On Friday, we introduced you to the 2017 Team Belize representing poker enthusiasts in the country at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The group of twenty players got to work over the weekend participating in one of the most popular tournament in the series: the Monster Stacks. Our News Five Team, Marleni Cuellar and Rick Romero, have been documenting their progress over the past three days and files this latest report.

Marleni Cuella, Reporting

Twenty poker players representing Belize traveled to Las Vegas for the 2017 WSOP Monster Stacks Event. This year the event drew a total of six thousand seven hundred and sixteen entries and amid that were our twenty hopefuls. The tournament had two start days on Saturday and Sunday. So, this year Team Belize was split into two groups each playing on a separate start date. The hope was that with this strategy, players would be able to support the others for the duration of the ten hours of play. The game is one of endurance – as they all need to last through the first day to progress in the tournament. It requires patience – as they wait on the right hands to capitalize on to be able to build their chips. And of course their individual poker skills. The highs and lows of the game were evident as we checked in on their progress throughout the two days.

Marleni Cuellar

“How are you feeling now?”

Edmond Chee, Team Belize

“Still struggling. I doubled up my chips. I was down and I was a little worried I was gonna get knocked out but its working out slowly. Do you think it was the nerves? Actually I had tips from Phil and Bob. They helped me out. If I didn’t get help I would have lost it all already.”

Anthony Michael, Team Belize

“We’re playing good. I feel confident. The only thing is I need a massage and wish I had a nice cold Belikin right now. The pressure is on right now. This is not like anything in Belize. When we play in Belize in six hours time the tournament would be over. We still have about four more hours if you’re still in the tournament and we still have a couple more days to play. Representing your country, your friends back home. This is pressure.”

Geev Abadi, Team Belize

“Right now I have about twenty-two thousand. The blinds are going to go up and I will have about forty big blinds to go. I’m still in a good position to be able to continue.”

Marleni Cuellar

“What’s your strategy for today?”

Rommel Burgess, Team Belize

“Patience that is the whole thing. I’ve seen my cards and I’m up down up down. Right now I’m about chip average. I’m feeling pretty good.”

Marleni Cuellar

“It’s six hours in, how’s it going for you?”

Amal Esfandiari, Team Belize

“It’s going good. It’s a little confusing because I’ve changed tables quite a few times already. So I’m hoping this will be my last one. Very often you’re the only female at the table.”

Marleni Cuellar

“What’s that like for you?”

Amal Esfandiari

“I think it’s an advantage. People really don’t know how women play. But there are more women playing poker now.”

Gian Fabro, Team Belize
“I already know how they play here so it’s a bluffing game and you never know what your opponents have and you really have to pressure them a lot.”

At the end of the weekend though, only one thousand nine hundred and forty-two players survived and that included seven players from Team Belize: Anthony Michael, Geev Abadi, Bob Hotchandani, Drew Miller, Jason Southwell, Adan Cal and Mick Fabro.

Jason Southwell, Team Belize

“Having half us play in the field gives us a bit more attention. So tomorrow we’ll see how it goes and hopefully six makes it too and we’ll have twelve moving into day two.”

Adan Cal, Team Belize

“Well you know a couple double ups tomorrow and I think I can go a little further than last time. Maybe final table.”

The Monster Stack Event is a five-day tournament. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday players who survive the previous day progress for anther ten hours of poker each day hoping to survive to the end of the day and of course ultimately to the end of the tournament.

Team Belize garnered quite a bit of attention within the first couple days. Poker bloggers and fans of Belize would reach out to the team even wanting to play along with the team.

Marleni Cuellar

“What do you know about Belize?”

Kevin O’Donnell, Professional Poker Player

“I know it’s absolutely gorgeous and the people are awesome. I have been there several times. You feel proud wearing a Belize T-Shirt. I feel so proud.”

Jeff Gross, Professional Poker Player

“I know Belize has some strong poker and I know they like poker. Mister B and I have actually played at a final table together. He always loves the game and a good ambassador to promote it at the main event final table. I love that people are passionate about poker. For people to come over from Belize as a unit, maybe go somewhere they’ve never been; share an experience, maybe have one of two girls or guys go deep in a tournament and talk and help out with those who have experience. i think it’s great and it’s good.”

Moving into day-two was sure to be a challenge for some of the Team Belize players. Many were short stacked meaning they were low on poker chips. It was very important that they build chips early in the day if they expected to last the duration of day-two. The players once seated for the start of day-two got to work. Unfortunately it was a short lived run for four players.

Bob Bounahra, Organizer, Team Belize

“It was a pretty good move for day-two. Seven players made it through to this morning and up to this moment. We’ve lost four of them. Adan Cal, Geev Badi, Drew Miller and Mick Fabro. So we still have three players remaining. They’re playing right now as we speak.”

Drew Miller, Team Belize

“I had the perfect scenario. I had the odds in my favor and I felt good about it and I had all my chips in. Two more cards to go and just cause the odds are in your favor doesn’t mean you’re always going to win. It proved its case with my case.”

Mick Fabro, Team Belize

“This is your third time here. You’ve made it to day-two twice. I think it improved a little. I’m not as nervous as I usually am. I’m not upset about how I got knocked out that’s poker.”

Anthony Michael

“The stakes are higher. The tension is on. Rommel told me to hold my head up because a lot of our players got knocked out yesterday and this morning they started dropping out very, very quickly. It’s a bit disheartening, but as long as we still have a Belizean in there. We still stand a chance.”

By the middle of the day, Anthony Michael, Jason Southwell and Bob Hotchandani made it to the final fifteen percent of players; which in poker terms means they made it to the money. The minimum cash prize for this event is two thousand two hundred and forty-nine dollars. The three players still have five more hours of play before the end of day-two. Reporting for News Five from Las Vegas, I’m Marleni Cuellar.

In our last check with Team Belize in Vegas, the team was down to two. Jason Southwell from San Pedro and Anthony Michael from Belize City are the only two players remaining. The players have four more hours of play to survive Day two.

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