ANZPT Queenstown: Chevalier's win cherry on the pie
The concept of poker tourism will never be the same after the first PokerStars.net ANZPT Queenstown. It's safe to say that not a single visitor to this stunning alpine town, nestled deep in the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island, has failed to sample at least one of the attractions on offer. Sure, regular regional stops like Sydney, Macau, Auckland or Seoul have their own distinct character and attractions galore, but Queenstown's allure is unique.
Such is the proximity of Queenstown's best aspects is that you can take a jet-boat ride in the morning, dine atop Bob's Peak after riding the Skyline Gondola for lunch, cruise Lake Wakatipu in the afternoon and be back before the sun sets behind the nearby snow-capped mountains.
Whether it's been flying down the slopes at Coronet Peak like PokerStars.net Team Australia pros Emad Tahtouh, Eric Assadourian and Tony Hachem, soaring through the air on the world's biggest bungy swing with 2007 PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final winner Grant Levy or taking a nail-biting plane flight to Milford Sound with Team Asia's Celina Lin and PokerStars Sponsored player Lee "Final Table" Nelson, everyone has tasted the delights of this popular destination.
It may be the world's adventure sports capital, but Queenstown has also proved popular with players who enjoy a gourmet bent to their dining, with enough top quality bars and restaurants to ensure that a different dining schedule could be planned for each evening.
The cherry on the pie has been the PokerStars.net ANZPT Queenstown Main Event, hosted at the boutique SKYCITY Casino in the heart of the town. A field of 134 players ensured a prize pool of more than NZD $300,000, and those who thought that the long trip to Queenstown would detract from the quality of the field were sorely mistaken.
On top of the PokerStars contingent of Hachem, Levy, Tahtouh, Assadourian, Lin and Nelson, the SKYCITY Alpine Adventure attracted many of the region's best players, including 2009 Aussie Million winner Stewart Scott, ANZPT Melbourne winner Chris Levick, 2006 NZ Poker Champs runner-up Nick Nicolaou, ANZPT Sydney Main Event runner-up Lisa Walsh, 2008 APPT Macau High Roller second-place finisher Andrew Scott, NZ celebs Dan Sing, Brooke Howard-Smith and Mike King, 2009 NZ Poker Champs Main Event winner Soren Eriksen and a swag of top Aussie and Kiwi pros.
ANZPT chief Danny McDonagh devised a unique schedule that spread players across four day-one flights, allowing everyone the chance to partake in organised day trips or just kick back between tournament sessions.
The field of 134 players was reduced to 92 for day two, which featured two flights of 46 and ended with 18 players progressing to the final day.
Local property developer John Guthrie looked to have a stranglehold on the event as he took a huge chip lead into day three and the final table, but his charge faltered as 21-year-old PokerStars qualifier Andrew Hinrichsen and 46-year-old former Queenstown resident Danny Chevalier were left to decide the title and who would take home the first prize of NZD $87,435.
The battle started with Hinrichsen (the day 1C chip leader but one of the short stacks coming into the final nine) holding a narrow chip lead - 1.4 million to 1.1 million - over Chevalier, who certainly held the edge in experience after two final tables at the 2009 Melbourne Poker Championships.
After a heads-up duel that lasted just over 30 minutes, Chevalier has edged out to a handy chip lead and claimed the title when he called Hinrichsen's all-in with A♥ 7♥ for the nut flush on a flop of Q♥ 5♥ 4♥. Hinrichsen's Q♣ [10c] was crushed by the time the turn came 8♠, with the river A♠ confirming Chevalier's victory.
"I lived here for 11 years so Queenstown is like a second home for me. It was great to win this event in front of what is virtually a home crowd," Chevalier, who ran a day spa in Queenstown before selling up and heading back to Australia, said.
The first year of the PokerStars.net ANZPT now returns to Australia for the season finale - a five-day event that will be held from August 5-9 at both Treasury Casino in the state's capital of Brisbane and Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast.
The overall ANZPT Points title will also be decided in Queensland, with PokerStars.net Team Australia pro Tony Hachem leading the field after continuing his amazing record of an in-the-money finish in all four ANZPT events.
On behalf of the SKYCITY crew here in Queenstown (and those who made the trip south from Auckland to lend a hand) and the ANZPT team, we hope you've enjoyed the coverage from New Zealand over the past six days. It's time to pack away the skis and dig out the twin-fin for a slice of sun and surf in Queensland!