ANZPT Sydney: Region's finest converge on Star City
Half a world away from the spring sunshine radiating down on the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, the Australasian poker spotlight returns to Sydney for the second event in the inaugural season of the PokerStars.net Australia New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT).
We're at Star City Casino in Sydney, home of the PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final. It's one of the most spectacular settings for a poker tournament anywhere in the world, with players overlooking the Sydney CBD, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Darling Harbour precinct, home to scores of waterside restaurants and bars.
For players who may have experienced Sydney in December for the finale of the APPT in either of the past two years, let's hope they left the board shorts and zinc cream at home this time around.
It's late autumn in Sydney and a far cry from the images of sunseekers lounging on Bondi Beach or catching a wave at Manly or Dee Why. Indeed, the first day of the PokerStars.net ANZPT will kick-off under a grey sky and steady drizzle.
It might be gloomy outside, but things couldn't be brighter indoors where Aussie poker players have been flying in from around the country in recent days, packing the Star City poker room to overflow.
Preliminary events have been capped, huge numbers have been turning out for the nightly mega satellites and we're expecting a 400-plus field for the AUD $2200 ANZPT Sydney Main Event.
Considering this is a new event on an increasingly packed local tournament schedule and amid the economic gloom that Australia has not escaped, it's a staggering achievement for the ANZPT to attract such healthy numbers - underlining the strength of the poker scene Down Under.
Our two highest profile players - Team PokerStars Pros Joe Hachem and Lee "Final Table" Nelson - may be waving the Antipodean flag in Monte Carlo, but that's not to say the field for the ANZPT Sydney Main Event is lacking for quality.
There are APPT event winners Grant Levy and Eric Assadourian, their PokerStars' Team Australia teammates Emad Tahtouh, Tony Hachem and Celina Lin, ANZPT Adelaide champ Karl Krautschneider (who won his way to Sydney in the final online qualifier on PokerStars), 2009 Aussie Millions winner Stewart Scott plus scores of PokerStars qualifiers; most Australians and New Zealanders but several have made the long trek from the US and Europe.
The structure for today's play (starting stack 20,000) will be nine 60-minute levels:
Level 1: 50/100
Level 2: 75/150
Level 3 100/200
Level 4: 100/200 (25 ante)
Level 5: 150/300 (25 ante)
Level 6: 200/400 (50 ante)
Level 7: 300/600 (75 ante)
Level 8: 400/800 (100 ante)
Level 9: 500/1000 (100 ante)
The first players are starting to file into the room to collect their credentials, and we'll be underway at 12.30pm AEST (3.30am GMT) with the opening hand of the 2009 PokerStars.net ANZPT Sydney Main Event.