ANZPT Melbourne: Qualifiers living the dream

By Landon Blackhall

Things are never predictable in poker. Chatting with two of the PokerStars qualifiers in today's ANZPT Melbourne field (whose names we didn't immediately recognise), we expected to find a couple of tournament poker greenhorns.

Instead, we found genuine players with plenty of online experience under their belts and looking to take the big step in the daunting live arena of Crown.

Jack Stevens is a 34-year-old chef and father of three from the beachside suburb of Frankston, 40 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. His love of poker wasn't born of the glitz and glamour of the World Poker Tour on television, or Joe Hachem's 2005 WSOP victory.

"I actually started playing poker online five years ago," Stevens said, after he took the time to compose himself after taking down a massive pot with pocket jacks against an opponent's A-10. "My friends were already into it, so I thought would give it a go and I love it!"

Despite having qualified for his first ANZPT event through a series of freerolls, Stevens has played in 11 previous live tournaments over the past three and a half years.

"My next goal is to qualify for the ANZPT Queenstown event, then see how I go from there. Though I'm not sure about my partner Leanne, she's nervous enough watching from the rail as it is!"


The dream is reality for our 61 PokerStars online qualifiers

We also caught up with Daniel Laidlaw, a former university student from Adelaide. The 26-year-old started playing low-limit cash games online four years ago and has since capitalised on his success, becoming a full-time cash game player. But he doesn't lack for tournament poker experience.

"I played the ANZPT Sydney event and finished 145th out of 493 runners. No cash, but still really happy with how I went and hope to go one better here in Melbourne," he said.

Laidlaw said that he earned his degree in international studies, which led us to ask if he had plans to stretch his poker experience beyond the shores of Australia.

"Sadly no. I had plans to play the WSOP but I've got other commitments, so I guess I'll just grind it out on the online cash games for the rest of the year!"

Players will soon take their final break for the evening, after which blinds will be up to 500/1000 with an ante of 100. More than half of the 218 players who started the day have been eliminated, with 102 remaining.