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[caption width="640"] Peter Smyth came all the way from England to play the PokerStars Festival New Jersey after winning an online qualifier (PokerStars photo / Joe Giron)[/caption] Every time PokerStars hosts a live event, whether it’s the European Poker Tour, the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour or the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, there’s always a slew of players who have made their way to the tournament by qualifying online. With the rebranding of all of their live tournaments under the PokerStars Live umbrella that didn’t change and as the first PokerStars Live Festival event plays down to a champion Friday night, two players remained who had a shot at turning a small online buy-in into a five-figure live score. And that’s basically where the similarities end. Peter Smyth is a 60-year-old British retiree who plays on PokerStars.com more as a hobby than as a means of making any money. He does okay - he’s a SuperNova - but playing poker for him is all about having some fun and taking advantage of his math, statistics and gambling background. “When it comes to mathematics and gambling, everybody is good at something and that just happens to be my thing. I’m certainly not a professional, there’s much better players than me, I’m very pragmatic and realistic about that. It’s the mathematical challenge, I’m not great at reading people, which is part of the reason I prefer to play online, I think I play a lot tighter live, maybe a bit frightened to make a fool of myself or something,” said Smyth, a former trading director for one of Britain’s largest gambling companies. Smyth was playing on PokerStars.com from his home in England and noticed the satellite in the tournament lobby. “(The buy-in) was like $200 and I just happened to notice, I was playing in a couple of other tournaments at the time, and it looked like there might possibly be an overlay,” said Smyth. “I haven’t played live for maybe five or six years, just the traveling and stuff, and I thought well it looks like value. I think there were three packages and there were just 12 players and you could re-enter once. And I thought well why not and I got through okay, so that was fine.” Next thing he knew he was booking airfare on his way to Atlantic City. [caption width="640"] Michael Gagliano is one of New Jersey's most respected online pros (PokerStars photo / Joe Giron)[/caption] Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano is a professional poker and the #8-ranked poker player in his home state of New Jersey. He makes his living playing on the regulated poker sites his state has to offer and the surrounding live tournament scene in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He also won his first World Series of Poker bracelet this summer. Gagliano qualified in a $109 buy-in satellite that guaranteed 25 seats. Being a pro in one of the only three states to offer regulated online poker means being able to take advantage of low buy-in qualifiers for some of the bigger land-based events that fill the calendar. ‘I knew they had satellites for this. There was a few that ran during the week that only had one seat. So I played a couple. I was pretty sure I was going to come to this anyway, but once I won a seat, obviously I had to come,” said Gagliano. “I play all of the satellites. I played all of the satellites for this, all of the satellites for Borgata. Anything that runs that’s going to be in the area, I definitely play a satellite for it.” Smyth eventually busted in eighth place, turning his $200 investment into a $4,455 payday. He had dreams of turning his satellite win into top three money and sticking around the East Coast in hopes of running it up, but it wasn’t meant to be. “If I finish in the top three I might well stay and play next week in the Borgata, possibly,” said Smyth before he was eliminated. “If I finish seventh or eighth I’m back on the plane, back to England and back in front of the screen again.” Gagliano, as he’s done for most of the tournament, is still hovering near the chip lead with seven players remaining in the hunt for the $38,220 first place prize.
[caption width="640"] Despite a history of winning at almost any game he tries, Randy Lew wasn't able to make any magic on the foosball table[/caption] Over the last 12 years or so, Team PokerStars Pro Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew has developed a real reputation for taking on any nearly game and learning how to crush it. First it was fighting video games, as Lew, a student at UC-Davis in Northern California, became one of the worlds best at Marvel vs. Capcom 2 at a time when eSports wasn’t something anybody really thought much about. He eventually transitioned to poker, where he became one of the world’s most prodigious multi-tablers, eventually setting the Guinness World Record for the most hands played during an eight-hour session. So when PokerStars announced that the inaugural PokerStars Live Festival event in Atlantic City would have a StarsFun zone, filled with games like pinball, corn hole and table tennis, it felt like it was a place built for Lew to show off some of his non-poker talents. Challenging Lew to a best-of-three contest at a selection of the games on hand might not have been the best idea, but PocketFives Editor in Chief Lance Bradley did it anyway. Game 1: PacMan Battle Royale A classic take on the old school arcade classic, PacMan Battle Royale puts both players into the PacMan map at the same time. The only twist is instead of clearing each map and moving on to the next one, players win by eating their opponent or having one of the ghosts do the work. Each “match” is a best-of-three of its own. Given his history with arcade games, Lew was a natural favorite here. With neither Lew nor Bradley being overly familiar with this version of the game, the early action was more about eating dots in an attempt to clear the map. The dots continuously reappear however and after a few minutes of stumbling through the game, Bradley won the first of three matches by cornering Lew’s PacMan. Throughout the match Lew talked about his hectic schedule and how it keeps him on his toes. Lew flew to Atlantic City from Australia where he had been playing and streaming on Twitch. “I’m still on Australia time right now,” Lew said. “So getting adjusted wherever I travel is always hard.” Not hard enough to prevent him from winning the second game, capturing one of the power pellets and chasing Bradley across the screen at double-time to set up a rubber match. “I’m heading back to Macau after this for the 2016 Asia Championship of Poker,” Lew said. The third match took longer than the first two combined with both Bradley and Lew chomping up pellets and avoiding each other altogether. The game took a sudden turn when Bradley went on the offensive after grabbing another power pellet and eating Lew’s PacMan to end the match. Bradley won the match 2-1, but the game also kept track of the total number of pellets each player accumulated and Lew came out well ahead. “So it’s kind of a push, right?,” joked Lew. Result: Bradley wins the PacMan Battle Royale 2-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three. Game 2: Pop a Shot Basketball You’ve likely played this game before or seen it in some bar. Each player gets 60 seconds to hit as many shots as possible. While Bradley and Lew were waiting to take their turn, a fan approached Lew and told him he was the reason he started playing poker. “It was just your old videos and stuff, maybe five years,” the fan said. “Always wanted to meet you.” The pair posed for a photograph and Bradley played the role of photographer. Lew, who has developed a loyal following on Twitch, enjoys the opportunity to engage with fans at live events. “It’s a big part of what I do. People come up to me all the time and say hi or ask me a question,” said Lew. “It’s fun. I don’t mind it all.” The StarsFun Zone has been running daily high score progressive contests with the best score so far being 104. It was clear just seconds in to the Bradley vs. Lew match that the record was in no danger. Bradley missed his first 12 shots, some not even reaching the rim, finally hitting one to get on the board. Lew had already put up 18 points. Lew continued to build his score while Bradley flailed away in a desperate attempt to catch up in the last ten seconds when made shots were suddenly worth three points. It didn’t matter. Result: Lew wins easily, 35-21 to tie the best-of-three match at one win apiece. Game 3: Foosball “So, uh, you foos?,” Bradley asked Lew. “I mean, I’ve played before, yeah,” said Lew. “Cool, let’s make that the third game,” said Bradley. Lew didn’t know what was coming. “I’m just a super competitive person. When I get into something, I do everything I can to become the best at it,” said Lew. “So when I decided I wanted to play more live tournaments, it wasn’t about anything but wanting to get better and better at it.” Bradley opened up a 4-0 lead before Lew realized what was happening. The next few minutes were a bit of a blur for the Team PokerStars Online Pro. Five nothing. Six nothing. “I need to at least get one goal here,” said Lew. Lew’s first live poker tournament win came over five years in Macau as he outlasted 574 other players to win the HK$30,000 ($3,865 US) buy-in Asia-Pacific Poker Tour Macau Main Event. He’s shifted more of his attention to live tournaments that allow him to also stream online play, so Macau and Australia are popular choices. “Sometimes the schedule is a little tough,” said Lew. “The PokerStars tournament schedule is more focused on the European and Canadian time zones so sometimes I’m getting up at 1 am to play an online schedule. It’s not always easy.” Probably easier than this foosball match. Seven nothing. Bradley scored the next three goals to shut out Lew and take the third and final match. Final score: Bradley 10, Lew 0. Bradley wins the best-of-three 2-1. Lew’s pain – if there was any – didn’t last long. He immediately went on to take on fellow streamer Jonathan Little in a first-to-five sit-n-go match streamed on Twitch. Lew ended up winning that 5-1 to finish his day off on a winning note.