ANZPT Sydney: Paren Arzoomanian is the champ

The title of Australian poker capital has been shipped around numerous cities over the past 30 years. It started at Australia's first casino in Hobart, Tasmania, then settled in Adelaide during the late 1980s and 1990s, briefly adopted Canberra before setting up shop in Melbourne.

However, a new challenger is emerging. After the success of the 2007 and 2008 APPT Grand Finals, the poker room at Star City Casino in Sydney is buzzing like never before.

Amid the current financial crisis, the Australian New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT) somehow managed to establish a new record for an event up to $3000 buy-in, with a field of 493 players and a prize pool of AUD $986,000.

Remember, this is a tour in its first year and holding just its second event. But poker-hungry Sydneysiders showed their hunger for such events by packing out the events on the preliminary schedule before building a Main Event field comparable with the showpiece of the Star City poker program: the APPT Grand Final.

After four days and 28 one-hour levels, the battle for the first ANZPT Sydney Main Event title came down to a showdown between an eclectic pair - 49-year-old mother-of-six and Gold Coast mortgage broker Lisa Walsh, and 25-year-old Sydney student and aspiring poker pro Paren "Puzz" Arzoomanian.

Supported by a large and boisterous rail, who iced a bottle of champagne on the media desk in expectation of his victory, Puzz was cheered to the line and just before 1am on Monday morning, he duly saluted to take home the first prize of AUD $246,500. Not bad for a guy who has recently finished chemotherapy after a bout of cancer.


ANZPT Sydney champion Paren Arzoomanian

Play had stagnated when it reached four-handed, but the elimination of Chris Kittos finally sparked some action and when the final PokerStars qualifier John Caridad was KOed in third, it was Walsh versus Arzoomanian for the title.

Walsh was poised for a slice of local poker history, with the title of winning the biggest prize ever captured by a female on Australian soil in her grasp.

She trailed when the heads-up battle started, wrested the lead but eventually fell one step short. The end came when she committed her short stack with K♥ 9♣, but Puzz making the call and showing A♣ 5♦. The board ran out J♠ 8♠ 8♦ 5♣ A♦, and the Dom Perignon was flowing for Paren Arzoomanian.

In the end, it was an appropriate result for a Sydney local, and another step up the ladder for Sydney as the home of Aussie poker.


Runner-up Lisa Walsh, marketing director, ANZ, for PokerStars Michelle Stott and Star City poker manager Deb Rillo with Paren Arzoomanian

But the New South Welshmen will be on enemy territory in three weeks' time when the ANZPT treks across the Victorian border for ANZPT Melbourne at Crown Casino. State pride will be on the line in what is sure to be a fiercely contested $2700 buy-in event.

And the man everyone will be watching is Team Australia player, Melbourne's own Tony Hachem, the new leader in the race for the ANZPT Player of the Year title.

We look forward to joining from May 25-27 in our hometown for the third event on the 2009 ANZPT. Farewell from Star City Casino and Sydney, Australia.