Jason Acosta qualified for the PokerStars Live Festival New Jersey Main Event on PokerStarsNJ.com not for $200, not for $109, not for $39 – but for 5,000 StarsCoins. Late Friday night in Atlantic City the 30-year-old from Little Ferry, NJ turned that small investment into a $38,220 score and the PokerStars Festival NJ title after beating out Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano heads-up.
Day 3 started with 23 players and a plan to play down to a final table of eight players, but action moved quickly enough that tournament organizers gave the players the option to play it out.
Peter Smyth, who also qualified via an online qualifier, was the first player officially eliminated from the final table. With nine players remaining Smyth opened to 30,000, Jovy Ounthongdy moved all in from the button for just over 100,000 an Eli Kim move all in from the big blind and Smyth called all in. Smyth tabled , Ounthongdy had but Kim was ahead of both of them with . The board ran out to to give Kim an unneeded set of aces and eliminate both Ounthongdy and Smyth at the same time with Smyth taking home eighth place money.
It took just over 90 minutes for the next player to be sent packing. Matt Affleck raised to 36,000 before Rocco Dicondina moved all in for 120,000 from the button. Affleck called and tabled while was ahead with . The flop put Affleck ahead with a pair of nines. The gave Affleck trips and left Dicondina hoping for a jack on the river for a chopped pot, but the was a complete miss and Dicondina was eliminated in seventh.
Just 15 minutes later, another player was eliminated. From the hijack, Sridhar Sangannagari raised to 42,000 before Gagliano made it 90,000 from the cutoff. Sangannagari moved all in for just over 170,000 total and Gagliano called. Sangannagari flipped over and found out he was in rough shape when Gagliano tabled . The flop gave Sangannagari some hope and the turn put him ahead, but the river gave Gagliano a rivered full house to eliminate Sangannagari.
Despite starting the final table with the chip lead, Affleck couldn’t out run a cold deck. Down to just seven big blinds, Affleck raised all in after Kim opened to 48,000 from UTG. Kim called with and found he had Affleck’s dominated. The flop left Affleck drawing nearly dead and the on the turn made it official. The river was the and Affleck was out in fifth.
Another player who had spent time with the overall chip lead during the course of the tournament was eliminated just 15 minutes later. Action folded to Kim in the small blind and he raised enough to put David Johnston all in from the big blind if he called. Johnston called and tabled and found himself out-pipped by Kim’s . The flop put Kim ahead. The turn gave Johnston a flush draw but the river was a complete brick and he was out in fourth place.
Kim had been responsible for a number of Day 3 bustouts and was the big stack early on in the day, but his run ended in third place. Kim raised to 70,000 from the button with and Gagliano re-raised to 215,000 from the small blind with . Kim responded with a four-bet to 650,000 and Gagliano moved all in. Kim called all in. The flop put Gagliano ahead and the turn and river kept him there.
When heads-up play began Gagliano had 4,410,000 of the 5,025,000 chips in play with Jason Acosta sitting on the short stack. Over the course of the next two hours Acosta closed the gap and flipped the chip counts to leave Gagliano as the short stack.
“He’s obviously a much more accomplished player than me, I knew I was at a huge disadvantage,” said Acosta, who plans on going back to work at his trucking company on Monday. “Once I doubled up I knew I had to double up again because he still had me like 3-1, 4-1 in chips.”
Acosta did exactly that, in a hand where both players made a straight and Gagliano called with the lower straight. That hand put Acosta ahead for the first time. It took him 90 minutes to finally put away Gagliano and claim the title, his first live win. Gagliano opened all in for 900,000 and Acosta called. Gagliano tabled and found out he was racing against Acosta’s . The flop gave Acosta even more outs. The turn added even more drama and when the fell on the river, Gagliano’s pair was counterfeited and Acosta was the last player standing.
Final Table Payouts
- Jason Acosta – $38,220
- Michael Gagliano – $28,116
- Eli Kim – $20,683
- David Johnston – $15,215
- Matt Affleck – 11,193
- Sridhar Sangannagari – $8,234
- Rocco Dicondina – $6,057
- Peter Smyth – $4,455