Tuesday, 30th May 2023 19:59
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It was a wild one here in the tournament room at the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino in Panama City, where Day 2 of the LAPT9 Panama Main Event played out today. A handful of players took turns fighting for the chip lead as they played down to the money and then some, and by night’s end it was Anderson Blanco of Colombia bagging the big stack with 896,000.

Anderson Blanco-LAPT Panama-2016-9644-a.jpg

Anderson Blanco
The plan today was to play down from 172 players to just 32, and thanks to a rapid pace throughout it took just over nine one-hour levels to accomplish that goal.

Nearly a hundred of those who began the day weren’t going to make the money, as only the top 79 stood to make the cash. Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez was among the first wave of knockouts, as were a couple of two-time LAPT champs, Mario Lopez and Nacho Barbero.

Meanwhile Jessica Perez began building her stack to assume the chip lead during the afternoon, holding it nearly until dinner until Aaron Mermelstein surged past her to grab first position.

Aaron Mermelstein-LAPT Panama-2016-9637.jpg

Mermelstein and stacks
Meanwhile the bubble burst, with Arturo Nocedo the unfortunately 80th-place finisher landing one spot out of the money. From there the bustouts picked up again as they raced down from 79 to 32 players, with Michelle Reyes (69th), start-of-day-2 leader Maxence Debar (68th), Andres Korn (62nd), Raul Pino (59th), Joey Spanne (55th), Bryan Schultz (49th), Matthew Wantman (37th), Hunter Cichy (35th), and Gustavo Lopes (34th) among the players hitting the rail.

As noted just below in our live updates, Jessica Perez was the last knockout of the night in 33rd, and with just four eight-handed tables left from the 553-entry field play was halted for the night.

Trailing Blanco but also bagging big at night’s end were Mermelstein (836,000), Fernando Gutierrez (716,000), Tobias Schwecht (679,000), and Ruben Suarez (657,000). And Oscar Alache is still in the hunt as well, going for a record third LAPT Main Event title.

Click here to see complete chip counts for all 32 remaining players, and don’t forget you can also consult the “Prize pool and payouts” page to see everyone who has cashed thus far.

They come back again tomorrow at 12 noon PT to play down from 32 to an eight-handed final table, and we’ll be on hand as well as we find out together who will be the next LAPT champion. Until then, buenos noches. –MH


11:33pm: Perez can’t find a pair, Day 2 ends with 32
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

After the level went up, there were a few short stacks to watch that could be the final player eliminated on Day 2. There were a few all-ins but no calls until Jose Annaloro looked up Jessica Perez. The former chip leader had dipped below the ten big blind mark and she was all-in and at risk with AQ.

Annaloro held 55 and after the board ran out clean for the pocket pair, Perez was officially sent to the rail in 33rd place. After her knockout, the remaining 32 players bagged and tagged their chips and those official counts will be posted shortly.

A complete Day 2 recap and wrap up is also coming shortly, so make sure you keep it locked here on the PokerStars Blog for all your LAPT9 Panama Main Event end of day information. — WOC

20 5,000 10,000 1,000

11:25pm: Brazil falls, Cruz keeps climbing
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

Gustavo Lopes worked one of the more up and down stacks since the dinner break and eventually, that yo-yoing found him near the bottom of the leaderboard. His 150,000 chip stack got in in a blind versus blind encounter, shoving the small blind with A4 and getting a call in the big blind from Luis Cruz.

Cruz held K9 and after the KJ2 flop, Lopes was drawing thin. The 5 left him with just three outs on the river but there was no ace, just the 9 sealing his fate as the 34th place finisher.

Lopes will fall a few tables short of another LAPT final table but Cruz could contend for that eight-handed lineup tomorrow, as he’s back over 500,000 just one elimination away from the end of Day 2. — WOC

11:14pm: Schwecht’s straight sinks Cichy
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

The level was just about to end when a big hand developed between Hunter Cichy and Tobias Schwecht.

The pair had reached the river with the board showing 10JK68 and about 150,000 in the middle. We arrived to see a bet in front of Cichy’s position and Schwecht looking across the table at his opponent in study. Finally Schwecht announced he was raising all-in, and Cichy thought a short while before tossing a couple of chips forward to signal he was calling.

Schwecht quickly tabled his Q9 for a straight, and Cichy nodded as he turned over J10 for two pair before heading to the cashier’s desk to collect 35th-place money.

With that pot, Schwecht is now up around 580,000. –MH

Tobias Schwecht-LAPT Panama-2016-9647.jpg

It’s good to be Tobias
11:02pm: Two more fall
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

Two more quick knockouts to share — the American Matthew Wantman (37th) the Colombian Jeison Mauricio Berdugo (36th). Just three more eliminations and play will conclude for the night. –MH

10:52pm: Gutierrez gets Chaves
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

Steven Jose Bertranol Chaves is out in 39th after his KQ failed to catch up to the AK of Fernando Gutierrez thanks to a J564J runout.

Gutierrez is up to 425,000 now. –MH

10:42pm: Arturo’s ace cracks kings
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

After a slow portion of play, the eliminations have picked back up and Alejandro Vallejo was the most recent Level 18 victim. His bust out was picked up with Oscar Alache opening to 17,000 from early position. The table folded to Vallejo, who then shoved for 126,000 from the small blind, only to see Jonathan Arturo and his big stack as for a count in the big.

Once he got the official number, he called, putting Vallejo at risk. Alache got out of the way and Arturo was drawing to three immediate outs with AQ. That’s because Vallejo had woken up with a monster, turning over KK. Unfortunately for him, one of those three outs came on the flop, as the AJ862 runout confirmed his elimination.

As Vallejo headed to the cage to collect his 40th-place payout, Jonathan Arturo was playing just shy of 550,000. That’s likely good for a top-three stack behind Andres Carrillo and Aaron Mermelstein. — WOC

10:31pm: Otero out, Valera vanquished
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

Soon after play resumed following the break, Freddy David Otero hit the rail in 42nd after falling in a hand versus the young Austrian Tobias Schwecht.

Then a few minutes later Valerio Vicente Varela opened with a raise, Rafael Escobedo reraised, Varela pushed, and Escobedo called. Varela had AQ and Escobedo KK, and the latter remained in front through the Q103 flop. Then the A fell on the turn, prompting an “ooooh!” from Escobedo as he saw he’d been momentarily outdrawn.

The adverb just there probably gave away what happened next — the K on the river! Escobedo let out a great roar of satisfaction as he collected the pot to move back to 220,000 while Valera moved over to the rail after being knocked out in 41st. –MH

10:15pm: Let’s play some cards
Level 19 – Blinds 4,000/8,000 (ante 1,000)

Players are back, cards are in the air, and the cards are landing back down again on the table because gravity.

We took advantage during the break to do some chip counting, and have a top ten to share with you heading into the new level. Aaron Mermelstein surged into the lead during that last hour. –MH

Aaron Mermelstein-LAPT Panama-2016-9307.jpg

The Mermelstein Express is rolling

Name Country Chips
Aaron Mermelstein United States 595,000
Andres Carrillo Colombia 545,000
Austin Peck USA 455,000
Abraham Bettsock Panama 440,000
Ruben Suarez Venezuela 415,000
Anderson Blanco Cassio Colombia 410,000
Steven Thompson Costa Rica 390,000
Raul Paez Spain 385,000
Jose Angel Annaloro Quintoro Venezuela 375,000
Andres Federico Jeckeln Argentina 345,000


19 4,000 8,000 1,000

9:52pm: Break it up

With 42 players left, they’ve reached the end of Level 18 and are taking one last 15-minute break. –MH


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9:43pm: Slowing down into break
Level 18 – Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Remember that rapidly disappearing field that Martin referenced 15 minutes ago? He wasn’t lying, there was a point where we were averaging an elimination every three minutes but heading towards the final break of this Day 2 session, that pace has slowed drastically.

We’re now stuck at 42 players remaining, meaning we need to lose ten to end proceedings tonight. When we are down to the final 32, the bags will come out and players will package their chips for tomorrow’s Day 3 session.

It remains to be seen how quickly we will get down to 32 but the PokerStars Blog will be here to bring you all the action through the rest of the night. We’ll also bring you an update of the bigger stacks in the room shortly… – WOC

9:29pm: The rapidly disappearing field
Level 18 – Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

In the 90 minutes since the dinner break, 28 players have been eliminated, swiftly reducing the field from 71 down to 43.

Among those sent railward during the most recent wave of knockouts were Guillermo Olvera (57th), Joey Spanne (55th), Ryan Colton (51st), Bryan Schultz (49th), and Pablo Ezequiel (44th).

There are just six tables in action now, and the plan remains — as recently confirmed — to stop once they get to 32. –MH

9:22pm: ‘Feature table’ four-bet, Mermelstein top
Level 18 – Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

It seems that every time we walk past our ‘feature table’ Aaron Mermelstein is involved in the pot. We just crossed paths with the Philadelphia native to see him put out a big four-bet to move up and over the 550,000 chip mark.

Action was picked up with Luis Cruz opening to 11,000 from middle position and next to act, Austin Peck three-bet to 28,000. The table then folded to Mermelstein and after some thought, and an inventory of his opponent’s stacks, he four-bet to 78,500 from the small blind.

The big blind and Cruz quickly folded but Peck didn’t seem like he wanted to go away as quietly. He stared at the table, the pot, his stack and then, eventually, at Mermelstein. After a few seconds of locked eyes, Peck surrendered and while he was getting shipped the pot, Mermelstein quietly said, “Send it in.”

Peck seemed like he contemplating that option but with well over 300,000 in front of him, he doesn’t need to be playing that kind of pot at this stage of the tournament. Especially against a player that has nearly double his stack, as Mermelstein has charged forwards since dinner and is now leading this LAPT9 Panama Main Event. — WOC

9:14pm: More of the fallen…
Level 18 – Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

The plan is to play down to the final four tables or 32 players and at this rate, we might get out of here sooner, rather than later. Players are dropping like flies — that’s a saying in Panama also, right? — with three hitting the rail in quick succession over the first portion of Level 18.

Manuel Gomez Rivera was the first to go, as his AK couldn’t beat Renny Bannet’s KJ. The Jamacian flopped a jack and then held through the turn and river as the board fell J10959. Rivera was out in 54th and a few moments later, Gustavo Lopes was scoring another knockout. This time, it was Cristian Rene Martinez going out in 53rd place and across the tournament area, Raul “El Toro” Paez found pocket aces to eliminate John Edilson Gonzalez.

That’s dropped this Day 2 field down to the 51 player mark, meaning we are close to the final half dozen tables of this LAPT9 Panama Main Event. — WOC

9:01pm: Lopes rivers Mejia out of tournament
Level 18 – Blinds 3,000/6,000 (ante 1,000)

Things continue to go Gustavo Lopes’ way as Day 2 wears on, with his recent knockout of Carlos Alberto Mejia in 48th providing still further evidence.

Mejia had pushed his last few chips in on a QJ54 board with Q6 for queens and Lopes called him with 32. The river then brought the 6 — two pair for Mejia, but a straight for Lopes — and Mejia laughed as he left.

Lopes is up to 330,000 now. –MH


18 3,000 6,000 1,000

8:48pm: Reyes, Pino out
Level 17 – Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Since dinner we’ve already seen more than a dozen players sent railward as the field has trimmed to 57, with Michelle Reyes among them. Her ouster means Jennifer Perez — still with a top five stack — is the last woman remaining in the field. Panama’s third-most all-time winning tournament player Raul Pino is also among the fallen.

Raul Pino-LAPT Panama-2016-9493.jpg

Panama’s Pino still smiling
Remember, you can open up the constantly updated “Prize Pool and Payouts” page to keep track of how the money’s being divided. –MH

8:39pm: Trapped between Alache and a hard place
Level 17 – Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Following an opening raise by two-time LAPT champion Oscar Alache, Alejandro Arango Vallejo defended his blind, then led with bets on all three postflop streets as the board came JK4, then 2, then 2.

Alache called the first bet of 19,000, then called turn bet of 25,000. Vallejo pushed out 54,000 following the river, and after pausing for a while and counting out what he had left, Alache announced he was all-in and Vallejo quickly released his cards.

Alache has been up and down all day, but now sits with about 195,000 while Vallejo is at 135,000. –MH

8:34pm: Brazil’s Lopes building
Level 17 – Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Brazilian players have been on a tear lately, as they’ve claimed eleven — YES, ELEVEN — PokerStars SCOOP titles over the last week and a half. A Brazilian is also the reigning LAPT champion, after Rodrigo Strong claimed the LAPT9 Panana title earlier this year. Gustavo Lopes still has a way to go to match those kind of results but a recent elimination has him trending up near the chip average.

Action was picked up with Jean Luigi Zaniboni opening to 12,000 off a short stack. A player in middle position called and then Lopes three-bet to 38,000 from the cutoff. The button and blinds folded before Zaniboni four-bet shoved for 42,000. The player in middle position folded and Lopes called to put the short stack at risk.

He had his opponent dominated, holding AQ to AJ. The board ran out clean for Lopes and his kicker played to send Zaniboni to the rail in 63rd place. When the dust settled, the Brazilian was playing just shy of 160,000. — WOC

8:22pm: Cichy comes back from dinner to join the ‘club’
Level 17 – Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Hunter Cichy wasn’t included in our post-dinner quarter-million chip club post but after scoring two knockouts, he’s well over that number. The first elimination saw Cichy pick up pocket kings in a perfect spot, calling the all-in of former chip leader Maxence Debar.

The Frenchman shoved from middle position for 77,500 and after some thought, Cichy called in the cutoff. The rest of the table folded and his KK was up against the short stack’s AQ. The board ran out 98275 and the pocket pair held to score the knockout. Debar bowed out in 68th place and a few hands later, Cichy made ace-queen work.

The knockout was missed but Cichy held ace-queen and after an ace-high board, Cesar Lopez was heading to the rail in 65th place. When the dust was finally allowed to settle at Table 10, Cichy was playing just shy of 270,000. That’s good for a top-fifteen stack heading through Level 17. — WOC

Hunter Cichy-LAPT Panama-2016-9575.jpg

Hunter seeks further prey

8:14pm: Back-from-break look at the big stacks
Level 17 – Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

We’ve done a circuit of the remaining 71 players to let you know about the big stacks. Anderson Blanco Cassio is the leader now with 560,000, having passed Jessica Perez to assume first position. Check out the members of the quarter-million club below, as compiled by the intrepid WOC. –MH

Name Country Chips
Anderson Blanco Cassio Colombia 560,000
Jessica Perez Panama 440,000
Andres Carrillo Colombia 395,000
Raul Paez Spain 385,000
Aaron Mermelstein United States 375,000
Austin Peck USA 310,000
Andres Jeckeln Argentina 290,000
Janir Muller Brazil 285,000
Luis Cruz Colombia 285,000
Jonathan Arturo Colombia 270,000
Jose Angel Annaloro Quintoro Venezuela 265,000
Steven Thompson Costa Rica 260,000
Paul Cukier Costa Rica 260,000

7:58pm: Play resumes
Level 17 – Blinds 2,500/5,000 (ante 500)

Players are back from dinner and Day 2 has resumed. There are 71 left at present with the plan being to play down to 32 tonight. –MH


17 2,500 5,000 500

6:43pm: Dinner bell rings

With 71 players still in the hunt for the next LAPT Main Event title, players are taking a 75-minute dinner break. –MH

6:37pm: More fall as dinner approaches
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

We’re seeing a wave of busts here as the dinner break approaches, with Jose Luis Colin Perez going out in 77th, then Daniel Woycik — the player with a prayer we were reporting on just before the bubble bursting — following him in 76th.

Daniel Woycik-LAPT Panama-2016-9532.jpg

Prayers answered! Woycik cashes
Pablo Rafael Bravo (75th), Pablo Emilio Vives Zamora (74th), and Hilario Ochoa Estrella (73rd) were next felted. Then it was Carlos Manuel Lam Wu getting all-in with 88 but running into Janir Muller’s QQ, and five cards later also getting knocked out in 72nd. Muller is up to 265,000 now.

Like everyone cashing so far, these half-dozen players picked up $2,460 for their efforts. –MH

6:24pm: First cashes
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Shortly after the bursting of the bubble, Joaquin Matias Ruiz was swiftly ousted in 79th. Then on a neighboring table it was Flavio Alexis Hidalgo open-pushing his last 45,900 with 55, and after a bit of a tank David Andres Barbosa called him from the blinds holding 99.

The community cards came K78, then Q, then J, and Hidalgo headed over to the cashier’s desk to pick up his 78th-place money. Meanwhile Barbosa has 125,000. –MH

6:20pm: ITM, few minutes until dinner
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

After a relatively long bubble portion of play, we are in the money here at the LAPT9 Panama Main Event. Everyone of the remaining 79 players have locked up a $2,460 score but those players all also likely have their sights set on the $138,225 that is up top.

The PokerStars blog will track this field through the rest of this Day 2 session, which is scheduled to end after Level 20 or when four tables remain. That coverage will be interrupted in a few minutes though, as this field is about to head on a 75-minute dinner break. — WOC

6:17pm: Blanco does it either side of bubble
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Before the bubble, Anderson Blanco Cassio cut down Oscar Alache and in the next meaningful pot at our stacked Table 12 lineup, he sent Arturo Noceda to the rail on the bubble. Action was picked up in the first hand on a board of J8532, with Blanco checking to an in position Alache.

Anderson Blanco-LAPT Panama-2016-9543.jpg

Blanco bursts the bubble
The reining LAPT Player of the Year cut out a bet of 49,000 and pushed it across the line. Blanco went deep into the tank and then eventually called, an action that brought a tap of the table from Alache. He was bluffing and after Blanco tabled AJ, he took in the pot. That moved him up near 440,000 and cut Alache down below the 170,000 chip average but a few hands later, he was locking up a cash for this entire field regardless of their stack size.

That hand was picked up with Blanco limping in middle position and Arturo Noceda raising from the blinds. Blanco called and the J76 flop went check-bet-call, for an unknown amount. The 7 paired the board on the turn and Noceda checked again, with Blanco betting 46,800.

That represented close to half of Noceda’s remaining stack and after some thought, he called. The 4 fell on the turn and Noceda checked for a third time, only to here his opponent declare himself “all-in”. Noceda didn’t want to see that and while the rest of the tournament field waited at their respective seats, he sent close to four minutes making a decision.

Arturo Noceda-LAPT Panama-2016-9571.jpg

No cash for Arturo Nocedo
In the end, he elected to call, only to be shown K7. Blanco had turned trips and gotten maximum value, eliminating Nocedo in 80th place in the process to bring this LAPT9 Panama Main Event into the money. That field is just over 20 minutes from the Day 2 dinner break and Blanco, who is behind 550,000, will likely be the overwhelming chip leader when that 75-minute recess begins. — WOC

6:12pm: “Uno mano mas”
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

“Uno mano mas” has become the refrain here for the last 20 minutes as we’ve continued to watch each of the tables play one hand apiece without anyone being eliminated.

After losing that all-in to Steven Betranol, Daniel Woycik has been taking to sitting with his eyes closed and hands before him, appearing to be praying to a higher power that his stack — now under 20,000 — will last long enough for him to make the money.

Daniel Woycik-LAPT Panama-2016-9554.jpg

Player with a prayer
A couple of others have just a bit more than Woycik right now, while only Eugenio Luis Pernia has less, sitting with about 9,000 or just over a couple of big blinds. –MH

5:55pm: Betranol’s bubble double cripples Woycik
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

The first hand of hand for hand play saw Daniel Woycik have a chance to burst the bubble but he couldn’t, instead shipping a majority of his stack across the table to Steven Betranol. Action was picked up with Bertranol opening to 8,500 from middle position and after some folds, Woycik three-bet to 20,000 from the small blind.

Bertranol called and after the J102 flop, Woycik continued for a 24,000 chip wager. Bertranol quickly shoved, with his stack weighing in at 44,400. It didn’t matter the amount to Woycik though, as he immediately threw in chips for the call and awaited his fate and his opponent’s fate.

“What do you have?” Woycik asked while the tournament staff kept their cards face down so that other tables could finish there hands without vital bubble information.

“Pair and a flush draw.” said Bertranol sternly, to which Woycik tapped the table before admitting that that was “good”. Once the other tables finished, the cards were finally tabled and neither player was lying, as Bertranol turned over KJ. Woycik held AK and needed an non-diamond queen or ace to score the knockout.

Unluckily for him, the A came on the turn, giving Bertranol his flush and locking up a much needed double. He’s now playing close to 135,000 while Woycik is now one of the shorter stacks in the room with just over a starting stack. — WOC

5:40pm: One away from the cash
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Pablo Rafael Bravo just brought the tournament one step closer to the money after delivering a KO to Miguel Angel Mago Pino.

They are down to 80 players now, meaning hand-for-hand play is about to commence. One more elimination and they’re in the money! –MH

5:39pm: Another bubble-up
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

Pablo Ezequiel just avoided getting knocked out a couple of spots shy of the cash when his 99 ran clean versus Gustavo Lopes’ 66 after a preflop all-in. A nine on the flop meant the hand was over by the turn, and Ezequiel continues with about 22,000 while Lopes is still up around the leaders with about 250,000. –MH

5:33pm: Perez doubles on the bubble
Level 16 – Blinds 2,000/4,000 (ante 500)

As Level 16 began, Jose Luis Colin Perez was all-in and at risk with JJ versus Aaron Mermelstein’s Q9, but a 473K5 runout was fine for Perez, and he survives with about 40,000. Mermelstein is still in good shape with 208,000. –MH


16 2,000 4,000 500

5:22pm: Cukier cracks aces to bring bubble closer
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

We’re now just two spots from the money, as Paul Cukier just cracked pocket aces to send Mario Niciforo to the rail. Action was picked up late, with the cards on their back, with Cukier behind 44 and Niciforo standing in agony with AA in front of him.

The board read 433 and there was nearly 100 big blinds in the middle, with Niciforo being the at risk player. He was screaming at the board, hoping his tournament life would be saved on the turn or river. It wasn’t though, as the 5 and 8 completed the board to confirm his elimination.

It was a drastic difference in emotions, as Niciforo cursed himself, his opponent, the cards and the poker gods, while Cukier gave himself a quick fist pump to celebrate the double. He then returned to stack up just over 300,000, good for one of the top stacks heading into hand-for-hand play. –WOC

5:13pm: Bravo busts Carter
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

King Malik Carter has hit the rail just a few spots shy of the cash after having committed his last 20,000 or so with J10 and finding himself up against Pablo Rafael Bravo’s A9.

The Q7K26 board hit neither player’s hand, giving Bravo the best between them and sending Carter railward.

Bravo has 134,000. There are 82 players left — three eliminations away from the money. –MH

5:08pm: Top-top no good for Brenes
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

Aaron Mermelstein’s stack has been yo-yoing over the last few levels but he’s now peaking as this LAPT9 Panama Main Event approaches the bubble. He just flopped a set against Daniel Brenes’ top-top, scoring a full double through the Costa Rican.

Action was picked up with Maxence Debar opening to 6,500 from early position and after some folds, Mermelstein three-bet to 20,000 from the button. Brenes, who was in the small blind, thought for a minute and then called, with Debar calling to send three players to the flop.

Brenes then led the A73 flop for 30,300 and after Debar got out of the way, Mermelstein called off a close to 85,000 chip stack. The 6 fell on the turn and Brenes immediately announced “all-in”, with Mermelstein quickly answering that declaration with a few chips in the middle and his cards on their back.

He held 77 and Brenes could only shake his head as he tabled AK. Mermelstein didn’t need it but the 7 then completed the board to give him quads. When the dust settled, Mermelstein stacked up close to 240,000, a stack that, based on the conversation after the hand, he wouldn’t have had if Brenes had shoved preflop.

“Not you, I call him though. He has better than sevens I tap the table and laugh.” Mermelstein joked while pointing across the table to Maxence Debar. The Frenchman laughed as well, as he and Mermelstein have been building quite the dynamic over the last few levels… — WOC

4:55pm: Tricky Perez
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

Postflop back-and-forthing between Jessica Perez and Joey Spanne saw the latter finally decide to fold and concede the pot. As Perez gathered the chips, Spanne leaned forward to commend her on a good hand.

“You’re a very tricky player,” added Spanne with a grin, and Perez just continued to stack. She has 386,000 now — the most we’ve counted today — while Spanne is doing well also with 188,000. –MH

4:47pm: Over 1,500,000 in play at Table 12
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

We’ve referenced Table 11 as our ‘feature table’ over the last few levels but Table 12 might be giving them a run for their money. That seven-handed line up is working just shy of 1,500,000 total chips, with six of the seven players over the chip average.

Anderson Cassio leads that group, as he’s shot up to the 325,000 chip mark over the last hour. Oscar Alache, the reigning LAPT Player of the Year, sits second with 260,000 and Luis Cruz is playing a sizable 230,000. Mexican Arturo Moreno is behind 180,000, while Hunter Cichy and Elliott Peterman are either side of 170,000.

Those deep stacks could create an interesting dynamic as we work towards the money bubble, especially since their table is the first to break once we get into the money. — WOC

4:47pm: Joerg busts, bubble nears
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

Another bustout before the bubble to share, this time involving Costa Rica’s Charles William Joerg.

After a raise by Alcides Gomez, Joerg reraise-pushed with his last 25,700 holding A8 and Gomez called with 55. The board came 3K3Q6, failing to connect with Joerg’s hand and he is out.

Just 85 are left now — six from the money. –MH

4:35pm: Meran mows down Yepez
Level 15 – Blinds 1,500/3,000 (ante 400)

On the first hand back from the break, Luis Alexander Yepez open-raised all in with his last 15,800 from middle position, and after it folded around to Alberto Miguel Meran in the big blind he thought a moment before making the call.

Yepez had K4 and a slight edge over Meran’s J9, but the 96J flop hit Meran’s hand twice to put him in front. The Q turn did give Yepez straight outs, but the river was the 8 and he’s out shy of the cash.

Meran is up to 70,000 with 88 players left. –MH


15 1,500 3,000 400

4:15pm: Break before the bubble

With 89 players left — just 10 from the cash — they’ve reached the end of Level 14 and are now taking another 15-minute break. –MH


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4:01pm: A race that wasn’t a race
Level 14 – Blinds 1,200/2,400 (ante 300)

After Jose Luis Colin Perez committed the last of his short stack on a 9K4 flop, King Malik Carter thought a short while and called, then shook his head with a smile when he saw Perez table KK for top set.

Carter showed his 1010, saying “runner-runner?” pleadingly as the dealer completed the board with a couple of blanks to give Perez the hand.

As Perez stacked his chips, the pair discussed the hand.

“You gotta win those races,” said Carter, still grinning.

“Well, actually…” Perez began his reply.

Both players are sitting in the 60,000-chip range about a dozen eliminations off the money. –MH

3:53pm: Changing of the guard at ‘feature table’?
Level 14 – Blinds 1,200/2,400 (ante 300)

Austin Peck-LAPT Panama-2016-9486.jpg

Austin Peck, mean mugging at the ‘feature table’
The deadly blog jinx might have bitten Maxence Debar over the last level. He potentially might, gasp, not even be the chip leader at Table 11 because he’s dropped slightly over the last 60 minutes and Austin Peck has built up an over 225,000 chip stack.

The 20-year old Texan, who isn’t even allowed to play in most United States based casinos until his 21st birthday, started the day with one of the tougher table draws. Peck was surrounded by two-time LAPT champion Mario Lopez, chip leader Maxence Debar and his countryman Aaron Mermelstein.

He’s outlasted Lopez, been above Mermelstein on the counts for the better part of the last few levels and is now creeping towards Debar, even upping the stakes at an already stacked outer table. –WOC

3:44pm: Under 100
Level 14 – Blinds 1,200/2,400 (ante 300)

There are 99 players left from the 553-entry field in the LAPT9 Panama Main Event, which means after 20 more eliminations the money bubble will have burst.

Speaking of the money, a min-cash will be worth $2,460 while the winner will earn a $138,225 first prize. Here’s what the payouts are at the final table — you can check the “Prize pool and payouts” page for the full list. –MH

1st: $138,225
2nd: $86,880
3rd: $62,200
4th: $48,500
5th: $38,040
6th: $29,880
7th: $22,300
8th: $15,440

Ballroom-LAPT Panama-2016-9478.jpg

LAPT9 Panama Main Event Day 2 action
3:33pm: Stackin’ seven over 200K
Level 14 – Blinds 1,200/2,400 (ante 300)

We’re down below the 100 player mark and as we head towards the money bubble, the LAPT9 Panama Main Event leaderboard is starting to take shape. As it stands, just over a half dozen players are over the 200,000 chip mark, with Maxence Debar still leading the way.

He’s dropped slightly since our last update but the Frenchman is still pacing this field with 265,000. While Debar has been out in front from the beginning, American Ryan Colton has quietly come from the middle of the pack.

Colton is playing a quarter-million, after coming into the restart with 120,000. That’s good for double his Day 2 starting point and he’s now second in chips. Brazilian Gustavo Lopez, who final tabled the LAPT Grand Final last year in his home country, rounds out the top-three.

A list of the bigger stacks in the room is provided below. –WOC

Name Chips
Maxence Debar 265,000
Ryan Colton 250,000
Gustavo Lopes 245,000
Anderson Cassio 240,000
Jessica Perez 235,000
Steven Thompson 220,000
Valerio Varela 215,000

Gustavo Lopes-LAPT Panama-2016-9052.jpg

Gustavo Lopes leaping up the counts on Day 2
For a complete rundown of the stacks, consult our “selected Day 2 chip counts” page via the above link. –WOC


14 1,200 2,400 300

3:21pm: A double-“whoa” hand
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

It was one of those hands eliciting a double-“whoa” from the table — one after the flop, then another after the turn.

Valerio Vicente Varela raised from the button and watched Ryan McEathron reraise all-in for what amounted to 41,000 more. It folded back to Varela who thought a couple of beats, then made the call.

McEathron had 98 and needed help against Varela’s A5, and the 7106 provided assistance quite handily, giving McEathron a straight.

“Whoa,” commented everyone.

But those two hearts were worrisome, and the Q turn suddenly snatched the hand and pot from McEathron by giving Varela an unbeatable flush.

“Whoa,” they repeated.

And woe was McEathron, suddenly drawing dead. Varela is now up around 195,000 and among the big stacks as Level 13 comes to an end. –MH

3:11pm: Maxence moves himself higher, nearing 300K
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

It’s a shame that Table 11 is going to break before the money bubble bursts, as that stacked table has continued to bring us action heading towards the final quarter of Level 13. That hand was picked up with Daniel Cuadra opening from under the gun and both Maxence Debar, in middle position, and Aaron Mermelstein, in the big blind, called to see the flop.

Mermelstein and Cuadra checked the 754 board, while Debar took the betting lead with a 8,700 chip wager. Mermelstein called and Cuadra got out of the way before the A fell on the turn. Mermelstein checked again and Debar continued for 16,700. The out of position Mermelstein called to see the J complete the board.

He checked for a third time and Debar cut out another bet, pushing 21,300 across the line. Mermelstein, who had just been delivered an espresso before the hand, took his head phones off and picked up his cup. In one swig, it was gone and that jolt of caffein sent him deep into the tank. He spent close to three minutes there and eventually threw out chips to call.

Debar slowly tabled 54 and Mermelstein nodded his head and then said something about a “check-raise”. He’d glad he didn’t, as check-calling likely lost him the minimum in that encounter. After the hand, Debar is working a leading 290,000, while Mermelstein is playing just over 60,000. — WOC

3:01pm: Jaikel’s run concludes
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

We mentioned earlier Luis Jaikel surviving an all-in in which he held pocket aces and the hand held for him. Alas for the Costa Rican, he was just now in another all-in spot versus David Andres Barbosa, and this time his opponent was the one holding the rockets.

Jaikel had A10 and had bet his last 35,000 or so on the hand, but Barbosa tabled AA. The board ran out 72329, and Jaikel exited. Barbosa, meanwhile, is up to 118,000. –MH

2:44pm: Deja vu at the top
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

During Thursday’s Day 1A flight, Raul “El Toro” Paez set the early pace, cracking 100,000 before anyone else could even more up to a double starting stack. Hunter Cichy then took control of the chip lead after the dinner break and until the last two levels of that first flight, those two seemed like the betting favorite to bag the chip lead.

Alas, they each stumbled coming across the finish line but after a day off in Panama, they’ve come into Day 2 running. Paez is already up and over the 200,000 chip mark and Cichy is trending towards 170,000. That’s good for some of the top stacks across the remaining tables and they’ll certainly be players to watch as this field continues to work towards the money. — WOC

2:36pm: Escobedo continues to evaporate, Borrego builds
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

Jessica Borrego-LAPT Panama-2016-9473.jpg

Jessica Borrego building
Rafael Escobedo was the top stack through yesterday’s Day 1B flight but he’s done nothing but fall through the first two levels of this Day 2 session. He’s now down below the 50,000 chip mark, after being out kicked by Jessica Borrego. That hand was picked up with Escobedo checking from the blinds on a Q10553 board.

Borrego bet 9,000 and Escobedo quickly called, only to see his opponent table KQ. Top pair was good and so was her kicker, as Escobedo frustratingly through over QJ. After bemoaning his luck, or lack thereof, since the restart, he sat back in his chair, just staring upwards as Borrego stacked her newly won chips.

She’s gone in the opposite direction since starting play at 12 PM, as she’s now up near the 180,000 after ending Day 1A with a top-three stack.

2:25pm: Lopez loses stack, Barbero bounced
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

We noted at the start of the day how two-time LAPT champion Mario Lopez had drawn a seat at one of the the tougher tables in the room. He’s in that seat no longer, as he’s also been knocked out of the event.

Lopez follows his fellow Argentinian Nacho Barbero to the rail, but the consolation for him is more attention to give to SCOOPin’, as he’s been doing the last couple of days.

Nacho Barbero-SCOOP-LAPT Panama-2016-9373.jpg

That means we’re left with just one of the two-time LAPT champs in the field, Oscar Alache who is doing just fine with a stack of around 180,000. –MH

2:25pm: Severino sunk
Level 13 – Blinds 1,000/2,000 (ante 300)

Shortly after play resumed followin the break Jose Severino lost the last of his short stack to Andres Guzman and has been sent railward. Guzman now sits with about 158,000. –MH


13 1,000 2,000 300

2:00pm: Break time

Nearly 40 players hit the rail during those first two hours, as there are 133 left to take the first 15-minute break of Day 2. –MH


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1:57pm: Jaikel’s aces hold, Severino slips
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

Luis Jaikel was all-in on a 4JK flop and at risk versus Jose Severino, albeit in an advantageous position with AA versus the latter’s KQ.

The turn was the 7 and river the 5, and Jaikel’s aces held. He has 65,000 now as the first break of the day nears while Severino is now down to just 14,000. –MH

1:54pm: No sweat for Colin
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

Janir Muller was one of the loudest players during yesterday’s Day 1B flight, both on and off the felt. He’s been quiet so far today, yet to have one of his should be patented celebrations but he did open this action with a pre flop raise from middle position.

A player in late position then shoved for 37,500 and after some folds, Jose Colin called for less from the big blind. Muller looked like he wanted to call but he eventually folded A4, meaning one of the original shovers outs were taken, as he held AQ.

Colin turned over JJ, meaning it was a flip but that flip and those outs that the original shover had counted for nothign after the J99 flop. Colin didn’t have a sweat, as he flopped a full house and after the turn and river fell, he was scoring a much needed double.

He’s now a few minutes from the first break of the day, working just shy of 80,000. The original shover meanwhile, was left with just a few thousand chips and eliminated a few hands later. — WOC

1:48pm: Ibolache’s aces get run out
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

As a blogger, or reporter, or journalist, however you want to categorize us, watching a player think they’ve won an all-in pot for their tournament life, when they really haven’t, is always difficult. That’s exactly what just happened at Table 15, as Mauricio Ibolache got his stack in with pocket aces and didn’t realize that he had been bounced by running cards.

That hand was picked up with Matthew Wantman checking from the blinds on a J44 flop. Ibolache, who was under the gun, quickly bet 7,500 and after some thought, Joezer Katolan announced “all-in” from the button. Wantman got out of the way and Ibolache snap called, tabling AA. Katolan rolled his eyes and turned over AJ, with top pair drawing very thin against the pocket rockets.

Those rockets went up in flames after the Q and 3 completed the board and Katolan’s unlikely runner-runner flush. At first glance, even the dealer didn’t catch the four clubs on board but after a few seconds, everyone had seemed to realize what just happened. Other than Ibolache, who was mid-celebration before he finally got the bad news.

“Aye!” he exclaimed before pushing his stack over the line to have the dealer see what the damage was. After the stacks were cut down, the damage was his tournament life, as Katolan’s 34,700 had his opponent slightly covered.

While Ibolache might not have seen the beat in real time, he’s likely not soon to forget it. After leaving the tournament table, we saw the Chilean make his way around the room, telling his elimination hand to a handful of people before finally exiting the tournament area. Katolan isn’t going anywhere though, as he’s playing just shy of 85,000 heading towards the end of Level 12. — WOC

1:39pm: From the world to Panama
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

Perhaps you know that Panama is home to the largest free trade zone in the entire Western half of the globe. In other words, the world (or most of it, anyway) comes to Panama to trade.

You could say the LAPT9 Panama Main Event exemplifies a similar idea, given that players from 39 different countries have come to the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino to trade chips back and forth in an effort to earn a piece of the $721,665 prize pool.

Colombia is the best represented country among those 39, having sent 91 players, with Venezuela (80), Argentina (65), Costa Rica (58), and host country Panama (49) next on the list. The graph below provides more details on this international trade summit (click to embiggen). –MH


1:32pm: Tuthill collects from Escobedo, Carrillo
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

Rafael Escobedo ended Day 1B as the biggest stack in that starting flight and the second-biggest overall heading into today. But things haven’t gone quite as well for him so far on Day 2, and he’d slipped close to 130,000 before a hand arose just now that saw him limp in from middle position, Nathan Tuthill call from the button, Cesar Lopez also call from the small blind, and Andres Carrillo check from the BB.

The flop came J39, and it checked to Escobedo who continued for 4,200. It took a while, but eventually all three of his opponents called the bet. Then after the 4 turn it checked to Escobedo who again bet, this time 6,100, and both Tuthill and Carrillo called.

The river was the 5, and this time it checked to Tuthill who thought about betting, but decided also to check. Carrillo mucked his hand face down, Escobedo showed 98 for eights, and Tuthill won with J8 for jacks.

Tuthill climbs to about 90,000, Escobedo slips further to about 120,000, and Carrillo sits with 128,000. –MH

1:18pm: Restrepo fades the world with fours
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

Carlos Restrepo-LAPT Panama-2016-9127.jpg

Restrepo in action yesterday, doubling today
Winning flips with small pocket pairs is hard. A lot can go wrong and for Carlos Restrepo, it nearly did in a recent hand. He and Jose Severino just got Restrepo’s 45,000 chip stack in the middle pre flop, with Severino holding AK to the short stack’s 44.

Restrepo faded the 1099 flop but not really, as Severino picked up both counterfeit outs. The 2 added to that inventory of outs, as Severino was now drawing to a flush. The J completed the board and the sweat was over, as Restrepo had faded the world to score the double.

While he stacked up his nearly 90,000 chip stack, Severino, who was a late chip leader during yesterday’s Day 1B flight, has to go back to the drawing board behind his 55,000 stack. — WOC

1:08pm: Lincourt no more
Level 12 – Blinds 800/1,600 (ante 200)

The Canadian Francois Lincourt is out, having lost his short stack at the very start of Level 12. He’s one of two dozen players who have already been sent railward during just over an hour of poker on Day 2. There are 146 players remaining. –MH


12 800 1,600 200

12:59pm: Alache ascending, near 200K
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

In one of the final hands of Level 10, Oscar Alache and Luiz Cruz got involved in a sizable pot, one that has moved Alache up near the 200,000 chip mark. Action was picked up with the two-time LAPT champion and reining Player of the Year opening to 2,700 from the hijack and after Cruz called in the cutoff, the button and blinds folded.

That sent two players to the A54 flop and Alache continued for 3,000. Cruz quickly called and after the 4 paired the board on the turn, Alache bet again, this time throwing out 5,000. Cruz barely hesitated and called for a second time, to see the 2 complete the board.

Alache then took a few moments to think about his river move and eventually fired another bet, sizing this one much bigger, as it weighed in at 16,500. Cruz immediately flicked a chip across the line for a call, only to see his opponent table 64 for turned trips. Three-of-a-kind was good and while Alache was getting pushed the pot, Cruz could only roll his eyes and access the damage.

He’s still working close to 170,000 but Alache is now leading Table 12, playing just over 190,000. — WOC

12:54pm: Nigh sighs
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

After calling a preflop raise by Luis Antonio Duprey from the big blind, Peter Nigh put his last 3,500 in the middle following a 6910 flop holding K6 and was ahead when Duprey called with KQ. But the turn was the J to fill a gutshot for Duprey, and after exhaling disappointedly Nigh departed even before the meaningless river completed the board.

Duprey has about 35,000. –MH

12:45pm: Jacks serve Thompson
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

“I am all in…!

Said Steven Thompson to Tournament Director Fernando Obando who was passing by the table. Thompson was standing, having pushed all-in with his last 17,500 from the cutoff, as he saw Alcides Gomez call from the small blind.

Thompson had JJ and Gomez AK, and the 772103 runout ensured Thompson he could keep his seat.

“Run it twice,” cracked Obando, and Thompson chuckled. He’d survived the only runout of the board there would be, and now sits with about 38,000 while Gomez still has 52,000. –MH

12:38pm: The end of Nigh drawing nigh?
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

Peter Nigh ended Day 1A sitting in 63rd out of the 63 survivors, while Janir Muller finished Day 1B among the big stacks of the 109 making it through that second flight.

Just now Muller opened from early position, Nigh defended his big blind with a call, then the latter folded to a continuation bet following a flop containing both an ace and a king.

Nigh has but 6,000 and looks as though he might be at the very bottom of the counts again with about 160 players left, while Muller presently sits with just under 140,000. –MH

12:30pm: Battle of the ‘two-timers’, Mermelstein cuts down Mario
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

At the start of the day, we mentioned that Table 11 was one of the tougher lineups in the room. Two of those headlining players, both two-time champions in their own regard, just got involved in a sizable pot that has moved two-time WPT champion Aaron Mermelstein up and over the 100,000 chip mark.

Action was picked up with Austin Peck opening to 2,600 from middle position and after Mermelstein called in the hijack, another player called on the button. Two-time LAPT victor Mario Lopez was in the small blind and he three-bet to 10,800.

Peck inspected the landscape behind him and folded, before Mermelstein put in the necessary chips for a call. The button folded and it went heads up to the Q64 flop. Lopez led that flop for 9,200 and Mermelstein called to see the 9 fall on the turn.

Lopez prepared another barrel and bet 15,900. Mermelstein, who had close to 40,000 left behind, called and after the 10 fell to complete the board, both players quickly checked.

“Ace-high.” Lopez said, flashing the A before Mermelstein flipped over QJ. Top pair was good and before folding, Lopez showed the K and shrugged his shoulders to wonder what else he could have done to win the pot. Evidently nothing and when the dust settled, Mermelstein was playing just over 105,000, while Lopez is down below 45,000. — WOC

12:27pm: So long, Leo
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez entered today with a stack of roughly 20 big blinds, but within half an hour of play today the Argentinian is down to zero. No second LAPT Panama title for Fernandez, who won here during Season 6. –MH

Leo Fernandez-LAPT Panama-2016-9397.jpg

Leo grins, bears it
12:16pm: Tough table
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

Day 2s often begin with a lot of focus on the seat draw and who’s wound up where.

As we were cruising the 25 tables here at the start, Table 11 caught our eye thanks to a line-up including brothers Daniel and Erick Brenes seated next to each other, two-time LAPT Main Event champion Mario Lopez to their left, start-of-day chip leader Maxence Debar next in line, then the Americans Austin Peck and Aaron Mermelstein on the other side.

Quite the line-up, and it looks as though Daniel has already lost his spot among it as King Malik Carter has been moved into his seat following a table break. –MH

Mario Lopez and Maxence Debar-LAPT Panama-2016-9417.jpg

Mario Lopez (left) and Maxence Debar (right)
12:00pm: Day 2 begins
Level 11 – Blinds 600/1,200 (ante 200)

Most of the 172 remaining players have arrived and the first hands of Day 2 are being dealt. –MH


11 600 1,200 200

10:55am: Maxence Debar leads charge into Day 2

Buenos días again, everyone, from warm and sunny Panama City where just over an hour from now Day 2 of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event will be getting underway.

From a 553-entry field just 172 players remain, all vying to reach the top 79 spots and the cash, with the $138,225 first prize up top providing still further motivation to make a deep run to Monday’s final table.

Best positioned to begin today will be Maxence Debar who built a huge stack of 289,900 by the end of his Day 1 flight.

Maxence Debar-LAPT Panama-2016-9010.jpg

Maxence seeks max dollars
Debar’s nearest challengers to start Day 2 will be Rafael Escobedo (215,500), Nicolas Baliner (184,900), Jessica Perez (178,900, and Luis Cruz (177,700).

Meanwhile Hunter Cichy (123,500), LAPT8 Peru champion Claudio Moya (122,200), Raul Pino (116,200), Gustavo Lopes (100,200), and Aaron Mermelstein (89,700) all return to above average stacks, while two-time LAPT champions Oscar Alache (88,200), Mario Lopez (81,400), and Nacho Barbero (52,600) remain in contention, as does the lone Team PokerStars Pro in the field, Leo Fernandez (24,900).

Leo Fernandez-LAPT Panama-2016-9270.jpg

Leo’s currently looking up at the big stacks
Click here for a look at a complete rundown of all 172 players’ chip counts to start Day 2.

We’ll be back at 12 noon Central time when the first hands of Day 2 are dealt, and carry you all of the way through the bubble bursting and down to 32 players (so goes the plan, anyway) with live updates, photos, chip counts, and more. Hasta entonces! –MH


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

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