In late October, the PokerStars Festival made its New Jersey debut in Atlantic City with a series of events at the Resorts Casino Hotel. The anticipated Main Event came to a close this weekend with Jason Acosta snagging the first-place prize after defeating a pool of 208 players. Though an unknown entity (whose $38,220 win tripled his previous live winnings), Acosta proved he was a force to be reckoned with. Though the Little Ferry native did need to win a series of coin flips to emerge victorious.
When Day 3 began, 23 players had hung on to make it to the money, but a few big names wouldn’t make it to the final table including PokerStars online pro Randy Lew and World Poker Tour successes Darren Elias, Chris Dombrowski, and Jack Duong.
Despite a double-up against Rocco Dicondina and a nail-biting hand against Jovy Ounthongdy early on the last day, Acosta was still one of the shorter stacks at the beginning of the final table while Matt Affleck was in the lead. Eli Kim quickly won a three-way all-in to rocket to the top of the chip count. Peter Smyth was the first to be eliminated, followed quickly by Dicondina and Sridhar Sangannagari.
With six players left, Acosta got in on the action, putting pocket 10s up against Affleck’s A, K. The board (J♤, Q♤, 2♡) gave Affleck some outs, but a blank turn and river gave the massive pot to Acosta. The eventual winner scored another 28 big blinds when his A, K dominated Eli Kim’s K, Q. Affleck busted shortly after (in fifth for just over $11K) when he butted heads with Michael Gagliano.
Acosta finally snagged the lead for the first time when he ousted start-of-day chip leader David Johnston, who busted soon after in fourth. Kim (2♧, 2♡) was the next to go when he got into a high-stakes battle with Gagliano (A♧, Q♤). When the ace-high flop sent his opponent away in third, Gagliano went into heads-up play with a 7-1 chip lead.
“He’s obviously a much more accomplished player than me and I knew I was at a huge disadvantage,” Acosta told PokerNews about the heads-up affair.
A board of 10♧, 4♤, 10♢, 8♢, 6♧ helped Acosta get a leg up on the WSOP event winner. Acosta shoved a large bet with a 9♤, 7♢ and an over-confident Gagliano called with the lesser straight (7♡, 5♡). That hand was the turning point of the final table, and by making hands at the right time and eventually double pairing on an A, K, Acosta took home his first major win.
Acosta qualified for the tournament through a 5,000 StarsCoin satellite, bringing the online player out from his desk and into a rare live table.
“I usually don’t get to play live tournaments too much,” he said. “Obviously, when you can get into an $1,100 event for a couple of StarsCoin, it’s going to make it worth the trip. I don’t know if I would normally drive down here to play an $1,100 event that would take me from Tuesday to Friday. But, since it’s basically a freeroll, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Taking the chance paid off, and Acosta was named the first ever PokerStars Festival champion.
Final table results:
Featured photo credit: Joe Giron.
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