UKIPT4 Isle of Man 2: Rae Storms into Day 1A chip lead at Isle of Man
In what proved a day stacked with poker talent, high stakes cash game player Donald Rae rose to the challenge to accumulate an impressive stack of 154,900 when play was halted after ten breathless levels.
"I won the races I was in," he modestly summarised, as the chips were bagged and tagged.
The opening of the day saw a host of players, comprised of qualifiers, sponsored players, local enthusiasts and UKIPT stalwarts descend on the Villa Marina here on the Isle of Man. Their mission? To contend the latest leg of the UKIPT battling for the riches and fame that accompany the £350,000 guaranteed prizepool and title.
The lavish centre stage (literally) in which the tournament took place was apt, given the multitude of stars that were bespeckling the 145-strong field like diamonds. It was impossible to turn your head without taking in a swathe of elite tournament poker players.
Full Tilt Poker Ambassadors Ben Jenkins, Dermot Blain and Martins Adeniya arrived with focused intentions, but Blain was the sole survivor of the trio, bagging up 38,100 when time was called on his efforts.
The Team PokerStars Pros who had arrived to showcase their skills experienced mixed fortunes; Luca Pagano, Matthias de Meulder and Eugene Katchalov all battling gamely before succumbing prior to the end of the day.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the team though, as Christophe de Meulder applied his talent with some finesse, finishing up with 36,600 chips.
Out of the two PokerStars Team Online members in attendance, Vincente Delgado saw his campaign fall on stony ground whilst Mickey Petersen slipped through to Day 2 with 26,300.
PokerStars SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo went even further however, eclipsing her male colleagues as she provided an engaging yet dangerous presence at her table throughout. At the close she finished up with a more-than-respectable 91,600, which could yet provide a platform for her to match, or even better her admirable performance in finishing runner-up at the last UKIPT Isle of Man event.
A number of previous UKIPT champions also arrived looking to add the Isle of Man trophy to their bulging mantelpieces. Double UKIPT winner Duncan McLellan was the defending champion, though his challenge faltered fatally mid-way through the day. UKIPT 2010 Dublin champ Max Silver rarely fails to reach the latter stages of the tour events he plays, but today his best form eluded him and he too was watching from the stalls before the day was done.
2013 UKIPT Marbella champ Ludovic Geilich however provided a different story - his stack fluctuating wildly throughout the day before resting at the lofty heights of 123,700.
"[I did] nothing crazy to be honest, I was a little tired so I kept it simple."
One man's simple is another man's inspired play.
Staff from the Rational Group are typically prevented from playing the UKIPT tour events. This is only the third time they've been afforded the opportunity to dip their toes into the waters of UKIPT variance and it was one they seized with great relish.
Chris Straghalis made a deep run last year but despite his best efforts and dazzling raiment, he didn't quite manage to stave off elimination.
At the other end of the spectrum Steve Day put in a spectacular shift, wrapping up the day second in chips with 135,000 whilst Lee Jones fought like a tiger to finish up still in contention with 33,000.
After ten sinewy levels however it was Donald Rae who navigated these shark-infested waters most proficiently, accumulating an impressive 154,900 when the counts of the remaining 46 players were tallied.
When we grabbed him for a few words, Rae attributed much of his success to one key moment : "The biggest pot I won today was A-K against A-Q, for about 80,000."
Rae's experience garnered throughout the high stakes cash games that are his usual home stand him in good stead for a deep run but should he feel the need for a second opinion, having friends such as UKIPT Dublin champ Kevin Killeen and double WCOOP champ Scott "Aggro Santos" Margereson can't hurt.
Rae will return to continue his challenge Saturday for day 2, but before then Day 1B is slated to play out tomorrow.
An even larger field is anticipated as we turn back the clock and look to usher in a new set of hopefuls and likely some of the unfortunates who expired on Day 1A will avail themselves of the opportunity to load a second buy-in bullet into their run-good chamber.
Play will begin once more at 12:00pm sharp and another ten tough levels will play out, replete with drama and excitement. See you for the restart. You won't want to miss history playing out under your nose.
Full and final chip counts can be found here.
To read updates from levels 1-4, click here.
To read updates from levels 5-10, click here.
PokerStars Blog reporting team at PokerStars UKIPT Isle of Man 2: Rod Stirzaker and Nick Wright. Photos by Danny Maxwell.