. Veksler had K♠K♣. That happens sometimes. (The board was 5♦7♠A♥4♠4♥.)

A few paces away, Eder Takashi Murata had all of his stack in the middle. This one was bigger. It was 28,775 and there already about 20,000 more in the pot, beside a board that read 8♥2♠3♣4♥. With one card still to come, Felipe Rincon called and they showed their hands. Rincon had Q♦Q♣. But Murata had A♥A♠ and the blank river meant the aces held up again. -- HS

6:44pm: Engel over Greenwood
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Following an Ari Engel button open, Luc Greenwood called from the big blind. Perhaps the book he's been reading off-and-on this afternoon, titled Dereliction of Duty, gave him the notion that it would be wrong just to give up his big blind to a single raise.

The flop came 9♦J♦A♠ and Greenwood checked. Engel continued for 1,400, and Greenwood felt bound to call once more.

The turn was the K♠, and after another Greenwood check, Engel fired 3,300. Greenwood was inclined to fold, but dutifully rechecked his cards one last time to ensure it proper doing so.

It was the right thing to do.

Greenwood has 62,000 now, and Engel 56,000. --MH

6:39pm: Take it to Thompson
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Steven Thompson is now up to about 45,000.

In his most recent win, there was about 7,000 in the pot on a 3♦Q♦9♣ flop. Carlos Mejia bet 2,400 and Thompson called from middle position. Jonathan Abdellatif did the same from the button and a J♥ came on the turn.

Action checked to Thompson, and this time he bet 4,250. Abdellatif called, Mejia folded and a T♣ completed the board. Thompson bet again, but he upped it to 6,300. Abdellatif laughed, looked at his cards and folded. Thompson took down the pot and chipped up to about 45,000. --AV

6:34pm: Bicknell, Pasco chop
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Kristen Bicknell and Jerwin Pasco were just involved in an interesting hand that began with a three-bet pot with Bicknell on the button and Pasco in the small blind.

The flop fell 4♣Q♥T♦, and with about 7,000 in the middle Pasco pushed all in with the 9,250 he had behind. Bicknell thought a long while before finally coming up with a call, and at that point she had the edge with J♣T♣ for a pair of tens while Pasco was drawing with K♣J♥.

The 9♣ turn swung the edge over to Pasco, though, completing a straight for him. Then came the river... the K♦! That meant a chopped pot, and Bicknell continues with about 35,000 while Pasco has about 13,000. --MH

6:29pm: Turned to dust
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

As the blinds increase so does the number of exits here on Day 1B. Jonathan Roy, Stefan Schillhabel, Matias Ruzzi and Tom Hall are four of the big names to have felt the hangman's noose tighten around their tournament life. --NW

6:27pm: Big stacks
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 50)

There are some serious stacks being built as we near the three-quarter mark on Day 1B. One player is well clear of the rest though. Kenneth Smaron - who won the EPT12 Prague €10,000 High Roller - has run up a monster stack here in Panama. He's up to 162,000 which is someway clear of Mark Radoja, who has 129,000.

Patrick Serda is holding steady with a stack of 106,000, while Boris Kotleba, with 103,000 appears to be the only other player with a six-figure stack. Pavel Veksler is just bubbling under that figure, he's playing 96,000 and Jason Wheeler's having a good day as he's built his stack to 88,000. --NW

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Patrick Serda

6:20pm: The Latin American blank
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Jason Wheeler is one of a handful of players with a stack hovering around 100,000 in this tournament.

Wheeler is one of poker's most seasoned globetrotters, but it's surprising to learn that he has never won so much as a single dollar from recorded tournaments in Latin America. That seems especially unlikely given that he has close to $3 million in live earnings and has lived in Mexico as a poker refugee.

But that's what the Hendon Mob says, and who are we to argue.

Wheeler just lost a small pot to Vinicius Barrel Teles, who has a name that sounds like he should be living in ancient Pompei.

Wheeler opened to 1,150 from under the gun and Teles three-bet to 3,500 from a couple of seats along. Wheeler called and the two of them saw a flop of K♣9♠K♦. It went check, check.

The 7♠ appeared on the turn and Wheeler checked again. Teles bet 2,800 and Wheeler slipped his cards from under their protector and tossed them away.

Regardless of that pot, Wheeler in a good spot to plug a gap on that poker resume. -- HS

6:10pm: Hello Humberto
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Right before the break we were mentioning that $10 limit hold'em tournament from 2002 named after Gustavo Echeverri. There we noted also how another event in the same series was named after another poker legend from Costa Rica, Humberto Brenes.

The Brenes event was a $10 no-limit hold'em tournament that also generated a $50K-plus prize pool thanks to unlimited rebuys.

Brenes is here and playing in today's event. His long and storied career stretches back three decades and includes more than $6.1 million in tournament earnings.

In Panama he's only cashed a few times -- twice during the LAPT7 Panama series (including in the Main Event), and one more time this week in the PokerStars National Championship.

His quest to earn another Panama flag continues here today, where he sits with 27,000 -- just a little below the starting stack. --MH

NEIL7930_Humberto_Brenes_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Humberto loves Level 6!

6:01pm: Level 6 begins
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Look at that headline. Classic. --MH

6:00pm: Gustavo Echeverri very good
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

The Costa Rican Gustavo Echeverri, resplendent in his characteristic cowboy hat, has done well for himself today, having built a stack of nearly 65,000 as Level 5 nears its end. The longtime player is back looking for more success in Panama after having final tabled the LAPT Panama High Roller here last year.

A favorite story of ours concerning Echeverri has to do with a bit of tournament trivia from 2002. A series of events called the Linda Johnson Celebrity Challenge was held at the Casino Europa in San Jose, Costa Rica that year, with Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Humberto Brenes, and Howard "Tahoe" Andrew all having eventes named after them in the series.

So, too, was Echeverri honored with an event named after him, a very unique one -- a $10 buy-in limit hold'em tournament. The event had unlimited rebuys, though, and a $20K guarantee, and ended up with a nearly $50K prize pool. The winner was Robert Varykonyi, fresh off his 2002 WSOP Main Event win.

It's all true! --MH

5:59pm: No show
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

"Show it, you really want to show it," said Uri Reichenstein to Marcelo Cudos at the conclusion of a hand between the two of them. In the hand in question Reichenstein had raised on the button, Cudos had then three-bet to 2,900 and Reichenstein had four-bet to 7,400. A call from Cudos meant that there were 40 big blinds in this pot by the time a 3♦A♦J♦ hit the felt.

Cudos kept things in their natural order by checking to the pre-flop aggressor and Reichenstein bet 6,000. Call from Cudos. The 2♣ turn checked through and the 7♣ landed on the river. Cudos had already asked to see Reichenstein's stack a couple of times during the hand and he asked again on the river. After getting eyes on that, he bet 11,500 and Reichenstein swiftly folded. Pot to Cudos, who didn't show his cards. --NW

5:57pm: Radoja nearing six figures
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Mark Radoja took a big pot off of Andreas Klatt after Klatt called an unexpectedly large river bet.

The hand started when Klatt raised to 1,000 from the hijack and Radoja called from the button. The blinds folded and a 4♥3♣J♦ flop hit the felt. Klatt bet a respectable and modest 1,200 and Radoja called.

The turn brought an A♠ and other respectably modest bet. Klatt bet 3,500 and Radoja politely called. Then the river brought a 5♠ and an obscene bet from Radoja. Klatt checked and Radoja plunked down a big pile of chips worth 20,500.

Klatt went into the tank. A call and a loss would leave him with just 12,800. Klatt thought some more and a player called the clock.

Klatt's minute started ticking down and he eventually called when there was about 20 seconds left. Radoja turned over 2♣2♦ for the rivered straight and Klatt mucked.

Radoja raked in the pot and neared 100,000 while Klatt was left with just about 12,000. --AV

5:55pm: McDonald makes a tough table tougher
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

The 11am starts to Days 1A and 1B have contributed to some quiet opening levels in this tournament this week. Players have tended to take their seats in Levels 3 and 4, when their 30,000 starting stacks are still worth more than 200 big blinds.

Among the late arrivals today is Mike McDonald--although mainly we're just pleased to see him, whatever time he shows up. He didn't play the $50,000 Super High Roller tournament, leading to the assumption that he wasn't coming to Panama at all. However, he took a seat earlier in the $25,000 single-day high roller instead.

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Mike McDonald

He has been knocked out of that, so is in the Main Event as Level 5 drifts towards its conclusion. A starting stack is worth 75 big blinds at the moment.

His table also includes Aymon Hata, Erik Cajelais, Jimmy Guerrero and Tyler Kenney, younger brother of Bryn. Panama's own Isaac Malca Cohen has the most chips there at the moment, however. Cohen has about 67,000. -- HS

5:41pm: Board bails out Bayley
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Lawrence Bayley just surived an all-in with A♦Q♦ versus Valentin Apostol's K♦K♠, an ace arriving relatively late in the delivery of the community cards.

"Sorry for the bad beat," said Bayley afterwards to a nodding Apostol. "No, you're not!" answered a third player, earning laughs all around.

Bayley gets up to 45,000 after doubling, while Apostol tumbles to just 5,500. --MH

NEIL7368_Lawrence_Bayley-_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Lawrence Bayley

5:35pm: Kotleba schools three
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Alex Keating got a lot of air time during the World Series of Poker Main Event last year. Partly it was because of a deep run (he finished 35th) and partly it was because of an enormous beard, which gave Norman Chad something to talk about. (Apparently an ex wife also had an enormous beard, or something.)

Anyway, Keating is here in Panama today and it appears as though he has spent the past nine months since his Vegas exploits mainly growing his beard. It's even longer now.

Keating's trip to Panama might have been a short one, however, had he not found a fold in a tricky spot a moment ago. This is a fascinating hand that we fortunately observed from start to finish.

It began when Pouliot Serge made it 1,025 to play from UTG+1 and Slovakia's Boris Kotleba called in the cutoff. Jonathan Concepcion called on the button and then Keating called in the big blind.

The famous four saw three cards: 6♦K♠5♥. Keating checked and Serge bet 1,500. Kotleba called. Concepcion called. And, what the heck, Keating called too.

So the famous four saw a fourth card too. It was the A♣. Keating checked, Serge also now slowed to a check, Kotleba checked but Concepcion bet 6,900.

Keating called but Serge had seen enough. He folded. However, Kotleba remained involved. He called.

Three players therefore saw the 2♠ fall on the river.

Keating checked again, but now Kotleba took over the betting--the third different player to be first into a pot. He put 15,000 forward and Concepcion quickly called.

Keating therefore had a decision. There was a lot out there in the middle, but two players already believing they had enough to win it. After much um-ing and ah-ing, Keating folded.

Kotleba showed 3♠4♠, which was nutty indeed. Concepcion showed his A♠6♠, which had been beaten.

"I had his hand," Keating said. "I had ace-six as well."

Nobody said much in response to that, but Kotleba stacked up 75,000 chips. Concepcion has 32,000 and Keating 19,000. -- HS

NEIL7901_Alex_Keating_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Alex Keating

5:34pm: Nishijima, Bendik, Bustamante bust
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Some recent eliminations to report.

A short while ago Thiago Nishijima was knocked out. He followed Jan Bendik to the rail. And Mario Bustamante has busted as well. --MH

5:32pm: Frank sent packing
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

I picked up the action on a Q♥J♣J♠ flop and Christopher Frank (big blind) had check-raised to 1,900. It's not clear exactly how much Pavel Veksler (button) had bet as he had just a single 1k chip in front of him. It must've been some part of 950 - as Frank's raise would've been illegal if it was 1,000 - it's a minor detail though because Veksler called the raise.

The K♣ turn made the board considerably 'straightier' and a little more 'flushier'. Frank bet 2,250 and Veksler wasn't budging. The T♣ completed the backdoor flush and put four to a straight on board. Frank had just 5,050 left and he elected to check. Veksler thought for about 20 seconds and then bet enough to set Frank all-in.

The German pro went into the tank and eventually decided he couldn't pass and made the call. Veksler showed A♦T♠ for a broadway straight, Frank tapped the table and showed T♥9♣ for an inferior straight, before heading on his way. --NW

5:26pm: Cody joins the party
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Jake Cody is one of the most recent arrivals. The Team PokerStars Pro reportedly had a spot of bother getting here--36 hours in transit was mentioned--but he's here now and playing. -- HS

5:25pm: Diaz conquers England
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Brian England opened from the button and got a single caller in Gilbert Diaz playing from the small blind.

The flop brought three low cards -- 3♦4♥3♥ -- and after checking Diaz called England's continuation bet of 1,200. The turn was another baby -- the 4♦ -- and Diaz checked again. England bet 1,600 this time, then Diaz woke up with a check-raise to 4,000. England called.

The river brought the A♦ and a bet of 5,900 from Diaz, and after thinking just a beat England called. Diaz quickly tabled Q♣3♣ for treys full of fours, and England mucked.

England slips to 70,000, and now Diaz is close to that with about 65,000. --MH

5:15pm: Raising the Finger
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Martin Finger is slowly climbing.

James Gauthier raised to 1,800 from under the gun and action folded around to Finger on the big blind. Finger re-raised to 3,200 and Gauthier called.

A T♣K♣Q♠ flop hit the board and Finger led out for 3,000. It was too much for Gauthier and the Canadian player folded. Finger was slow to throw his hand in the muck and decided that Gauthier had earned a peek at one of his cards.

Finger turned over a J♦ and but slid is other into the muck. Finger is now up to 47,500. --AV

8G2A6256_Martin_Finger_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Martin Finger (right)

5:15pm: Even more for Moraes
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Rafael Moraes raised to 2,500 from middle position and Peter Murphy made it 7,000 from the small blind. The big blind was having none of that nonsense and folded.

The two players saw a 4♣4♠J♠ flop and Murphy bet 4,000. Moraes called and a J♣ came on the turn. This time Murphy checked and Moraes checked behind. A 9♣ completed the board and Murphy put out another check. Moraes bet 11,800, which was nearly enough to put Murphy all-in.

Murphy thought and shuffled his stack. There would barely be anything to left to shuffle if he called and lost.

Murphy folded and was left with 13,000 while Moraes chipped up to 76,000. --AV

5:11pm: Lucky Diotte
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Anthony Diotte just got very luck to survive as he managed to pull off the old cracking aces trick. He was at risk for around 19,000 with A♥K♠ and in deep trouble against an opponent's A♦A♣. The 8♥9♠Q♥9♥T♥ run out was delivered so fast that Diotte missed the fact that he'd made a flush.

"Whoa. Holy shit! I didn't even see it," said Diotte as the pot was pushed his way. --NW

5:09pm: More for Moraes
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Adam Owen button-raised to 1,000 and Rafael Moraes defended his big blind with a call. The flop fell A♠6♣5♥, Moraes checked, Owen bet 800, and Moraes called. The 3♣ turn then brought checks from both players.

The 4♣ completed the board, and Moraes bet big -- 3,000. Owen sat and thought a couple of beats then called, and when Moraes showed 7♣6♥ for a straight, Owen mucked.

NEIL7796_Rafael_Moraes_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Rafael Moraes

Moraes -- who has already collected one silver spade here in Panama after winning a $1,650 NL side event -- has soared up around 90,000 now, while Owen has 25,000. --MH

5:03pm: Blind on blind; hand versus hand
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

There's no range so wide in poker as that of the player open-raising from the small blind. When even the player on the button has given up pre-flop, and there's only one other pair of live cards at the table, any two will almost always do. But here's the problem: no one will give you credit for anything.

Chris Hunichen was that player a moment ago and, true to form, he open raised to 1,300 after action had folded to him. Although the raise was more than three times the big blind, Jose Ruiz Dominguez decided to defend. He called and they went to a flop.

It fell 9♦3♥7♦.

Hunichen bet 1,500 and Dominquez, still a disbeliever, called.

NEIL7954_Chris_Hunichen_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Chris Hunichen

The turn was the 3♦, which both players checked, and they then saw the 8♥ fall on the river.

Hunichen bet 4,400 and Dominguez went into the tank. It seemed that belatedly he actually thought Hunichen might have something, and took his sweet time over the call. But he did eventually find the funds to call and force Hunichen to table his Q♣Q♠.

Under normal circumstances, given the action and the delay with the final call, that would most likely be good. But Dominguez actually turned over K♦T♦ for a turned flush, and Hunichen needed to do a double take.

After it was confirmed that he was beaten, Hunichen turned to find solace in a cheeseburger that had recently been delivered. He has 17,500 chips now. Dominguez is up to 47,200.--HS

5:00pm: Bruning down to ashes
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Richard Bruning got the last of his stack in before the flop behind J♠J♦, but unfortunately for him he'd run into the A♠A♣ of Felipe Buitrago Rincon.

The board ran out 2♦6♥A♥6♥3♥, with Bruning walking away by the turn as he was already drawing dead. Rincon is up to 65,000 now. --MH

4:54pm: A new player
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

There's a new player sitting beneath a black hoodie on the table in the corner. He swept in unnoticed several levels after play began. He does this, does Dzmitry Urbanovich. -- HS

NEIL7913_Dzmitry_Urbanovich_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Dzmitry Urbanovich

4:52pm: And we're back

Everybody's back in their seats for another two and half hours. That's how long they'll play before going to dinner. --BW

4:30pm: Break time!

That's the end of Level 4 and some players are taking a hard-earned break. Others are just taking a break anyhow. -- HS

4:25pm: Ramos runs out of chips
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

We noticed Felipe Ramos make his way to the exit and he nodded when we asked if he had busted. He was swiftly on his way so no details on his exit hand I'm afraid. --NW

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How did Felipe bust? Snapchat knows

4:20pm: Thompson takes one out
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Steven Thompson is still a little short despite scoring a knockout.

A short stack limped and then moved all-in for 6,000 after Thompson raised to 1,500. Thompson quickly called and showed a dominating A♥Q♥ against A♦J♣.

Things only got better for Thompson after that. The Q♦3♥9♥ flop gave him a pair of queens and then he hit a flush when the 5♥ came on the turn. A 4♥ on the river sealed the deal and Thompson chipped up to 19,800. --AV

4:15pm: Camean comeback
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

A couple of hours ago we were noting Juan Fernadez Camean having made a relatively costly mistake, accidentally open-raising 20x then having an opponent make a just-over-the-minimum re-raise, which he called. Camean then folded that hand on the flop, and the winner showed him his pocket aces.

Camean has recovered from that setback, and just now picked up aces himself and got some value when his river bet on a queen-high board was called. He's up to 60,000. --MH

4:10pm: Uri's feeling good
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

When Uri Reichenstein made the final table at EPT Barcelona last year, he ran up a big stack early and never looked back. It's been slightly different today for the German as he's been battling a below-average stack for most of the day.

Recently he got all 14,700 of it into the middle pre-flop holding K♣K♠ and was put at risk by Preben Stokkan, who held A♦K♥. An 8♣A♣4♠ flop seemed like the end for Reichenstein, but the 7♣ turn gave him hope and salvation arrived on the Q♣ river.

"You were down to 4,900 at one point," a tablemate observed. "Let me tell you, it feels f***ing good," Reichenstein said as he collected a pot that took him back above starting stack. --NW

4:05pm: Increasing Talley
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

With the board showing 2♥T♦6♥ and about 10,000 in the middle, the Uruguayan online star Fabrizio "SixthSenSe19" Gonzalez checked and Caufman Talley of the United States fired a bet of 5,300. Gonzalez thought a while, leaning forward while being massaged for another half-minute, then let his hand go.

Talley is up to 82,000 now, while Gonzalez is nursing a short stack with 11,500. --MH

4pm: Veteran Arias has still got it
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

As somebody who has been covering PokerStars online and live events since 2005, Jorge "twin-caracas" Arias is probably the most familiar face in the room. Though his hair--like mine--has grown a little more grey over the years, he remains the mountainous, genial Venezuelan he has always been.

Today, Arias is in the Day 1B field and showing his skills haven't dulled over the years. He may be more than a decade older than when we first laid eyes on him, but he still plays and he still can play. As we get ready to close out Level 4, Arias has more than doubled his 30,000 starting stack.--BW

3:55pm: Telker gets his wish, but busts
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Kliment Roussev Tarmakov opened to 750 from under the gun, there was a call and Mike Telker then raised to 3,000 from the button. Tarmakov four-bet to 7,600 and it folded back to Telker. He moved all-in for about 32,000 and Tarmakov called.

"I hope we're flipping," said Telker as he showed J♠J♥. Tarmakov opened A♠K♣ and Telker said. "I got my wish." The 7♦A♣5♥ flop was not part of his plan though and he didn't catch up on the 7♥ turn or 4♦ river.

Telker headed to the rail and Paul Hoefer is also out. --NW

3:50pm: Serda's surge
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

With the board showing 4♠2♦5♦K♦, Patrick Serda of Canada check-called a 10,000 bet, then the action went check-check following the K♣ river. Serda showed 7♦7♥, and that was better than his opponent's 6♥5♠, giving Serda the pot.

Asked afterwards if he would have folded to a shove, Serda nodded that he would have. But he chose correctly to call on this one.

Serda has been making a lot of good choices today, as he's already accumulated a stack of 135,000 as they move toward the latter part of Level 4. --MH

3:45pm: That escalated quickly
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

The pot began with Denis Timofeev opening for 800 and getting three callers, including Robert Bakker in the big blind. On the A♠4♣K♠ flop, Bakker checked, and Timofeev bet 1,500. The two players in the middle got out of the way, but Bakker called.

The turn brought the 8♥. This time Bakker check-called 4,500. The river was the 3♦. Again, Bakker checked and when faced with a bet of 8,000, announced he was all-in. Timofeev had around 11,000 behind and was never folding A♣Q♦. Bakker turned over A♥5♣, just as good then as it had been pre-flop, on the flop, and on the turn. Translated: not good.

Timofeev is now sitting on around 52,000.--BW

3:40pm: Painful call
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos and Christian Christner were faced with a 3♦8♦J♦ flop and there was about 2,000 in the pot.

Both players checked and then Ramos bet 1,200 when a 6♥ came on the turn. Christner called and Ramos bet 2,100 after a 9♣ completed the board. Christner thought and this time he raised to 6,200.

It was Ramos's turn to think. After a painful-looking minute of thinking, Ramos threw in a single chip to indicate a call. Christner turned over A♥J♠ and Ramos winced in pain and shook his head.

Christner took the pot while Ramos, still shaking his head, was left with 26,7000. --AV

3:30pm: Reichenstein bluffs, Hoyos not having it
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

"Absolutely nothing," said Uri Reichenstein with a smile. "Eight-nine of diamonds."

We mentioned Reichenstein at the start of the day, whom you may recall finished runner-up in the EPT13 Barcelona Main Event. That tournament memorably concluded with Reichenstein coming up short in a heads-up duel versus eventual winner Sebastian Malec.

In this hand Reichenstein finished second again, although lost only a small pot to Miguel Velasco Hoyos. After defending his big blind, Reichenstein had made a big bet of 3,300 on the 2♠5♦T♠ flop, but when Hoyos raised to 8,100 Reichenstein had to let his hand go, making that confession quoted above as he did.

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Uri Reichenstein: Second again

Hoyos is up around 60,000 while Reichenstein is at 25,000. --MH

3:20pm: Assorted chip counts
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

As play approaches the halfway point of the day here's how some of the names and notables stack up:

Patrick Serda - 88,000
Rafael Moraes - 62,000
Rumen Nanev - 62,000
Benjamin Pollak - 59,000
Mark Radoja - 51,000
Preben Stokkan - 49,000
Marc MacDonnell - 45,000
Marc-Andre Ladouceur - 42,000
Lucas Greenwood - 38,000
Francois Billard - 37,000
Andrew Chen - 35,050
Robbie Schiffbauer - 35,000
Chris Hunichen - 34,000
Kristen Bicknell - 33,700
Paul Tedeschi - 32,000
Paul Hoefer - 32,000
Adam Owen - 31,500
Thiago Nishijima - 31,000
Dermot Blain - 30,600
Ari Engel - 30,100
Ben Heath - 29,900
Felipe Ramos - 29,500
Sam Chartier - 29,000
Jan Bendik - 28,200
Jason Wheeler - 27,800
Lawrence Bayley - 27,525
Dylan Linde - 27,000
Martin Finger - 26,500
Tom Hall - 24,000
Stefan Schillhabel - 23,900
Anton Astapau - 23,325
Christopher Frank - 22,000
Jonathan Roy - 21,000
Gavin O'Rourke - 20,000
Uri Reichenstein - 17,000
Felix Bleiker - 16,000
Pablo Gordillo - 12,500

tournament_room_panama_day1b.jpg

Full house today in Panama

3:15pm: New faces
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 25)

We're into Level 4 now, and the list of entrants now also features Ari Engel, Martin Finger, Christopher Frank, Thiago Nishijima, Paul Tedeschi, Chris Hunichen and Paul Hoefer.

3:10pm: Hearts help Pardo
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Those of us reporting on these hands don't generally "play along" all that much as we watch them. I'll confess, though, to having speculated a bit as the following one played out.

The hand began with Glib Kovtunov of Ukraine raising to 600 from the cutoff and watching both the button and small blind call. Then Rafael Pardo of Colombia -- a familiar face from the Latin American Tour -- squeezed from the big blind to 2,800. Kovtunov called, and the others got out.

The flop came all hearts 7♥3♥4♥, and Pardo check-called a bet of 3,100 from Kovtunov. The turn was the 3♣, and again Pardo check-called, with Kovtunov this time betting 6,500.

That's the point when I allowed my mind to wander a little... "overpairs."

The river was the 9♥, at which point an obvious question sprung to mind: "Who has a heart?"

Both players checked, and when Pardo turned over T♥T♦ for a ten-high flush Kovtunov's shoulders slumped. That seemed to indicate something else, namely, that his hand lacked a heart.

That was confirmed when Kovtunov showed his hand -- K♦K♠ -- and the pot was slid Pardo's way.

Put Pardo on 60,000, while Kovtunov slips to 18,000. --MH

3:05pm: I got there...and I wish I hadn't
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

The board read 8♠T♥5♦2♣, and the pot was already well-worth winning. Matias Ruzzi checked and then called a 5,000 bet from Vinicius Barrel Teles. That was his first stumble. It got worse when the river came 6♠. See, Ruzzi held a couple of red sixes, and that card looked like money to him. So, he decided to check-raise when Teles bet 8,450. Ruzzi went all-in covering Teles' 10,000. That's when Teles snap-called with his two black tens, a flopped set that was never behind. --BW

3pm: Thompson taking some
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

The Costa Rican contingent is small today, just a handful of players made the hop over the border to play Day 1B.

One of them is Steven Thompson, who made the final table at one of the first LAPTs and became a staple of the tour. Thompson then made a splash in Las Vegas last year. He nearly became the first Costa Rican to win a WSOP bracelet since 1993, but lost heads-up to Calvin Lee in the $3,000 NLHE six-handed event.

Now Thompson is trying his hand at the PokerStars Championship Panama and is still hovering at about starting stack.

In a recent hand, Thompson opened to 425 from UTG+1 and Luis Perez made it 1,225 from the button. The blinds folded and Thompson called.

Both players checked the T♣9♦K♠ flop and then Thompson bet 1,125 after the T♠ hit the turn. Perez thought for a while and called, bringing a 6♣ to complete the board.

Thompson upped the bet to 2,150 and it was too much for Perez. Perez let his hand go and Thompson chipped up to 29,000. --AV

2:55pm: Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

It was a three-way hand on Table 6, with Calvin Foltz all in before the flop and hoping to win the 6,000 main pot, while Samuel Gagnon and Tomas Kubaliak were the ones vying for the just over 4,000 in the side pot.

Foltz stood from his seat as the 4♦2♦5♠ flop was dealt, and both Gagnon and Kubaliak checked. Foltz remained standing through the 9♥ turn and 4♥ river, both streets again checked down by the other two.

It was time for tabling, and Gagnon showed A♥Q♦ while Kubaliak tied him with A♣Q♣. Foltz showed his K♦K♣, earning him that main pot and enabling him to sit down and continue to battle.

Kubaliak has 38,000 now, and Gagnon has about 20,000. --MH

2:50pm: Gonzalez coverts the double up
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

As we mentioned earlier Argentinian rugby international Lucas González is playing today. The full-back-cum-winger seems very comfortable at the table and this was evident in a recent hand in which he was all-in.

lucas_gonzalez_panama_day2.jpg

Lucas Gonzalez gets back in it

I only saw the river action but with a complete board of 8♦K♠9♠2♦6♣ on the felt he shoved for 11,400 into a pot of 7,500. His opponent gave it a long think before calling. Gonzalez rolled over K♣J♠ and he was good. He's back above starting stack with that win. --NW

2:45pm: Nothing to LOL about
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

When you have a desperately short-stacked man at the table, the decisions get a bit different. Francisco Motaban Lollo was just that man. Down to his last 550 in chips, he managed a double-up with Q♠5♠ versus pocket tens while under the gun. He folded his big blind to a raise, and when it came time for his small blind, he had 1,375 in front of him.

Sometimes random draws are funny things. Of all the poker tables in all of Panama, this one ended up with two men of (basically) the same first name.

Aliaksei Boika, a recent champion on the EPT, came in for a raise to 500 in early position and got action from Aleksei Opalikhin. Meanwhile, Lollo (LOL) was sitting over in the small blind and ready to get involved. He shoved all-in for 1,375 and got calls from both Boika and Opalikhin

On the flop of 5♦T♠Q♦, Boika checked and let Opalikhin bet 1,850. That's when Boika came back for a raise to 5,500. This was probably the point at which Lollo realized he was in trouble. If not then, it became pretty evident when Opalikhin called the check-raise.

The 3♠ came on the turn, and Lollo (with, remember, nothing to bet here) called out, "Check!" and tapped the table. Now Boika came out for 7,000. Opalikhin counted down his own stack but ultimately mucked. Boika flipped over his cards T♥T♦ for the flopped set. Lollo knew it before he saw the cards but flipped over his pocket nines drawing dead.

"Buena suerte," Lollo said, and left Aleksei and Aliaksei to battle on their own.--BW

2:40pm: Value on the river for Radoja
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

You don't see too many pots full of blue (5,000) and red (1,000) chips here in the 100/200/25 level. Just now, though, we spotted one comprising mostly those colors. Not only that, two players had bet red and blues on the river, and a third was thinking about doing the same.

The board showed 7♠3♣8♠T♣2♦ and there was around 15,000 in the pot. Mark Radoja had led for 13,500, and Omid Shahbazian, sitting to Radoja's left, had called the bet.

Dick Postel was the third man and after a long think he finally let his cards go with a wince. Radoja then tabled J♠9♥ for the nuts -- Postel's wince relaxed into an expression of relief -- and Shahbazian had to muck.

Afterwards it sounded as though Postel had jack-ten. "He saved me," he said to Radoja, pointing a thumb at Shahbazian in between them.

Mark Radoja bumps up to 60,000, Postel still has about 35,000, and Shahabazian slips to 15,000. --MH

2:35pm: All out
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

There's no easy way to say this but John Castano Becerra, Brian Senie, Fabio Bonatto, Andrei Konopelko, Ariel Celistino, Frank Naranjo Bedoya, Pedro Luque, Raul Martinez and Mamouni Smain all have the same chip count. Unfortunately for them that count is zero. They are among the 25 players to have been eliminated thus far. --NW

2:30pm: Fresh Pollak
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Benjamin Pollak is one of the recent entries, pushing the total number of runners today up to 229. He wasted little time in getting into a pot, which was against Pavlo Kolinkovskyi. The latter three-bet pre-flop to 1,700 and Pollak, who had already invested 500 into the pot, made the call.

An all heart K♥9♥2♥ flop hit the felt and Pollak check-called a bet of 1,150. The Q♥ turn checked through and the 8♠ completed the board. Pollak fired out a bet of 2,000 and Kolinkovskyi folded. --NW

2:25pm: Check-raise shove from Marc-Andre
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Following a 3♠6♠7♣ flop, Marc-Andre Ladouceur checked and watched his fellow Canadian James Gauthier bet 2,500. Ladouceur took his time before calling, bringing the pot to around 9,000. The turn then brought the 8♣ and another check from Ladouceur, and this time Gauthier fired 5,500.


Want to check-raise Marc-Andre Ladouceur? The first step is joining us at PokerStars. Click here to get an account.

Ladouceur waited about a half-minute, then announced he was re-raising all in. Gauthier tanked a full minute after that then let his hand go.

Ladouceur jumps up around 50,000 after that one, while Gauthier is at 16,000. --MH

2:20pm: Colombian clash
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

There was some Colombian on Colombian action going on over on Table 18 where Guillermo Pardo Gonzalez and Carlos Mejia were building quite a pot. There was a J♠4♠6♠ flop on the felt by the time I arrived, Mejia had led out for 1,300 from the small blind and Gonzalez had raised it up to 3,100. Mejia was in the tank and he eventually elected to call.

The 8♠ turn kept up a 100 percent spade community card record for this hand and Mejia check-called a further 2,200 from Gonzalez. The 9♣ was a change of suit, but there was no change in the action. Gonzalez fired a third barrel. It was 7,500 for Mejia to see his cards and he seemed really pained by this decision. He did a few hand gestures and said that he didn't think he could fold. He couldn't.

Gonzalez showed A♠K♠ for the ace-high flush and Mejia's Q♠7♠ was always inferior.--NW

2:15pm: The Lebedev hit and run
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

"Hey, don't touch my chips," Sergey Lebedev told players at his table.

He was a bit late coming back from break and joked as a player flicked an ante off his stack.

Lebedev missed a few hands, but came back at a good time as he took down a decent pot from under the gun. Lebedev started the hand off by limping and a player in middle position raised to 700. Adam Owen called from the button and Aaron Gustavson did the same from the big blind.

Lebedev raised to 3,000 and if he was hoping to push players off their hands, he didn't succeed. All three players called and the flop came 7♦4♥2♠. Gustavson checked and Lebedev bet 6,000.

If Lebedev was hoping people would fold, he succeeded. All three players folded and Lebedev took down the pot. A member of the tournament staff was waiting behind Lebedev and gave him a new seat assignment. He could rest easy knowing no player at that table would touch his chips again.

Lebedev stacked up his 47,000 and ventured off into the tournament area to find his new table. --AV

2:10pm: A few faces
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Have a look at some of today's Day 1B players:

kristen_bicknell_panama_day1b.jpg

Kristen Bicknell

ben_heath_panama_day1b.jpg

Ben Heath

marc_andre_ladouceur_panama_day1b.jpg

Marc-Andre Ladouceur

rasmus_glaesel_panama_day1b.jpg

Rasmus Glaesel

robbie_schiffbauer_panama_day1b.jpg

Robbie Schiffbauer

anton_astapau_panama_day1b.jpg

Anton Astapau

jimmy_guerrero_panama_day1b.jpg

Jimmy Guerrero

2:10pm: Make way for Chartier
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

As Level 3 kicked off, there were still some stragglers entering the field. Among them was world traveler and EPT regular Sam Chartier. He's been a familiar face on PokerStars tours since making a final table in Barcelona nearly nine years ago. Since that time he's racked up around $2.8 million in live tourney earnings. Chartier is coming off a nice $130,000 score after winning a PLO side event in December at the Bellagio Five Diamond. He's picked up a couple of five-figure cashes this year prior to arriving here in Panama. --BW

2:05pm: The accidental raise
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

We arrived amid pre-flop action on Table 15, where Juan Fernandez Camean had announced a raise and set out a single blue 5,000 chip. Alas for Camean, he hadn't meant to raise quite so much, but as the floor confirmed the raise had to stand.

Making things worse for him, Rodrigo Dos Santos was next to act, and he chose to re-raise to 10,100.

It folded back to Camean who stewed a bit before calling the re-raise, then checked following the 6♣9♦K♠ flop. Dos Santos paused a beat then fired 6,500, and an unhappy Camean had to fold.

Dos Santos showed his hand afterwards -- A♥A♣ -- though it wasn't clear if that made Camean feel any better about the situation.

Dos Santos won the next hand as well, again taking chips from Camean. Dos Santos is up to 42,000 now, while Camean is at 26,000. --MH

2pm: Serda leading field in Level 3
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

A quick review of the 200+ field here shows Patrick Serda has emerged as the early leader here in Level 3. Serda used the first two levels to build his stack to more than 80,000.--BW

1:55pm: We. Are. Back.
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

We're back at it everybody. Two more 75-minute levels and then another 20-minute break.


1:39pm: Break time

The players are now off on their first 20-minute break of the day.

1:37pm: Radoja wins two
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Mark Radoja is now sitting on Dick Postel's table, and has also been joined there by Jason Wheeler. Postel, who doubled up very early on, will not necessarily have it his own way from here.

Postel was only a spectator, however, as Wheeler and Radoja played a pot, which Radoja won, and then Radoja played against David Laka Calzada and won again.

jason_wheeler_panama_day1b.jpg

Jason Wheeler tells Raffaele Sorrentino about it

There was 5,425 in the middle by the time Wheeler and Radoja were at the river. The board read 2♣8♥5♦9♠J♦. Wheeler checked, Radoja bet 2,100, Wheeler called and Radoja turned over J♣T♣.

Wheeler took an age to muck his cards, apparently disbelieving that he had lost. But he eventually did let his hand go and gave it up.

Not long after, Radoja and Calzada were at the turn, with the four exposed cards as follows: T♦K♦Q♦8♥. Radoja bet 2,100 and Calzada called.

The 7♣ completed the board and Radoja bet 3,200 this time. Calzada double-checked his cards but then called. He mucked, though, when Radoja showed him Q♣T♣. -- HS

1:32pm: Ramos's picture perfect stack
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Mojave Ramos is back over starting stack.

In his most recent victory the Brazilian Snapchat star raised to 350 from UTG+1 and Adrian Gruber called from the small blind. Pavlo Kolinkovskyi did the same from the big blind and a 5♦J♥9♣ flop hit the board.

Action checked to Ramos and he bet 900. Gruber folded, Kolinkovskyi called and a Q♣ came on the turn.

Ramos fired another bet worth 1,600 and that was good enough to take down the pot. Ramos stacked up his chips, took a quick picture, and is now sitting with about 33,000. --AV

1:29pm: A Reilly tough spot
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

"All in and call!"

The board showed Q♠T♦8♠, and Mark Reilly of Ireland had Q♦T♣ for two pair. He also had covered his opponent, Robert Smith of Canada. Alas for Reilly, Smith had Q♥Q♣, and after the 2♦ turn already had Reilly drawing dead.

Smith jumps up close to 50,000 after that skirmish, while Reilly slips to about 7,000. --MH

1:26pm: Joie for Roy
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Jonathan Roy was all-in on the river. The Canadian had shoved for 7,150 into a pot of 6,625. Taran Parmar was starring at the 5♦Q♦T♣6♠2♣ board as if he was willing it to change. "One minute please. Sorry," he said. "I can beat ace-six," he added.

Another 15 seconds or so passed and he then picked up the required chips from his stack and called. Roy turned over J♣J♠ and Parmar mucked. It was an all-in pot though so the dealer exposed his cards to reveal he'd called with T♠9♠. Despite that dent Parmar has had a good start as he's still got 49,000. --NW

1:16pm: Another hit for Ortiz
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Fabian Ortiz keeps firing away at the PokerStars Championship Panama.

It's always been his style though, and Ortiz never loses hope. He won his first LAPT title after being crippled to just half a big blind at the final table. Ortiz is down at about 20,000, but that's a full 130 big blinds. Ortiz can win 260 poker tournaments with that kind of stack.

In Ortiz's most recent hit, Mikhail Zamyatin raised to 400 from middle position and Ortiz made it 1,050 from the hijack.

Freddy Otero called from the big blind and Zamyatin called as well. Action checked to Ortiz on the Q♦5♥J♥ flop and he bet 1,100. Otero called, Zamyatin folded and a 9♦ came on the turn. Both players checked and a 6♣ completed the board.

Otero fired off a bet worth 2,700 and it was enough to take down the pot. --AV

1:13pm: Can you ever fold kings?
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

"There's no way I can fold this," said Andrei Streltsou as he starred down the barrel of an all-in shove from Valentin Apostol. This pot had gotten big fast. Streltsou had opened to 450, Apotsol then re-raised to 1,200, Streltsou had four-bet to 3,500 and Apotsol had shoved for around 27,000 total.

So yeah, Streltsou was in a bind and he eventually called it off. To no one's surprise he showed K♥K♣ and Apotsol did indeed have the only hand that was beating him - A♠A♥ to be precise. The 9♦9♠7♦J♠8♥ board kept Apotsol in front and Streltsou was eliminated. --NW

1:00pm: Barre-Comtois pushes out Benitez
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Francisco Benitez, a regular on the European Poker Tour over the past few years, made four side-event cashes in the Bahamas in January, including a fourth-place finish in a $10,000 turbo, won by Ben Tollerene. Tollerene perished in the Panama Main Event yesterday, but Benitez is playing today hoping to avoid a similar fate.

The following hand won't exactly have helped him, but it's far from terminal either. He was just forced to fold by Samuel Barre-Comtois, who found something he liked in the small blind.

Benitez opened the pot, making it 300 to play, and Barre-Comtois was the only caller. That took them to a flop of 3♠A♥Q♣ and Barre-Comtois checked. Benitez bet 500, but Barre-Comtois quickly raised to 1,100 and Benitez called.

The 8♦ fell on the turn and Barre-Comtois led for 1,650. Benitez wasn't going anywhere just yet. He called.

The K♠ fell on the river and Barre-Comtois put forward 3,300 this time. Benitez tanked, but folded. -- HS

12:59pm: Bet from Heath forces sword back in sheath
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Fabian Ortiz is in today's field, winner of two Latin American Poker Tour titles, including one right here in Panama City three years ago.

Ortiz is wearing short sleeves today, exposing his tattoo of a long, ornamented sword on his right forearm. Just now he tilted the sword forward, using that hand to push out an opening raise to 400 from the hijack seat, and Ben Heath in the cutoff called.

Both checked the T♦A♥3♦ turn, then after the 7♥ Ortiz made another lunge forward with that sword to bet 1,000. Heath looked down, dug out chips, and raised to 3,200. Ortiz thought a moment then bowed out, pushing his cards dealerward.

By folding Ortiz preserves his stack of about 24,000. Heath is up around 28,000 at present. --MH

12:56pm: Breakfast poker with Bicknell
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

So far, Kristen Bicknell is the only woman in the field in Day 1B.

But Bicknell has gotten comfortable in that position. She became the first woman to win an open event in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event and cashed in several others. It was a satisfying follow up to her 2013 WSOP Ladies Event victory.

Bicknell's also already had a cash and a victory at this PokerStars Championship. Bicknell won the $1,100 Win the Button event last week and also cashed in the $1,100 NLHE National Championship.

Now Bicknell is taking her shot at the Main Event. Bicknell has taken it easy so far at the start of the day, having some table side breakfast to go along with a few folds. In one hand Rodrigo Dos Santos raised to 350 from the hijack and Bicknell made it 1,400 from the button.

Dos Santos looked at her and decided it was best to lay that one down. --AV

12:50pm: Rocco rocking
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Michael Rocco has already made a few waves in the PokerStars Championship era. He finished third in the $25,000 High Roller event in the Bahamas and picked up more than $400,000 in the process.

He's back at the second stop of the season, here in Panama, and is getting involved in some small pots in the early levels.

After an under-the-gun raise to 150, Rocco pushed it up to 750 and both Thomas Lindsey, in the big blind, and the original raiser stuck around. Both, however, checked the 2♦A♠6♦ flop and only Lindsey called when Rocco bet 1,000.

So, two players were involved when the 9♥ came on the turn and both checked. Then the 3♦ fell on the river. Lindsey checked again and after a moment's thought, Rocco picked a blue 5,000-denomination chip from his stack and flicked it in.

Lindsey folded, asking, "You have the ace?" Rocco didn't reply. Rocco has around 35,500 now. -- HS

12:45pm: Owen showin' bluffs, gives to Gad
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Adam Owen raised to 400 from the hijack seat and got three callers including Gad Morgenstern in the small blind. The four players all checked the 6♣3♥K♣ flop, then after the T♠ turn it checked to Owen who bet 550 and two players called -- Michael Brown on his right and Morgenstern.

The 8♣ river didn't complete any straights but did put a third club on the board. Morgenstern checked, Adam bet 2,200, and Brown called. Morgenstern leaned forward to get a look at the board and bets once more and called as well, and Owen showed he'd bluffed with 9♦7♦. Morgenstern tabled his T♣9♣ for a flush, and Brown mucked.

Both Owen and Brown are at around 25,000, while Morgenstern chips to 43,000. --MH

12:40pm: A couple of Canadians
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

While Will Kassouf will go into the record books as the last ever EPT High Roller champion, there was one player who won more than Kassouf did in that tournament in Prague back in December. That player was Patrick Serda. He scooped €719,000 in that €10,000 tournament, and he's travelled to Panama to play this Championship event.

He's sat to the right of another Canadian who had a good result in Prague. Franocis Billard final tabled a plain old €10,000 event at the start of the festival that wasn't even deemed a high roller! --NW

12:31pm: Level 2 begins
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

We need more action. Blind increase! --MH

12:30pm: Gotta hurt
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Lucas González just lost back-to-back pots in fairly brutal fashion and it's probably fortunate that he spends most of his time getting pummelled by 300lb men on the rugby field, otherwise these will have stung.

In the first, he opened to 300 from UTG+1 and picked up only one caller, Andrei Konopelko, in the cutoff. The pair saw a flop of 8♦4♥J♥ and González check-called Konopelko's bet of 300.

Both players then checked the J♦ turn, leading to the 8♣ on the river. González checked again and Konopelko this time bet 2,000. González called and Konopelko showed his K♦J♣. González couldn't stop himself turning over K♦K♠ to reveal the full extent of his torment.

But that wasn't it. On the very next hand, González opened to 300 from under the gun and only Miguel Iglesias called, in the big blind. Both players checked the Q♠J♥8♦ flop and then Iglesias bet 475 at the K♦ turn. González called.

The river was the J♦ and Iglesias bet 1,250. González called again and was quickly shown A♦2♦, which represented a rivered flush. González again felt the need to show what he had. This time his A♥T♣ had suffered the outdraw.

Any more of this and someone is going to get hurt. -- HS

12:29pm: Bend it like Bendik
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

A little earlier we saw EPT 12 Grand Final Main Event champion Jan Bendik try to steal a pot away from Andrei Streltsou, having raised a 9♣9♠A♦ flop and barreled a 5♣ turn, then having to check down a K♦ river and muck after Streltsou showed him A♥Q♠.

As the first level of the day neared its close, Bendik got involved again by calling an opening UTG raise from Lawrench Bayley on his right. Anton Astapau called as well from the big blind, and all three checked the all-diamond A♦6♦9♦ flop. The turn was the 9♣, and it checked to Bendik how fired 1,200, with only Bayley sticking around.

NEIL7318_Jan_Bendik_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Jan Bendik

The river brought the 8♠ and another check from Bayley, and Bendik tossed out another bet, the curve of chips sliding out before him representing 2,500.

Bayley took a long while, talking out loud to himself, asking Bendik to show if he folded, then calling the clock on himself. With Level 1 and his time to decide winding down, Bayley finally folding, saying "That was funny" as he did.

Funny or not, the first level ends with Bendik, Bayley, and Astapau all still hovering around the 30,000-chip starting stack. --MH

12:25pm: Old school
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

We're not going to lie, the early stages of a poker tournament can be, well a little boring. A little formulaic if you play a ton of them. They don't exactly get the juices flowing. So, there are various ways poker players tend to amuse themselves at the table to pass the time.

When we started in this line of work, the default was a book, with a crossword, newspaper or magazine also regularly spotted. In the digital age those four options have been replaced by music, television, games and movies.

Yesterday we spotted Sam Greenwood combining the two, by doing a crossword on his electronic device. His brother, Lucas, is playing today and he's gone old school by choosing to read a book. Dereliction of Duty - a book about the Vietnam War - is his tome of choice and he'd rested it on the rail as he was involved in a pot against Calvin Foltz.

NEIL7494_Lucas_Greenwood_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Luc Greenwood

There was a 9♣Q♦Q♠K♦A♥ board on the felt and around 4,500 in the middle. Action was on Foltz and he checked it to his fellow Canadian. Greenwood thought for about 20 seconds before he checked behind. Foltz showed K♠J♠, but Greenwood had him beat with A♦8♦. --NW

12:17pm: Side event results

While our focus is on the Main Event here, we're still keeping track of the big winners in the side events. Check out how it's going so far on our PokerStars Championship Panama side events results page.

12:17pm: Damian and Dylan
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The PokerStars Championship Panama is a beacon, attracting players from worlds that usually didn't collide.

Take Damian and Dylan for example. Damian Salas was an LAPT trademark. Like the rising sun, Salas's crisp grey hair bobbing around the tournament was a given during LAPTs. The Argentinian pro manage to score two Main Event final tables, a high roller victory and dozens of other cashes during the life of the series.

Salas is seated next to Dylan Linde, an online pro whose cashes are mostly in the United States and the EPT. Linde does have a few PCA cashes under his belt, but now he's looking to get his first in Latin American turf.

NEIL7383_Dylan_Linde_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Dylan Linde

Linde and Salas are now seated right next to each other. They've gotten into a few small pots but are taking things easy for the moment.

In one, Linde raised to 350 from under the gun and Salas called from the big blind. Both players checked the 9♠6♦7♦ flop and a 4♦ came on the turn. Salas bet 350 and Linde folded. They're currently still at about starting stack, but bigger clashes are certain to come. --AV

12:11pm: Rugby hero Gonzalez gunning for poker success
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Yesterday's PokerStars-endorsed celebrity competitor in the PokerStars Championship Main Event had the time of his life. Tito Ortiz, the retired MMA legend, bagged up the second-biggest stack in the room.

Today's Friend of PokerStars is Argentinian rugby international Lucas González and, based on a few minutes observation during Level 1 today, he knows what he's doing at a poker table too.

NEIL7295_Lucas_González_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Lucas Gonzalez

This hand wasn't exactly thrilling--Gonazalez opened to 300 then checked flop (T♥2♠2♦) and turn (A♦) before a bet of 650 won it on the river (J♠) after Aaron Been was the only caller--but he clearly showed he can handle chips.

He'll be worth keeping an eye on this afternoon. -- HS

12:08pm: Early frustration for Erling
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Erling Voje was here at the very start of Level 1. In one of the day's first hands we saw him pay off a river value bet from Richard Bruning after the latter filled an inside straight on fifth street, earning an Erling eyeroll.

Just now Voje was facing a bigger river bet, this one for 6,000 from Matias Ruzzi. There was more than 12,000 in the middle, but something about the 9♣8♣J♣2♥A♦ board made Voje unable to call, and not quite an hour into the tournament he's slipped under 20,000. Ruzzi is around 35,000. --MH

12:01pm: More notables
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The strength of the field continues to stiffen with Gavin O'Rourke, Felix Bleiker, Francois Billard, Kristen Bicknell and Jonathan Roy all playing today. The latter two have both won side events here in Panama. Roy emerged victorious in the very first event on the schedule, a $1,100 no-limit event. He earned $22,530 for the win. Bicknell also won a $1,100 event, a no-limit turbo win the button tournament. --NW

11:56am: Postel the hand magnet
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Dick Postel is seeing some hands here. After that quads versus boat collision in the opening orbit (Ianiv Ronen is out now, by the way), he also just rivered the nut flush with A♥5♥ in a hand against David Calzada. The problem this time: Calzada had pocket sixes, flopped a set and rivered a boat. Postel lost this one.

On the next hand, Karim Zerzour and Postel were at a flop of 9♣7♠J♣. Zerzour bet 300, Postel raised to 700 and Zerzour called.

The Q♣ appeared on the turn and Zerzour bet 1,500 at it. Postel thought for a moment, then open folded A♦J♥. "Good bet, sir," he said.

When you've already seen quads and a nut flush--both in hands against full houses--top pair, top kicker just isn't good enough. -- HS

11:55am: Vamos Ramos
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Team PokerStars Felipe Ramos is always busy.

If he's not playing poker, he's teaching it to star athletes. If he's not doing that, he's probably on social media appealing to his hordes of poker fans. Ramos has already done all three of those things in the last two days.

Yesterday Ramos accompanied Tito Ortiz to the tournament area and whispered some advice in the former MMA champion's ear. Whatever he said worked. Ortiz managed to back up the second biggest stack at the end of the day yesterday.

NEIL7324_Felipe_Ramos_PCP2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Felipe Ramos

Now it's Ramos's turn to play. If you follow him on Twitter, you already know he's taken his seat:

Ramos has taken a seat in Day 1B and is Snapchatting something in Portuguese that we assume educational and inspirational to his dedicated fans. You can join the gang by adding "FelipeMojave" on Snapchat or follow him on Instagram.

11:54am: Early boost for MacDonnell
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Getting 20 big blinds in pre-flop might not seem like a big deal, but in Level 1 of a tournament it usually means it's a four-bet pot. Which is a big deal. And Marc MacDonnell has just been involved in one such pot. He'd three-bet to 700 and was now faced with a four-bet of 2,175 from Tanner Millen.

MacDonnell called and the two players went to a flop that fell Q♥K♠6♠. Millen c-bet 1,900 and MacDonnell stuck around. On the Q♣ turn Millen gave up the action and reluctantly folded to a bet of 6,600. --NW

11:51am: Gordillo, Celestino strengthen field
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The Spaniard Pablo Gordillo is here, fresh off a cash in the PokerStars National Championship event here in Panama City. Among his live tournament highlights have been a couple of final tables in EPT Main Events, including a fourth-place showing in the EPT10 Vienna ME. Meanwhile Gordillo has numerous big scores on PokerStars as "Gordiju," including a memorable Sunday in 2014 when he won the Sunday Kick Off, the Sunday Storm, and The Bigger $55 to earn more than $100K for the day.

Gordillo joins another big winner both live and online, Brazil's Ariel "ArielBahia" Celestino. He's won multiple BSOP events while collecting more than $1 million in live cashes on the EPT, the LAPT, and elsewhere. Meanwhile online he's won a SCOOP, a Super Tuesday, and numerous other tournaments. --MH

11:39am: Big winners
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

There are at least two EPT Main Event champions in today's field, and at least one runner up too. Jan Bendik won the EPT Grand Final the last time it was helf in Monaco, Aaron Gustavson triumphed in London in Season 6, and Uri Reichenstein was on the receiving end of the Sebastian Malec whiskey-fuelled juggernaut in Barcelona last August.

Their prizes were all huge: Bendik's was the equivalent of $1.1 million, Gustavson won $1.3 million and Reichenstein took $913,660 for his runners up spot. -- HS

11:32am: Two Day 1s, two Greenwoods
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Still first-level sauntering here. Just now we did the usual double-take when seeing one of the Greenwood twins -- in this case Luc -- after having spotted the other in action yesterday.

Sam Greenwood didn't survive yesterday's Day 1A carnage, not making it through to be one of the 43 survivors.

We'll see if Luc can best his brother's performance, much as he did back at PokerStars Championship Bahamas where both went deep in the $25K High Roller before Luc knocked out Sam in 10th place on the way to winning the title and a career-high $779,268 first prize. --MH

11:30am: From the UKIPT to the PSC
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The regional PokerStars tours - which have now combined under the PokerStars Festival banner - have proved a fertile breeding ground for players who've gone on to bigger things. Take the UKIPT: Max Silver, Ludovich Geilich and Kevin Killeen have all won UKIPT Main Event titles and gone on to make EPT final tables.

There are two players in the field today who had lots of success on the UKIPT and have then gone on to have bigger results both online and live. In the red corner we have Lawrence Bayley. A SuperNova Elite on PokerStars between 2013-15, he's since ventured out of his bedroom to play some live poker. It's been going well. He's already looked up a Panamanian flag too, as he finished 26th in the National Championship that was held earlier this week.

And in the blue corner sits Marc MacDonnell. The Irishman almost won a bracelet in 2015, finishing runner-up in a $1,000 no-limit event, and he had a deep run at EPT Prague in the same year, finishing 13th. Both will be hoping for deep runs here in Panama. --NW

11:25am: Ronen's chips go Postel
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Losing all ones chips in the first level could be considered a misfortune. Losing all of them in the first orbit may look like carelessness.

Ianiv Ronen will have a long time to think about the following hand, which took place with only a couple of minutes on the clock. It left him with only 225 from a starting stack of 30,000--and he didn't even think he had those.

From across the room, I heard a dealer say, "All-in" and it required a double take. We had barely started playing. However, that was indeed the case: there was a blue 5,000 chip on the table in front of Ronen and a full tower across the line in front of Dick Postel. There was a board dealt all the way to the river: 9♦9♣6♦9♥5♦.

Ronen put his head in his hands, but then he pushed his chips forward. Postel turned over T♣9♠ for quads and quickly wiped his palms on his trousers. He'd been sweating this call. Ronen wanted to muck was forced to show. His J♦J♠ didn't stand a chance.

Ronen got up to leave, but the dealer gave him a lifeline when she insisted on correctly counting down the stacks. It turned out that Postel had already lost a couple of small pots, so Ronen has 225 more than him. It'll be a long way back from two big blinds. -- HS

11:20am: Players and hats
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

There are about 80 players and 16 hats in the field.

While the word 'Panama' brings up images of a hat in a lot of people, Panama hats are in the extreme minority this tournament. There appears to just be one Panama hat while the rest are all baseball caps.

Interestingly enough, most of those baseball caps are in pairs. Seven tables have two baseball caps a piece while Valentin Apostol is the lone hat wearer at his table.

His hat also slightly askew while the rest are strictly front or backwards facing. We'll keep you updated on the Panama hat count as the day goes on. --AV

11:19am: Blain, Chauriye battling for chips early
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

As noted below, Dermot Blain is here, and he started the tournament in the big blind. After confirming with the dealer the price was 100, Blain ended up dropping 600 total in a small hand with his neighbor to the left, Aleksei Opalikhin. The Irishman Blain's largest career score was worth more than half a million USD for winning an APPT Macau Main Event in 2009. He's here seeking a first cash in Central America.

Meanwhile Ricardo Chauriye dropped a little over 2,000 in an early hand versus Gad Morgenstern after check-folding to Morgenstern's river bet. Chauriye has already cashed once this week in a $1K preliminary event and won another LAPT Panama side event here in 2014. He has a silver spade as well, earned at EPT13 Barcelona last year for a career-high €90,170 cash for the Chilean. --MH

11:05am: Day 1B is under way
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Off they go on Day 1B, with a smattering of well-known faces already seated. They include Dylan Linde, Robbie Schiffbauer, Michael Rocco, Uri Reichenstein and Dermot Blain. That's four Americans and an Irishman, the start of a corny joke. -- HS


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10:50pm: It's time for Day 1B

Good morning all and welcome back to Panama for the resumption of the PokerStars Championship Main Event. After 103 players showed up yesterday, of which 43 made it through the eight levels, it is Day 1B today and that usually means significantly more.

The format is the same: eight 75-minute levels, with a dinner break after the sixth. We start at 11am and will wrap at a little after 11pm. Stick with us all the way.

If you need to catch on on how yesterday went, click here: Igor Yaroshevskyy & Tito Ortiz bloody Day 1A


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Take a look at the official website of PokerStars LIVE, with tournament schedule, news, results and accommodation details for the PokerStars Championship Panama and all other Festival and Championship events.

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PokerStars Blog reporting team on the $5,000 Main Event: Martin Harris, Howard Swains, Alex Villegas, Brad Willis and Nick Wright. Photography by Neil Stoddart.

Live reporting team
@PokerStars in Panama