ANZPT Melbourne: Gao goes pow to snare chip lead

By Landon Blackhall and Sean Callander

It was a day of firsts at Crown - the first time a tour event was played in Melbourne; a rare Monday tournament start and a player came from the clouds to snatch the chip lead in the final two hands.

The chips have been bagged after the opening day in the ANZPT Melbourne event at Crown Casino, with 69 of the 218 starters set to return for tomorrow's race to the money. The field will be battling for a share of the AUD $545,000 prizepool, and the AUD $158,050 first prize.

Jie Gao took down two massive pots at the death - first, eliminating James Broom, then KOing another two opponents on the final hand of the day to bolt to more than 250,000.

Second in the chip count at day's end was well-known poker reporter Heath Chick, who would have been covering this very tournament until he won a seat on PokerStars.


Heath Chick swapped a reporting role for a leading role on day one

Clearly, watching scores of poker tournaments has paid dividends for the "Tassie Devil" as he dominated play to finish with the one of only two stacks above the 200,000-mark. His strategy for tomorrow? "I'll value fold all the way!"

Other prominent stacks were in the possession of Chris Kittos (146,000), vastly experienced Aussie pro Tino Lechich (119,500), Salvatore Fazzino (109,900), APPT Grand Final High Roller champ Jarred Graham (103,300), UK PokerStars qualifier Hein Kristiansen (100,000) and ANZPT Sydney ninth-place finisher David Zhao (95,900).


David Zhao (pictured), Chris Kittos and Joel Dodds remain on track for successive ANZPT final table appearances

But they'll be keeping an eye over their shoulders tomorrow with players the likes of Peter Aristidou, Sam Khouiss, ANZPT Adelaide winner Karl Krautschneider, Chris Levick, Team Australia man Grant Levy and 2009 Aussie Millions fourth-place finisher Raj Ramakrishnan still in contention.

Special mention to Team Australia's Tony Hachem, who again impressed to finish on 73,000. Hachem leads the ANZPT overall points race, and is on target to make it successive cashes in the first three ANZPT events; a stunning achievement.

Players to have been eliminated on day one included Team Australia trio Eric Assadourian, Emad Tahtouh and Celina Lin, PokerStars Sponsored player Lee Nelson, ANZPT Sydney winner Paren Arzoomanian, 2009 Aussie Millions winner Stewart Scott, 2008 APPT Manila champ Van Marcus, top Aussie online stars James Andy McLEOD Obst, Minh Nguyen, Andrew adgee Jeffreys, Jonathan Karamalikis, Ben Delaney and Matthew OnMyVPlates Pearson, Jay SEABEAST Kinkade; veterans Leo Boxell, Sam Korman, Gary Benson, Martin Comer, David Gorr and Billy "The Croc" Argyros plus hometown hopes Julian Powell, Bruno Portaro, Tim English, Nali "Iraqi Nick" Kaselias, Steve Topakas, Peter Ling, Marwan Nassif, Bill Jordanou and Haibo Chu.

Play resumes tomorrow at 12.10pm (3.10am GMT). Good evening from the Crown Poker Room in Melbourne, Australia.