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PokerStars Festival NJ: Costa Leads Main Event, UK Qualifier Smyth Bags

Ruben Costa
  • Ruben Costa bagged the lead on Day 1a of PokerStars Festival New Jersey $1,100 Main Event.

The $1,100 Main Event of the inaugural PokerStars Festival New Jersey kicked off today and drew 81 players. After 10 one-hour levels, just 25 players survived and reserved a seat for Day 2. Bagging up the Day 1a chip lead was Ruben Costa with 222,500, followed by John Gulino with 196,700 and Ryan Hohner with 158,300.

Team PokerStars Pro was well-represented today with eight players and those surviving the Day 1a flight were Victor Ramdin and Barry Greenstein with 69,200 and 34,200, respectively. The day was not as kind to a few others, though.

Jason Mercier grinded a short stack for much of the day, but busted with about 30 minutes left in the final level. His {K-Spades}{Q-Diamonds} looked primed for a double against the {A-Diamonds}{J-Clubs} of Bovic Gabriel when Mercier paired his king on the flop, but Gabriel found Broadway on the river to send Mercier to the rail.

Felipe Ramos was down to a few big blinds early in the day and managed to double up three times, but also fell when his flush draw failed to hit against an opponent's overpair.

As for Vanessa Selbst, she was a victim of Gulino's hot run in the middle portion of the day with blinds at 200/400/50. Selbst fired out 1,500 from under the gun into a slew of four opponents on a {j-Spades}{a-Clubs}{5-Diamonds} flop. Gulino called, as did the small blind. On the {3-Spades} turn, Selbst and the small blind both checked and Gulino bet 3,200. The small blind folded and Selbst shoved all in for about 16,000 after some thought. Gulino snapped it off with fives and Selbst was evidently drawing dead as she tossed her cards into the muck upon seeing the set.

Gulino also got a boost early on when he flopped the wheel on {2-Clubs}{5-Spades}{3-Clubs}. An opponent got stacks in with {6-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}, and despite a {10-Clubs} arriving on the turn, Gulino held up. He was the runaway chip leader around dinner break before ultimately being passed late by Costa.

Andre Akkai, Chris Moneymaker and Fatima Moreira de Melo were the other Team PokerStars Pros that failed to advance. Others who busted today include Natasha Barbour, Jonathan Little, Aaron Mermelstein, Je Wook Oh, Bruce Yamron, Albert Daher and Norman Michalek.

On the other hand, Jack Duong, David Vamplew, Carlos Chadha and Matt Affleck were some of those making it through.

Play resumes Wednesday at 11 a.m. with Day 1b and we'll be here to provide live updates on all of the action.

UK Qualifier Smyth Gets Through

While the PokerStars Team Pros may have grabbed much of the attention on Day 1a, PokerNews profiled a much lesser-known player, Peter Smyth.

Smyth qualified in an online satellite and flew across the pond from the UK. He managed to bag 79,200 over three starting stacks, good enough for 12th place out of the 25 players who made it through.

"I was at home playing a couple of tournaments and happened to see there was a qualifier," the 60-year-old said. "There were three packages and only 10 or 11 people in. I've been to Atlantic City before and I've got good memories of being here, having cashed in a couple of tournaments at Borgata. I haven't played much live poker in while, so I thought, why not?"

Check out Smyth's story here.

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