ANZPT Queenstown: The ultimate Alpine adventure
From the moment the pilot says to keep an eye out for the glaciers as the Airbus picks it way through a series of 10,000-plus feet snow-capped peaks high over the South Island of New Zealand, you know Queenstown isn't going to be the typical stopover for a poker tournament.
Welcome to the world's adventure sport capital, Queenstown, for the penultimate event on the first season of the PokerStars.net Australian New Zealand Poker Tour and he first-ever SKYCITY Alpine Adventure.
One of the southern-most population centres anywhere in the world, the Otago town of Queenstown is nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the Southern Alps.
Most spectacularly, a saw-toothed mountain range known as the Remarkables sets a stunning backdrop to the region that is home to approximately 25,000 people.
Founded as a farming region, gold was discovered in the nearby Arrow River is the mid-1860s, bringing prospectors from around the world. More than 140 years later, a new form of prospector has hit town for the first time in pursuit of the first major poker title ever played in this part of the south-west of New Zealand's South Island.
It's also peak season for thousands of winter sports enthusiasts who converge here in the winter months to ski and board at one of the four commercial resorts - Coronet Peak, Treble Cone, Cardrona and The Remarkables.
ANZPT el presidente Danny McDonagh has scheduled only a handful of levels for each of the four day-one flights, giving PokerStars qualifiers and the scores of players who've made the long trek here the chance to enjoy some of the endless list of tourism activities.
That list includes jet boating, whitewater rafting, an array of bungee jumps (the world's first permanent commercial bungee site; the Kawarau Bridge Bungee was opened here), mountain biking, hiking and fly fishing, while many come to check out the locations used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies.
With in an excellent selection of local restaurants and vineyards, and an easily accessible compact village, this is as about as good as is gets for a poker tourist, and makes a nice antidote for the handful of us who flew straight from Las Vegas after the 2009 World Series of Poker!
McDonagh and the ANZPT team welcomed players and PokerStars qualifiers at last night's cocktail party, held in the Wild Thyme restaurant and bar at SKYCITY Queenstown.
Later today, we're expecting around 35-40 players to take their seats for the first of four day-one flights. Big names here PokerStars.net Team Australia regulars Tony Hachem (second overall in the ANZPT Overall Points Race), Emad Tahtouh, Celina Lin, Grant Levy and Eric Assadourian along with PokerStars Sponsored player and Kiwi poker icon Lee "Final Table" Nelson and a selection of the region's best players.
Over the next six days, we look forward to bringing you all the action from the SKYCITY Alpine Adventure, event four on the 2009 PokerStars.net ANZPT. Cards should be in the air at 12.15pm local time (1.15am GMT)
PokerStars.net ANZPT leaderboard (after three events)
1 Chris Levick (New South Wales) 129.2
2 Tony Hachem (Victoria) 124.8
3 David Zhao 92.4
4 Karl Krautschneider (Victoria) 90
5 Daniel Noja 79.2
6 Billy Argyros (Victoria) 79
7 Joel Dodds (New South Wales) 77.6
8 Paren Arzoomanian (New South Wales) 77.4
8 John Caridad (New South Wales) 77.4
10 Danny Joukhader 74.4
11 Chris Kittos (New South Wales) 73.2
12 Celina Lin 70.8
13 Bruno Portaro (Victoria) 69.6
14 James Broom (Victoria) 68.4
15 Lisa Walsh (Queensland) 67.4
16 Mike Stecker (USA) 65.6
17 Heath Chick (Tasmania) 64
17 Tony Dunst (USA) 64
19 Hugh Cohen 63.4
20 Dean Nyberg (South Australia) 63.2
20 Sam Khouiss (New South Wales) 63.2