Nearly twelve hours after it began, Day 1a of the <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/live-reporting/>Asian Poker Tour</a> Philippines Main Event concluded a short while before midnight on Thursday, with local pro Neil Arce ending the day atop the leaderboard, just ahead of Norihito Suzuki of Japan. A total of 75 runners came out for the first of the two scheduled Day Ones for this $2,700 buy-in Main Event, including 1990 WSOP Main Event champion Mansour Matloubi and Philippines native Toto Leonidas, holder of one WSOP bracelet (in seven card stud) as well as a <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/us-poker-rooms/>U.S. Poker</a> Championship title.
Shortly after noon, it fell upon Leonidas to instruct the dealers to "shuffle up and deal," and the players began the work of trying to build up their starting stacks of 10,000. Players played through ten one-hour levels, and when the last hand was dealt just before midnight, only 19 remained.
A skirmish in Level 2 between Damien Oborne and Yoshie Watanabe led to an early exchange of chips. After Mark Cornwell had limped from early position, Oborne made a large (five times the big blind) raise to 500 from the cutoff, and Watanabe called from the button. The blinds got out of the way, and Cornwell called as well. The flop came . Cornwell checked, Oborne bet 1,500, Watanabe called, and Cornwell folded. The turn brought the . Oborne bet 5,000, and Watanabe pushed all in for 9,125 total. Oborne called, showing for top pair, top kicker. But Watanabe had , having spiked her set on the turn. The river was a deuce, and Watanabe had doubled up to 21,000. Meanwhile, after a good start, Oborne was back down to 12,100.
Just before the end of the second level another big pot also involved a two-outer. This time Jason Gibson had pushed all in on a flop with pocket kings only to be called by Daniel Haglund who held pocket fives. However, the on the river swung the hand back over to Gibson. The pair essentially traded stacks, with Gibson ending up with 14,500 and Haglund 7,300.
Level 3 featured the untimely exit of the attractive Lara Morena. Sitting with about 12,000 when the level began, Morena unfortunately ran her pocket kings into Erik Backlund's pocket aces, leaving her with just a paltry 700 chips afterwards. She managed to double up once, then went to battle again with pocket tens versus Tricia David's . The board brought no card higher than a nine, but four hearts, giving David the flush and sending Morena home.
In Level 4, Filipino fave Wally Sombero was the recipient of a handy triple-up following a three-way all-in between himself, Cornwell, and Simone Peri. On a flop of , Sombero led out, Cornwell raised all in for 5,625, Peri called, then Sombero shoved for 12,225 total. Peri called again, and when the trio turned over their cards it was revealed each of the three held an ace! Peri had the lead with a jack kicker, compared to Sombero's seven and Cornwell's six. Sombero held , though, and when the arrived on the river, his club flush allowed him to claim the 31,000-plus chip pot. Cornwell was out, Peri would soon follow, and Sombero would manage to hang on to make it to Day 2.
By the start of Level 5, the starting field of 75 had already been cut in half. As the players approached the dinner break, Norihito Suzuki emerged as the new chip leader, pushing out to more than 57,000 chips, many of which he managed to take from Toto Leonidas, with whom he shared a table for most of the first six levels.
Leonidas got some chips back, though, just before dinner thanks to a hand versus Damien Oborne. The pair were all in preflop, with Leonidas' well ahead of Oborne's . The board brought five baby cards, and Leonidas was back up to 15,500. Oborne, with just 425 left after that encounter, doubled up twice just before dinner, but was eliminated in Level 7 at the expense of Neil Arce.
Suzuki, meanwhile, had opened up an even wider lead over the field, pushing past the 100,000-chip mark by the early evening hours. The new chip leader was involved in a three-way all-in versus two WSOP bracelet winners, Matloubi and Leonidas, both of whom had fallen below 5,000 in chips. In that hand, Suzuki held , Leonidas , and Matloubi . The board came and Leonidas' eights held up, sending Matloubi out.
Only three tables of players remained as players began Level 9, with Sukuki continuing to maintain his healthy chip advantage. At the start of Level 10, Swede Anders Andersson was involved in a large pot with Brit David Welch. With the board reading , Welch led for 3,500, Andersson raised to 11,500, Welch repopped it to 31,500 total, and Andersson pushed all in for 35,700.
After a surprising bout of self-introspection, Welch went ahead and called the extra 4,200, showing for an inside straight draw. Andersson, meanwhile, tabled a pair of fours for a turned set. The river was the , and Andersson was suddenly challenging Suzuki's lead, moving up close to 80,000. With that hand, Welch tumbled back down below 30,000.
It would be Neil Arce, though, who would catch Suzuki before the night was over, thanks largely to the following hand. With 9,000 in the pot, the flop came single-suited — . Norihito bet 4,500, and Arce called. The turn was the , and Suzuki again bet out, this time 5,000. Arce again called. The river brought the . Suzuki bet 10,000, and Arce once more quickly called, showing for two pair, better than Suzuki's . That hand moved Arce up to 89,000, while Suzuki was left with 78,000.
Finally, in one of the last hands of the evening, a short-stacked Leonidas found himself committing his remaining chips with versus Casey Kastle's . An ace flopped, and no help came for Leonidas on the turn or river, sending him to the rail.
Unofficial counts at night's close showed Arce as the Day 1a leader, followed by Suzuki, Andersson, Derek Hernandez, and Eddie Hearn. All 19 of those who survived Day 1a will now get a day off until resuming their respective quests on Saturday against the survivors of tomorrow's Day 1b. Tournament Director Matt Savage anticipated a much larger field on Friday, speculating there may be as many as 200 players joining the fray.
Be sure to come back to PokerNews' <a href=https://www.pokernews.com/live-reporting/>live reporting</a> on Friday to follow all of the action from the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati, Philippines.