ANZPT Queenstown: Put another log on the fire
The smoke from the many open fires burning throughout the town is drifting pass the windows of the tournament area here at SKYCITY, creating a unique backdrop to day 1B of the PokerStars.net ANZPT Queenstown Main Event.
The light is already fading as the rain continues to tumble down but things are starting to heat up in the tournament - literally - with a packed rail keen to stay out of the cold and wet Tuesday afternoon.
Talk about a winter wonderland - there are beanies, scarves and ski-gear on the damp bodies popping into the poker room, making it feel more like a ski lodge than a poker room.
Not surprisingly, it's been the more experienced players who've made the most of the early going, with PokerStars.net Team Australia duo Emad Tahtouh and Grant Levy easing to 25,000 in the opening hour.
But it's Sydneysider Nick Nicolaou, making a welcome return to the major tournament arena, who is the early chip leader with 27,500. Nicolaou has been in Queenstown for a month, enjoying the ski season and recharging his batteries. Lean and hungry for a breakthrough major tournament victory, Nicolaou could be a dark horse in this event.
Meanwhile Levy is picking his spots carefully on table three: a veritable minefield that includes not only Lisa Walsh and Tim English but a pair of wily Kiwi veterans in Nick Wright and David Bradford.
Wright final-tabled the 2007 NZ Poker Champs Main Event and led after day one in 2008 but was forced to abandon his campaign. Bradford won the Christchurch Championship in 2006 and has also cashed at a number of events in Las Vegas.
Coming up to the first break of the day, all 35 players (one no-show today) have survived the first two levels and when they return from their first