PokerStars Festival Manila: Big stack Zak ahead of the pack

Another day and another Day 1 flight down here at PokerStars Festival Manila.

Day 1A flights are notoriously the smallest and with 132 players pulling up seats today it looks like a great sign of things to come this week. Across 12 45-minute levels those starters were chopped down to just 38 who found a bag at the conclusion of play.

The man boasting the biggest of those end-of-day stacks is Elan Zak who accumulated 234,200 throughout the action. Zak seemed in fine form all day and found some value after rivering a Broadway straight against Kenneth Buck in the later stages. He has a string of small cashes here in Manila but with Zak's biggest live score to date set at just $2,723 he's found himself in a great position to top that in this Main Event.

PSF Manila Elan Zak.jpg

Big stack Elan Zak

Many of the notables were busy with the High Roller on the other side of the tournament floor, but as the day progressed we saw more and more familiar faces fill Main Event seats. Dhaval Mudgal, Kunal Patni, Sam Razavi, Michael Falcon, Hoang Anh Do, Simon Burns, Tom Or-Paz, Alan Lau, Jack Wu, Aditya Sushant and Sparrow Cheung were all in the mix by the end of late registration.

Mudgal made an exit in the penultimate level of the night after he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The big blind at the time was multitabling the Main Event and a side event so while he was absent when it folded around to Mudgal in the cutoff, the Indian pro opted to move in light with ten seven off suit. Unfortunately for Mudgal the button woke up with A♠K♠, called him off, and held to see Mudgal relegated to the rail.

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Dhaval Mudgal

It was a different story for 2014 Asia Player of the Year Pete Chen who span up a stack today. His tournament run nearly came to an end before a lucky break saw him double up instead. With blinds at 600/1,200 (200) after an open to 2,500 and two calls, Chen ripped all in for 30,000. The original raiser called it off and the other two folded before the cards went on their backs.

"I was bluffing," conceded Chen who flipped up A♦J♦ and needed help versus his opponent's ace king. The three-four-five flop presented some chopportunities with a wheel draw for both players but Chen binked off a jack on the turn to take the lead. A three paired the board on the end and Chen scooped the pot to climb to 68,000. That seemed to spark the subsequent steamroll as Chen powered home to bag a total of 165,300.

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Pete Chen

Chen and the other 37 survivors will have two days off before returning for the official Day 2 on Saturday. Tomorrow will see another batch of poker hopefuls fill the Grand Ballroom here at City of Dreams Manila where we'll find out how many more players join the hunt and whether they can eclipse Zak's commanding stack. We hope to see you then!

Brad Kain
@PokerStars in PokerStars Festival