ANZPT Queenstown: Qualifiers put Captain Cook to shame

We thought our trip directly from Las Vegas to Queenstown was long, but a pair of PokerStars qualifiers have put that effort to shame. Hats off to Ville Nurmi from Finland and Argentinean Cesar Cavagnero for journeying staggering distances to take their seats on day 1C of the ANZPT Queenstown Main Event.

Currently travelling through the region, Nurmi really earns our admiration for an effort that would have impressed the early explorers - summer lasts all of three weeks in the deep north of Europe, and he's elected to trek more than 17,000 kilometres to be here. At least winter in Queenstown is mild compared to Finland!

There are some other players of interest in today's field - we first met 21-year-old Sam Faqiryar at the final table of last year's APPT Seoul Main Event, where he finished ninth. That was just his second live tournament, so it's great to see the Canadian back in this half of the world after again qualifying through PokerStars.

09anzptq19.jpg Team Australia's Eric Assadourian, picking his marks carefully

Two of New Zealand's best young players, James Honeybone (2007 Manila Cup winner) and Josh Egan, who was fourth in the 2007 PokerStars EPT London Main Event, are now seated at table five with Dennis Huntly, Tian Shou and Team Australia pro Eric Assadourian.

Daniel Botta steered his way through a massive field of 898 players back in March to win the second Joe Hachem Deep Stack Series title at Crown in Melbourne, winning the first prize of $100,000. Botta's been having a ball in Queenstown and is in action on the orange felt today.

Sydney's Mark Iskander is seated next to Bruno Portaro on table four, and the pair are reliving some of the big hands they played in the Melbourne Poker Championships Main Event just a few weeks ago. Iskander famously sent to Portaro to the rail in that event when both players made a straight, with the Sydneysider filling the higher end. We suspect Bruno won't forget that hand in a hurry.

Phew, not a bad line-up given there's only 30 players in today's field after three no-shows were confirmed. All of have successfully negotiated their way through the opening two levels, and blinds will be up to 100/200 after the first break of the day.