Tuesday, 30th May 2023 20:18
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They say the creme rises to the top and after coming into this Day 3 restart with an average stack, rise is exactly what Raul “El Toro” Paez did over the last few levels. It was a fast paced penultimate LAPT9 Panama Main Event session and the only thing quicker than the rate of eliminations was the growth of Paez’s stack. 

Raul Paez-LAPT Panama-2016-9821-c.jpg

“El Toro” top into Day 4

Right before the two table redraw, Paez flopped a set to score a double and a knockout in the same hand. That moved him into the chip lead and he never let that pole position go, continuing to climb throughout the rest of the day to eventually pace this final table into tomorrow’s restart. 

He’ll bring just under 2,600,000 back for Day 4 and if Paez is the creme of this group, with nearly $2,000,000 in career earnings, then Aaron Mermelstein is the, uh, thing that rises just under the creme. 

The two-time World Poker Tour champion will return second in chips, playing 1,800,000 and he’s going to be joined by two other Americans at tomorrow’s final table. Austin Peck will come back with 1,350,000 and Miami’s Alcides Gomez will return with 560,000 as the shortest stack. 

Anderson Blanco and Ruben Suarez will both return over the chip average but having taken very different paths to get there. Blanco bottomed out after that massive hand with Paez, while Suarez quietly built throughout the day. Paul Cukier was short stacked for much of Day 3 but found a much needed late double to push himself over 1,300,000 and Andres Carrillo will hope to experience that quick jump early tomorrow, as he’ll return with 660,000.

Aaron Mermeltein-LAPT Panama-2016-9810.jpg

Mermelstein just below the ‘creme’

The biggest name to miss the final table was reigning LAPT Player of the Year Oscar Alache, who went out in 14th and Brazil’s run for back-to-back LAPT titles ended one spot earlier when Janir Muller fell in 15th. Those two players each picked up nearly $7,500 scores and even though this final table is guaranteed at minimum payout of $15,440, everyone will have their sights set on the top of that pay scale. 

Here’s how the chips will look when the final table starts at 12 noon tomorrow:









Name Country Chips
Raul Paez Spain 2,580,000
Aaron Mermelstein USA 1,802,000
Ruben Suarez Venezuela 1,477,000
Austin Peck USA 1,351,000
Paul Cukier Costa Rica 1,341,000
Anderson Blanco Colombia 1,225,000
Andres Carrillo Colombia 659,000
Alcides Gomez USA 562,000

That’s where nearly $140,000 first prize and the LAPT9 Panama Main Event title await and the PokerStars blog will be here tomorrow to bring you all of that action. — WOC


5:55pm: Tobias Schwecht eliminated in 9th place ($12,200)
Level 25 – Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 4,000)

After getting crippled, Tobias Schwecht was more or less all-in in the small blind. The short stack had just 23,000 left and the 4,000 chip ante plus the 15,000 chip blind left him just 4,000. Those chips got in the middle after Aaron Mermelstein opened the button to 60,000. 

After Schwecht shoved, Austin Peck called in the big blind and the two Americans checked the AJ7 flop. The K fell on the turn and Peck check-folded to a 35,000 chip bet. Mermelstein admitted, “I just wanted the side pot.” before tabling 104 but he’d get the whole pot, as Schwecht turned over 96 and was eliminated after the 3 completed the board. 

The Austrian will make $12,200 for his LAPT9 Panama Main Event run and the remaining eight players are now bagging up their chips for tomorrow’s final table. A complete recap of Day 3 will be posted shortly. — WOC

Tobias Schwecht-LAPT Panama-2016-9855.jpg

Tobias Schwecht – 9th place

5:53pm: Cukier calls correct to double through Schwecht
Level 25 – Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 4,000)

The first all-in and call of this final table didn’t end Day 3 but it did crippled Tobias Schwecht. The Austrian was left with less than one big blind after Paul Cukier called correct to double in a battle of the short stacks. 

Action was picked up with Cukier opening to 66,000 from middle position and after some folds, Schwecht three-bet shoved for 670,000 from the big blind. Cukier seemed to hate the spot and he didn’t like it even more after finding out that he was slightly covered. That meant he was calling off for his tournament life and on an official final table bubble, you don’t want to be incorrect in that spot. 

After close to two minutes in the tank, he called and found out he wasn’t incorrect. He turned over AQ and Schwecht cringed before tabling AJ. The domination held through the 974 flop and after the 5 fell on the turn, Schwecht was drawing to just three outs. The 2 wasn’t one of them and Cukier held to score a much needed double. 

When the stacks were cut down, Schwecht was left with just 23,000. Cukier was up to nearly 1,300,000, his best standing during Day 3. — WOC

5:46pm: Slow and steady
Level 25 – Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 4,000)

The pace has slowed considerably since the redraw to the nine-handed table, with Aaron Mermelstein opening most hands and either getting a little or no action most of the time.

An exception just now arose when Mermelstein raised to 60,000 from middle position, Austin Peck called from a seat over, and Raul Paez called from the big blind. 

The flop came king-high — KQ6 — and it checked around to Peck who bet 67,000. Paez called, then Mermelstein made it 280,000 to go, prompting a fold from Peck. Paez tanked for three or four minutes, then finally let his hand go, too.

Paez still leads with 2.68 million with Mermelstein next in line with 1.79 million. Meanwhile Alcides Gomez is the short stack with 480,000. –MH

25 24,000 30,000 4,000

5:30pm: Paez pacing final table, one from end of day
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

We’re down the final table and the remaining nine players have taken their seats and are ready to resume play with Level 24. Day 3 is scheduled to play down to an official final table of eight, meaning we are just one elimination from the bags. 

Those new assignments are listed below, along with an updated look at the counts. — WOC










Seat Name Chips
1 Austin Peck 1,640,000
2 Anderson Blanco 1,405,000
3 Ruben Suarez 1,515,000
4 Paul Cukier 640,000
5 Alcides Gomez 590,000
6 Raul Paez 2,760,000
7 Andres Carrillo 605,000
8 Aaron Mermelstein 1,280,000
9 Tobias Schwecht 655,000

5:25pm: Felipe Buitrago eliminated in 10th place ($10,040)
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

Felipe Buitrago-LAPT Panama-2016-9705.jpg

Felipe Buitrago – 10th place

After Tobias Schwecht’s double, there wasn’t much time before the next short stack was all-in and at risk. Felipe Buitrago had been trending downwards for the better part of the last level, with most of his losses coming against Anderson Blanco. 

Blanco just came back to finish Buitrago off, calling from the button after the short stack shoved the cutoff for 310,000. The blinds folded and Ruben Suarez, who opened under the gun to 50,000, folded to see Blanco table QQ. Buitrago held AJ and after the KQ5 flop, was drawing to four outs. 

The 6 wasn’t one of them on the turn and the A was too little, too late on the river. Buitrago will make just over $10,000 for his deep run but he’ll miss out on the final table. The final nine players have redrawn for their seats and a list of those new positions will be posted shortly. — WOC

5:20pm: Set saves Schwecht
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

Tobias Schwecht just chopped a pot to save his tournament life and he just hit a two-outer to stay alive, doubling through Aaron Mermelstein in the process. Mermelstein opened in early position and after some folds, Schwecht three-bet shoved for 309,000 from the big blind. 

Mermelstein called and held 66 to Schwecht’s 44. The short stack needed help and it came on the 542 flop. Mermelstein still had outs to a straight though but after the 5 fell on the turn, he was the one looking for a two-outer. 

It didn’t come, as the Q completed the board confirmed Schwecht’s double. He’s now playing close to 625,000 while Mermelstein is down slightly to 1,300,000. — WOC

5:16pm: Chop saves Schwecht
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

To balance the tables, Tobias Schwecht got moved over into the seat vacated by Luis Cruz just a short while ago, and soon afterwards he found himself in a similar situation as Cruz had been — all-in with a short stack and called by chip leader Raul Paez.

Schewcht had shoved 220,000 from UTG with A4 and after it folded around Paez called him from the big blind with A8. But unlike Cruz, Schwecht survived the confrontation, a board of 2Q662 adding up to a chopped pot. –MH

Tobias Schwecht-LAPT Panama-2016-9726.jpg

Schwecht the short stack with 10 left

5:09pm: Luis Cruz eliminated in 11th place ($10,040)
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

Down to his last 296,000, Luis Cruz open-raised all-in from under the gun and it folded around to chip leader Raul Paez in the big blind who thought just for a moment before calling.

Cruz had A7 while Paez showed 99, and five cards later — 8244J — Cruz was done in 11th place.

That pot pushes Cruz up very close to 3 million right now, with Aaron Mermelstein (1.75 million) and Ruben Suarez (1.55 million) his nearest challengers at the moment. –MH

Luis Cruz-LAPT Panama-2016-9228.jpg

Luis Cruz – 11th place

5:06pm: Blanco gets paid off by ace-high
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

The pace of play has slowed since coming back from break, as the remaining players are all relatively deep. Anderson Blanco just got a little deeper, after he got two streets of value from Felipe Buitrago’s ace-high. 

Action was picked up on a board of 10427, with Buitrago check-calling a bet of 31,000. The 7 paired the board on the river and Buitrago checked again, only to see Blanco bet 109,000. The Columbian went deep into the tank, counting out his 525,000 chip stack a few times. 

He eventually called, only to see Blanco table J7 for rivered trips. Buitrago then showed A6 before sending his cards into the muck and going back to counting his stack. He’s below the 20 big blind mark, while Blanco is back up near 800,000. — WOC

4:52pm: Gomez doubles then gets going
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Alcides Gomez has been relatively quiet throughout the last few levels but after doubling up through Tobias Schwecht, he’s seemed to found his stride. The double was picked up with Gomez moving all-in from the cut off for 182,000 and after a fold, Schwecht called in the small blind. 

He held KQ and needed to hit to score the knockout, as Gomez held A9. The 1092 flop gave the short stack a pair but added to Schwecht’s outs with a gut-shot. Those vers and straight didn’t come though, as the 4 and 3 completed the board to double Gomez.

The American has made some shoves work since then, taking pots down after other players have opened and he’s now trending towards 450,000. — WOC

4:44pm: Jose Annaloro eliminated in 12th place ($8,520)
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Aaron Mermelstein opened for the minimum — 48,000 — from under the gun, and it folded around to Jose Annaloro in the big blind who three-bet to 100,000 even. Mermelstein thought a moment then called the raise, and the pair watched the flop come K68.

The rest of Annaloro’s stack of about 350,000 was soon in the middle with AA while Mermelstein had a flush draw with 93, and when the J landed on the turn it made the river no matter to send Annaloro out in 12th.

Jose Angel Annaloro-LAPT Panama-2016-9792.jpg

Jose Annaloro – 12th place

“Nine-three, huh?” grinned Raul Paez from across the table as Mermelstein gathered the chips. “I thought it was a pair of nines,” answered Mermelstein with a chuckle.

“Nah, it’s my mother’s birthday… three-nine — March 9,” he added, still grinning.

Paez still leads with about 2.4 million, with Mermelstein having closed the gap there after moving up over the 2 million-chip mark. –MH

4:30pm: Play resumes; Paez leading final 12
Level 24 – Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 3,000)

Players are back and the two six-handed tables are playing their first hands of the new level. Raul Paez continues to lead the way — take a look at the updated counts below. –MH













Name Country Chips
Raul Paez Spain 2,480,000
Aaron Mermelstein United States 1,530,000
Ruben Suarez Venezuela 1,420,000
Austin Peck USA 1,150,000
Felipe Andres Buitrago Colombia 915,000
Paul Cukier Costa Rica 600,000
Jose Annaloro Venezuela 585,000
Andres Carrillo Colombia 495,000
Luis Cruz Colombia 490,000
Anderson Blanco Colombia 460,000
Tobias Schwecht Austria 440,000
Alcides Gomez USA 250,000

Aaron Mermelstein-LAPT Panama-2016-9763.jpg

Mermelstein eyeing the chip lead currently enjoyed by Paez

24 12,000 24,000 3,000

4:14pm: Break time

With just a dozen players left, they’re off on another 15-minute break. –MH

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4:03pm: Jacques Ammiel Blit eliminated in 13th place ($8,520)
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

After Aaron Mermelstein opened for 50,000, Jacques Ammiel Blit announced from a couple of seats over he was three-betting all-in with his last 281,000, and when it got back to Mermelstein he called the shove.

Blit had AJ and a couple of live cards versus Mermelstein’s 44, but the 1025103 runout meant Mermelstein’s pocket pair had held and Blit hit the rail in 13th.

Mermelstein is up around 1.6 million now as the next break nears. –MH

Jacques Ammiel Bilt-LAPT Panama-2016-9648.jpg

Jacques Ammiel Blit – 13th place

3:54pm: Oscar Alache eliminated in 14th place ($7,440)
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Oscar Alache-LAPT Panama-2016-9733.jpg

Oscar Alache – 14th place

Reigning LAPT Player of the Year Oscar Alache has stayed alive a few times today but even after he out flopped Felipe Buitrago, he was eliminated in 14th place. Action was picked up with Buitrago opening to 44,000 from the button and, in the small blind, Alache moved all-in for nearly 130,000. 

The big blind folded and Buitrago called to put the Chilean at risk. He had him dominated, holding AJ to A10, meaning Alache had to hit to stay alive. He did, as the 1044 flop shot him into the lead. The J fell on the turn though, quickly restoring order to the pre flop equity and leaving Alache searching for a miracle river to stay alive. 

The 2 wasn’t what he was looking for and he’d bow out after a valiant effort with a short stack. That means that there will not a historic third LAPT victory for Alache this time around, instead settling for a $7,500 pay day. — WOC

3:47pm: Janir Muller eliminated in 15th place ($7,440)
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Janir Muller-LAPT Panama-2016-9797.jpg

Janir Muller – 15th place

Shortly after Nicolas Baliner bowed out in 16th place, Brazil’s run towards back-to-back LAPT titles ended. Janir Muller was all-in and at risk against Tobias Schwecht and the Austrian held to score the knockout. 

Action was picked up with Muller opening to 65,000 from middle position and after a fold, Schwecht three-bet shoved for 312,000 from the hijack. The rest of the table folded and Muller quickly called for his total stack of 265,000. 

He held A8 and was drawing to just three outs against Schwecht’s QQ. The 63247 runout confirmed his 15th place elimination, for which he’ll earn just shy of $7,500. Schwecht is now playing close to 600,000. — WOC

3:41pm: Nicolas Baliner eliminated in 16th place ($6,560)
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Chip leader Raul “El Toro” Paez opened for 43,000 from middle position, and it folded around to Nicolas Baliner who reraised all-in for his last 395,000. When the action got back to Paez, he called right away, tabling QQ. Baliner showed his AK, and the race was on.

The board came ten-high — 861073 — not helping Baliner who goes out in 16th place. Paez, meanwhile, adds further to his lead, and he now sits with about 2.2 million. –MH

Nicolas Baliner-LAPT Panama-2016-9750.jpg

Nicolas Baliner – 16th place

3:20pm: Alache chops, then doubles
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Oscar Alache has been near the bottom of the leaderboard since Day 3 began and after chopping up a pot where he was ahead, he just came from behind to double through Alcides Gomes. The first hand was picked up with Alache moving all-in for 120,000 from under the gun and after some folds, Ruben Suarez called in the small blind. 

He held A9 and was dominated by Alache’s A10. That was, until the AQ33A runout gave them each a full house and chopped up the pot. Alache shook his head and after getting blinded down over the next orbit, he was all-in from the button for 69,000. 

Alcides Gomes called in the big blind and Gomes’ 65 was ahead of Alache’s 64. The majority of the time, these hands chop it up but not this time. The 107242 runout paired Alache up on the turn and the reigning LAPT Player of the Year comically celebrated his small but much needed double. 

He might have a little more room to breathe but he’s still very short, working just over 135,000. Gomes is playing close to 250,000. — WOC

3:15pm: River slows Peck, likely saves Blit
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Austin Peck is now back over seven-figures after taking a sizable portion of Jacques Blit’s chips in the biggest pot since the two table redraw. Action was picked up with Peck defending his big blind to see a AQ3 flop and after he checked, Blit continued for 28,000. 

Peck check-raised to 93,000 and after some thought, Blit called to see the 2 fall on the turn. Peck kept the betting lead, pushing out 147,000 and Blit called, leaving himself close to 450,000 behind. 

Peck had 750,000 in front of him when the K completed the board and while he looked like he was about to motion for chips, he instead checked, with Blit quickly doing the same behind. Peck tabled A3 and that was good to take the pot and you could tell Peck was slightly frustrated by the river.

“Bad runout.” he said to Aaron Mermelstein, the only other American left in this LAPT9 Panama Main Event field, but runout aside, Peck is now back up near the top of the leaderboard. — WOC 

Austin Peck-LAPT Panama-2016-9849.jpg

Peck altering the pecking order

3:10pm: Two-table redraw, “El Toro” charges to top
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

A new level has begun and with 16 players left Raul Paez has surged way in front after that last flurry of eliminations. Here’s where everyone is sitting with new chip counts for all. –MH

















Table Seat Name Chips  
1 1 Jacques Ammiel Blit 470,000 470,000
1 2 Andres Carrillo 540,000 540,000
1 3 Raul Paez 1,920,000 1,920,000
1 4 Luis Cruz 740,000 740,000
1 5 Austin Peck 1,050,000 1,050,000
1 6 Jose Annaloro 695,000 695,000
1 7 Aaron Mermelstein 1,020,000 1,020,000
1 8 Nicolas Baliner 555,000 555,000
2 1 Anderson Blanco 390,000 390,000
2 2 Alcides Gomez 350,000 350,000
2 3 Janir Muller 280,000 280,000
2 4 Paul Cukier 695,000 695,000
2 5 Tobias Schwecht 315,000 315,000
2 6 Ruben Suarez 1,100,000 1,100,000
2 7 Felipe Andres Buitrago Rincon 990,000 990,000
2 8 Oscar Alache   105,000 105,000

Raul Paez-LAPT Panama-2016-9674.jpg

Paez powers into lead

23 10,000 20,000 3,000

3:02pm: Aces clip Collado, two tables remain
Level 23 – Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

We’re quickly down to our final two tables, as Armando Collado was just eliminated on Table 2. Paul Cukier opened the button to 35,000 and Collado called in the big blind off a short stack. He then shoved the 722 flop and Cukier snap called the 203,000 chip bet.

Cukier turned over AA and he had to hold against Collado’s 43. He did, as the J and 7 completed the board and the knockout. Collado will hit the rail in 17th place, one spot short of the penultimate redraw. 

A complete rundown of the 16-player, two-table redraw will be posted shortly, along with updated chip counts. — WOC

Armando Jose Collado Lanuza-LAPT Panama-2016-9786.jpg

Armando down

3:01pm: Escobedo eliminated in 18th
Level 22 – Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

There’s been a flurry of action at all three tables over the last quarter-hour and Table 1 is our next stop, where Rafael Escobedo just hit the rail in 18th place. Action was picked up with Aaron Mermelstein opening to 32,000 from under the gun and after a fold, Jacques Blit three-bet to 137,000 from the cutoff. 

The button and small blind folded before Escobedo four-bet shoved for just over 150,000. Mermelstein got out of the way and Blit rolled his eyes before putting in the necessary chips to call. He had more than 50% of his stack in the middle with 109 and he needed to hit to eliminate Escobedo, who tabled KQ.

The short stack paired up on the QJ6 flop but his opponent picked up an open-ended straight draw. Blit didn’t bink on the 6 turn but he did on the river, as the K gave Escobedo two pair but improved the Argentine to a straight. 

Blit could only smile, joking that he “knew the river” and that’s why he made the play. Whether he knew or not, he’s now playing the better part of 500,000 just one elimination away from the final two tables. — WOC

Rafael Escobedo-LAPT Panama-2016-9664.jpg

Escobedo moves on

2:57pm: “El Toro” top, Quiros out 19th
Level 22 – Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

The biggest and longest pot of this LAPT9 Panama Main Event has completely altered the Day 3 landscape. Raul “El Toro” Paez now holds a massive chip lead, Anderson Blanco is under the chip average for the first time in recent memory and Esteban Quiros is on the rail after a nearly 10 minute long hand played out on Table 3. 

Action was picked up with Blanco opening under the gun and Paez calling in the hijack. Quiros then three-bet shoved for 165,000 and both players called to see the J102 flop. Blanco checked and Paez bet 130,000. The big stack called and then checked the 9 turn card. 

Action was on Paez and after nearly three minutes of counting out his own chips and thinking about his next move, he bet 355,000. The Spaniard had just under 70,000 behind, so he was more or less committed to this pot, just like Quiros was. Blanco just couldn’t seem to find the fold button though, as he then spent close to four minutes in tank before he eventually announced “all-in”.

Paez snap called and turned over 1010 for a flopped set. When he saw Blanco’s AQ, he shot his opponent a look before saying, translated from Spanish, “What the *expletive*?”

Blanco had an up and down straight draw and if he could hit, he’d score a double knockout and pick up a massive chip lead. He didn’t though, as the 7 completed the board, Quiros’ 19th-place elimination and gave that massive pot to Paez. 

Esteban Cordero-LAPT Panama-2016-9777.jpg

Esteban eliminated

When the dust settled, “El Toro” was playing the better part of 1,350,000, good for the chip lead and then some, while Blanco was down near 375,000. — WOC

2:51pm: Suarez in front (updated chip counts)
Level 22 – Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

During a relative lull in the action — at least in terms of the bustouts halting for just a moment — we took the opportunity to gather some fresh chips counts for you. Ruben Suarez looks to be the new chip leader with 19 left, although he and Aaron Mermelstein appear to be trading that honor back and forth hand to hand.

Here are the top five counts. Check the chip count page for updates on everyone. –MH






Name Country Chips
Ruben Suarez Venezuela 1,080,000
Aaron Mermelstein United States 1,050,000
Austin Peck USA 945,000
Felipe Andres Buitrago Rincon Colombia 905,000
Anderson Blanco Colombia 770,000

Ruben Suarez-LAPT Panama-2016-9688.jpg

Suarez soaring

2:31pm: Ortiz out in 20th; Annaloro moving up
Level 22 – Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

Alcides Gomez opened for the minimum from middle position and it folded around to Jose Annaloro who called from the small blind. At that Didier Ortiz shoved all-in from the small blind for 155,000 and after a bit of thought Gomez pushed in over the top. Then Annaloro called all-in as well, settting up a three-way showdown:

Annaloro: JJ
Ortiz: Q10
Gomez: 77

The A8234 runout came clean for Annaloro, who slapped the table after the river, glad that he’d survived. Ortiz goes out in 20th, Gomez has 180,000 now, and Annaloro is up to 765,000. –MH

Dider Ortiz-LAPT Panama-2016-9704.jpg

Ortiz out

2:16pm: Arturo picked off by Peck in 21st
Level 22 – Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

Jhonatan Xavier Arturo-LAPT Panama-2016-9699.jpg

Arturo falls after break

Jonathan Arturo came back from break as one of the shorter stacks and after getting one shove through, the next time he moved in, he was looked up. Arturo was all-in for 117,000 from the button and Austin Peck called in the big blind.

Peck held A7 and had Arturo’s J7 dominated. The 652 flop missed Arturo and he was drawing to just three outs heading to the turn and river. A jack didn’t come to save him, as the K and 10 completed the board and confirmed his 21st place elimination. 

Peck is now back up near 950,000, after dropping slightly at the end of Level 21. — WOC

2:09pm: Play resumes; 21 left
Level 22 – Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

The break is over and a new level has begun with three seven-handed tables in action. –MH

22 8,000 16,000 2,000

1:53pm: Break time

After an active hour and 45 minutes that saw 11 players hit the rail, those who are left are now taking a 15-minute break. –MH

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1:44pm: Gutierrez goes down in 22nd
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Paul Cukier opened from the cutoff for 26,000, Fernando Gutierrez shoved his last 73,000 all-in from the big blind, and Cukier called. Cukier had A9 and was dominating the A3 of Gutierrez, and after the 10J4K5 the Colombian was on the rail in 22nd. –MH

Fernando Gutierrez-LAPT Panama-2016-9739.jpg

Fernando falls

1:38pm: Thompson stopped by Mermelstein
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Aaron Mermelstein opened for 24,000 from the cutoff then watched Steven Thompson shove all-in for his last 130,000 or so from the small blind. The action returned to Mermelstein who thought for a couple of beats, then called.

Thompson had 44 and Mermelstein K8, and through the 96A flop Thompson’s pair was still good. But the turn was the 8 to put Mermelstein on top, and after the 9 river Thompson was out in 23rd. Mermelstein is now sitting at about 970,000. –MH

Steven Thompson-LAPT Panama-2016-9671.jpg

Thompson taken out

1:34pm: Leveling war on Table 3
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

This hand didn’t even make it to a flop but whenever there is a five-bet shove, that’s bloggable action. The hand was picked up with Tobias Schwecht opening to 25,000 from middle position and after Luis Cruz called in the cutoff, Ruben Suarez three-bet to 80,000 from the button. 

Schwecht replied with a four-bet that weighed in just shy of 185,000 but after Cruz got out of the way, Suarez almost instantly announced himself “all-in”. Schwecht quickly folded and Suarez flipped over J7, showing jack-high while taking in the massive pre-flop pot. He’s now just over 1,000,000 midway through Level 21, while Schwecht is down under 400,000. — WOC

1:26pm: Annaloro doubles, Posada doesn’t to bust 24th
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

The action has been centered around the short stacks after the three table redraw. Jose Annaloro found an early double through Wilson Gutierrez, with Annaloro turning up with A9 on a AJ6310 board. The action was missed but when the dust settled, Annaloro was playing the better part of 330,000, while Gutierrez was cut down to 80,000. 

A few hands later, a short stack did fall on Table 1. Camilo Posada moved all-in for 142,000 from the hijack and after a fold, Rafael Escobedo called on the button. The small blind passed and Felipe Buitrago re-shoved from the big blind for just shy of 470,000. 

That was close to Escobedo’s remaining stack and he finally elected to fold. He was happy he did, as Buitrago flipped over QQ, well ahead of the AJ of Posada. He was even further ahead after the Q42 flop, which left Posada basically drawing dead. 

He was after the 8 fell on the turn and after the K completed the board, Escobedo was even happier to have folded, as he would have lost to Buitrago’s rivered second nut flush. When the table reset for the next hand, Buitrago was playing the better part of 800,000. –WOC

Camilo Posadas-LAPT Panama-2016-9171.jpg

Camilio cut down

1:20pm: Final three table redraw
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

After the elimination of Elliott Peterman, this LAPT9 Panama Main Event field was down to the final three tables. The players have redrawn for new seats and those assignments, along with chip counts, are provided below:

























Table Seat Player Chips
1 1 Austin Peck 1,020,000
1 2 Rafael Escobedo 540,000
1 3 Aaron Mermelstein 790,000
1 4 Felipe Buitrago 450,000
1 5 Steven Thompson 110,000
1 6 Jacques Blit 245,000
1 7 Jonathan Arturo 160,000
1 8 Camilo Posada 135,000
2 1 Paul Cukier 575,000
2 2 Jose Annaloro 170,000
2 3 Dider Oritz 140,000
2 4 Wilson Gutierrez 265,000
2 5 Armando Collado 375,000
2 6 Andres Cariillo 310,000
2 7 Alcides Gomez 440,000
2 8 Janir Muller 285,000
3 1 Nicolas Baliner 680,000
3 2 Oscar Alache 105,000
3 3 Anderson Blanco 990,000
3 4 Tobias Schwecht 690,000
3 5 Raul Paez 820,000
3 6 Esteban Quiros 310,000
3 7 Luis Crus 620,000
3 8 Ruben Suarez 730,000

Players will now resume play in Level 21. — WOC

1:16pm: Peterman can’t fade the river, out in 25th
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Elliott Peterman was able to get some shoves through in Level 20 to keep himself afloat but the short stack needed a double to really get back into contention. A quarter-hour into Level 21, he had a chance to get that double, as he was all-in with KJ against Raul “El Toro” Paez’s A10

Peterman’s stack weighed in just over 12 big blinds and while he paired up on the J76 flop, he still had to fade plenty of outs. The 4 bricked out on the turn but the A gave Paez top pair and confirmed Peterman’s 25th place elimination. 

He’ll miss out on the three table redraw, which we’ll bring you shortly. — WOC

Elliot Peterman-LAPT Panama-2016-9685.jpg

Peterman’s run concludes

1:12pm: Cukier doubles through Quintero
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Jose Angel Annaloro Quintero opened for 23,000 from middle position, then watched Paul Cukier three-bet to 62,000 from the button. After much thought Quintero called, then pushed all-in after a J510 flop and Cukier called right away to put himself at risk.

Quintero had QJ for jacks, but Cukier held AA, and after the 6 turn and A river, Cukier had doubled back to about 605,000 while Quintero slipped ot 140,000. –MH

1:07pm: Bettsock knocked out in 26th
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Abraham Bettsock just got all-in with AK but found himself up against the A10 of Tobias Schwecht.

The board came 939, then J, then 6, that river club filling a flush for Schwecht and knocking Bettsock out in 26th. Schwecht bumps up around 620,000 with that pot. –MH

Abraham Bettsock-LAPT Panama-2016-9712.jpg

Bettsock bounced

1:03pm: Vargas cut down in 27th by Peck
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Jose Arturo Morales Vargas was just involved in a three-way hand with Austin Peck and Nicolas Baliner, but alas for Vargas only Peck and Baliner would be left with chips afterwards.

Following a 7Q3 flop, Vargas led by pushing his last 175,000 forward, Peck called, and Baliner folded. Vargas had 1010, but Peck had KK leaving the Costa Rican drawing thin.

The turn was the J and river the 4, and Vargas is out. Peck adds more to his stack is now up around 800,000. –MH

Arturo Morales-LAPT Panama-2016-9748.jpg

Arturo out

1pm: Tuthill cut down, eliminated in 28th
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Nathan Tuthill got one double and he was in a great position to get another, until he was out-flopped by Rafael Escobedo with both players more or less in a pot for their tournament lives. That hand was picked up with Tuthill open shoving the button for 233,000 and after some thought, and a count of his stack, Escobedo called for less in the small blind. 

Aaron Mermelstein got out of the way in the big blind and Escobedo needed to hit to stay alive. He held KQ to Tuthill’s A10 and after asking the dealer for help, that’s exactly what Escobedo got on the Q108 flop. 

He stood from his chair in anticipation of the final two cards and after the turn and river bricked out with the 2 and 3, he gave himself a quick fist pump before re-taking his seat. When his stack was cut down, weighing in at 216,000, Tuthill got a small 17,000 chip rebate. 

He was all-in and at risk on the very next hand and Armando Collado sent him to the rail in 28th place. While Tuthill headed to the payout table, Escobedo, who led the second Day 1B flight, was stacking up over a half-million chips for the first time in this event. — WOC

Nathan Royce Tuthill-LAPT Panama-2016-9772.jpg

Tuthill taken out

1:02pm: Baliner doubles through Schwecht
Level 21 – Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Most of the reports we’ve done throughout this Day 3 session have been short stacked eliminations but after Austin Peck doubled on Table 1, Nicolas Baliner did the same. His double came through the big stacked Tobias Schwecht, with action being picked up on a board of 332

Baliner checked from the big blind and Schwecht continued for 17,000. The Argentine then check-raised to 41,000 and Schwecht called to see the 10 fall on the turn. Baliner bet 85,000, leading himself just under 170,000 behind and the Austrian called.

The 6 fell to complete the board and quickly, Baliner’s chips were in the middle. Schwecht got a count and the flicked a chip into the middle for a call, only to see his opponent table A3. Baliner’s trips were good for the double and when the dust settled, he was playing the better part of 625,000. Schwecth, on the other hand, is now below average with 260,000. — WOC

21 6,000 12,000 2,000

12:57pm: Mermelstein ships another small double
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

Aaron Mermelstein came into this Day 3 session second in chips, meaning he had the ability to take some hits but still be well stacked. Unfortunately, that’s what happened so far, as Mermelstein just shipped another small double to Nathan Tuthill.

Action was picked up with Tuthill open shoving from the cutoff for 108,000. Mermelstein, who was in the small blind, asked for a count and then called to put the short stack at risk. He held KJ and had to hit to score the knockout, as Tuthill held A6

The 83224 runout confirmed the double and Tuthill is now back up and over 200,000 with play about to head into Level 21. Mermelstein meanwhile is still very well stacked with close to 550,000. — WOC

12:52pm: Peck picks up big pot from Gutierrez
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

With the board showing A2A9 and about 150,000 already in the middle, Austin Peck checked, Fernando Gutierrez bet 66,000, then Peck check-raised all-in.

Gutierrez tanked for a while before finally emerging to call, then dropped his head slightly when he saw Peck table AK for trips with a king-kicker. Gutierrez had AJ for the same trips with a lesser jack, and after the 6 turn, Peck had doubled to around 650,000. Gutierrez still has about 265,000. –MH

12:41pm: Zacconi hits rail in 29th; Blanco over a milly
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

Marcio Daniel Zacconi of Argentina has become the 29th-place finisher after losing an all-in versus start-of-day chip leader Anderson Blanco.

After a Blanco button open, Zacconi had shoved his last 150,000 or so from the big blind and the Colombian called him, turning over 55. Zacconi had a fighting chance with AJ, and for the briefest of moments things looked promising when the flop revealed an ace in the window.

But underneath was an ugly five for Zacconi, the full flop arriving 105A. The 6 turn meant Zacconi needed a non-pairing diamond to escape, but the river was the 4 and Zacconi is out.

Blanco chips up over 1 million on that one, passing Mermelstein again to reclaim first position with 28 left. –MH

Marcio Daniel Zacconi-LAPT Panama-2016-9655.jpg

Zacconi eliminated

12:26pm: Alzaga doubles, then busts
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

Gonzalo Alzaga came back with the shortest stack of our 32 remaining players and while he was able to score an early double, he was then quickly sent out in 30th place. The first hand he was involved in was with chip leader Aaron Mermelstein. 

The American opened and Alzaga three-bet shoved for just over 65,000. Mermelstein called to try to score the knockout with J9 but after the K84 flop, Alzaga’s AK was in good shape. The turn and river bricked out and confirmed the double but Alzaga was still short. 

That short stack got in the middle again a few hands later, after Memelstein opened the button for 21,000. Alzaga three-bet shoved for 120,000 from the small blind and Jose Annaloro called in the big blind. Mermelstein got out of the way and he was glad he did, as Annaloro held AA

Alzaga was drawing thin with 33 and after the 86224 runout, he was on the rail in 30th. When the dust settled, Annaloro was stacking up close to 400,000, good for the second biggest stack at Table 2. — WOC

12:20pm: Bennet bounced by Thompson
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

Renny Benjomin Bannet-LAPT Panama-2016-9697.jpg

Renny’s run ends

Steven Thompson opened for 23,000 from middle position and after it folded around to Renny Benjomin Bennet in the blinds he announced he was pushing all-in for his remaining 160,000 or so. Thompson swiftly called, tabling AQ, and Bennet showed his AK.

The flop was bad news for the Jamaican, coming 8Q7, and Bennet’s shoulders slumped as he grimly grinned. The turn was the 5 and river the 5, and Bennet wished the table luck before departing to pick up 31st-place prize money.

Thompson has around 530,000 now. –MH

12:11pm: Jeckeln out early; Mermelstein new leader
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

Early action here on Day 3 saw the Argentinian Andres Jeckeln all-in and at risk with Q9 versus the J10 of Aaron Mermelstein of Philadelphia.

We arrived only after the community cards had been dealt, although given Mermelstein’s short stack the chips likely went in early. In any event, the board of 3QA104 added up to a pair on the flop for Jeckeln, but an unbeatable straight on the turn for Mermelstein, and Jeckeln is out in 32nd.

Mermelstein is now up to 975,000 and has taken the early lead on Day 3. –MH

12:03pm: Day 3 begins
Level 20 – Blinds 5,000/10,000 (ante 1,000)

The third day of the LAPT Panama Main Event is underway. There is almost 45 minutes left in Level 20. –MH

20 5,000 10,000 1,000

11:00am: Blanco, Mermelstein final 32 into Day 3

Bienvenido, friends, to our coverage of Day 3 of the Latin American Poker Tour Panama Main Event where just 32 players are left, led by Anderson Blanco who enjoyed a late night rush on Saturday to finish with a stack of 896,000 to start play today.

The Colombian has earned a few cashes before, most notably finishing 19th in the LAPT5 Colombia Main Event in Medellin. He’s in good position to better than finish here, although like everyone else still with chips he hopes to do much more than that and earn the $138,225 first prize awaiting the winner.

Anderson Blanco-LAPT Panama-2016-9628.jpg

Blanco looking to bank a big finish

Close behind Blanco to begin will be Aaron Mermelstein in second position with 836,000. The Philadelphian owns two World Poker Tour titles — both won in 2015 — and has earned over $1.5 million in tournaments in the last five years.

Speaking of two-time champs, another storyline worth keeping an eye on today will be how Oscar Alache fares. Alache is currently tied with the three Argentinians — Nacho Barbero, Fabian Ortiz, and Mario Lopez — for the most LAPT Main Event titles with two, meaning the Chilean would have the record all to himself should he manage to win a third here. 

Alache returns to a below average stack today, but an early double would get him back close to the average moving forward, and he’s shown before an ability to perform well during the endgame.

Others returning to big stacks will be Blanco’s fellow countryman Fernando Gutierrez (716,000), the young Austrian Tobias Schwecht (679,000), and Ruben Suarez of Venezuela (657,000). Here are the complete chip counts of all 32 players to start play today, and check out as well the “Prize Pool and Payouts” page to see who earned part of the $721,665 prize pool thus far.

Play will pick back up in the middle of Level 20 (blinds 5,000/10,000, ante 1,000), which makes the average stack (341,187) worth just over 34 big blinds when play begins. Come back at 12 noon Central time and we’ll continue to bring you live updates, hand reports, bustouts, photos, chip counts, and more as we find out together who will be the next LAPT Main Event champion. –MH

Ballroom-LAPT Panama-2016-9481.jpg

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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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