It's hard to pick just one storyline to highlight heading into Day 3 of the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour's Grand Final in Rosario, Argentina. So far, this tournament has everything - huge swings, tight races, a field full of the continent's best, a Team PokerStars Pro slaughter, a champion looking for back-to-back wins, and even a player choosing between online title defense and a shot at a live title. All the drama comes from the LAPT Argentina $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Main Event, held in Rosario's spacious City Center Casino.
Day 2 began with under 130 players, some of whom were looking to sneak into the top 40 and the money, and others of whom were set on first place. By the end of the night, only 24 were still standing. Argentinian Francisco de Belaustegui and Panamanian Bolivar Palacios finished as chip leaders separated by less than one big blind. Nicolas "PKaiser" Fierro Gottner, who went from average stack to chip monster in the last half hour of Day 1, held a large lead for all of Day 2. Then, in the last level of the night, he completed the opposite transformation. He started sliding, then got most of his stack in preflop with against Palacios' pocket aces. Gottner returns for Day 3, but at the bottom of the counts.
Terrence Chan has plenty of final table experience. He's made four World Series of Poker final tables and finished fourth in APPT Manila this year, but all of his major wins have been online. Chan earned his reputation of one the best limit hold'em players in the world by winning two Spring Championship of Online Poker limit events in the same day, then several months later taking down the $1,050 six-max limit event in the World Championship of Online Poker. He was set to defend his WCOOP title on Friday, but when 6:00 p.m. rolled around, Chan was otherwise occupied. He opted to forgo the online tournament to focus on the tower of real chips in front of him at LAPT Rosario. Thanks to a series of impressive soul reads and steady pot-stealing, Chan ended Day 2 fourth in chips.
Matthias Habernig isn't far behind Chan. Habernig also impressed on Day 2 with his ability to manipulate his opponents. He won the main event at LAPT Florianopolis last month, earning $247,000. He returns on Day 3 in Argentina with a chance to make back-to-back final tables and possibly repeat Jose "Nacho" Barbero's feat of winning two LAPTs in a row. Barbero won LAPT Punta del Este and LAPT Lima earlier this year. He made it deep on Day 2 in Rosario, but was eliminated shortly before the money.
Eight Team PokerStars Pros started Day 2 with a shot at cashing, but one by one, they fell. Leo Fernandez, Veronica Dabul, Maria Mayrinck, and Christian de Leon all hit the rail before the money bubble. The only remaining representative to Team USA, Dennis Phillips, met a similar fate. Barbero didn't make the money either, but Andre Akkari snuck in at 38th place, good for $6,470. Mexican Angel Guillen is the last Team Pro standing, and he comes into Day 3 with a shorter stack and a lot of eyes on him.
Day 3 action begins at noon local time on Saturday. Join the PokerNews Live Reporting Team to follow these stories and more as the returning 24 are whittled to an elite final table in Rosario.