ANZPT Canberra: Levels 4-6 updates
6.15pm: Six down, two to go
The clock is ticking down to the final break of the day, with players facing two more hours of play before calling it a night on a highly successful opening to the ANZPT Canberra Main Event. Friday night means the bar is pumping and most of the railbirds are nursing a pot of their favourite lager.
6pm: Benton bolts to lead
Aaron Benton has been the one of the big stories of Australian poker in the past 12 months. He owns the biggest online score in local poker history, won the 2009 APPT Sydney title and has displayed impressive consistency in tournaments of all levels.
You can add ANZPT Canberra chip leader to that list. After a steady but profitable couple of hours, Benton has charged to 80,000 to edge ahead of Phil Batticiotto. But the tournament is over for Bob Crossman, Tom Grigg, Paul Coleman and Tony Paino.
5.30pm: Let the Carnevale begin
Canberra's own Phil Batticiotto remains the chip leader on 76,000, but the chips once in possession of fellow local Paul Coleman now reside in the stacks of Joel Dodds and Rennie Carnevale.
The ANZPT Adelaide champ made a great read on Coleman, and called a river bet big enough to put him all-in holding only top-pair on a board of 5♣ K♦ J♦ 9♦ 3♣. Coleman meekly showed 5♣ 8♥ for a pair of fives, and Carnevale scooped a pot worth 45,000.
5pm: Last (team) man standing
Emad Tahtouh remains the last of three PokerStars.net Team Australia players in today's field after the departure of Grant Levy. Almost down to the felt, Levy's final 3000 was committed with A-10 but John Maklouf's pocket jacks held firm leaving the 2007 APPT Grand Final winner free to get a head start before tonight's players' party.
4.45pm: Doctor in the house
Great to see one of our poker pioneers Dr Bob Crossman in today's field. The 1989 Australasian Championships winner is perhaps most famously remembered for his testimony in a South Australian court case during the mid-1990s in which he used his skills as a mathematician to prove that poker was a game of skill. Players of his ilk don't get the credit they deserve for keeping the poker flame burning in the days when the game was far less fashionable than today.
4.30pm: Take a breather, lady & gentlemen
As the light starts to dim outside, we're approaching the second break of the day before blinds are bumped up to level five (150/300 with an ante of 25). Casino Canberra is slowly growing on us - it almost feels like a private club. Friendly staff, great service and from a very selfish perspective, the fastest wireless we've ever enjoyed at a poker tournament!
4pm: Territorians tearing it up
The locals are lapping up the challenge of having Australia's best players in the room, with Phil Batticiotto (68,000) and Paul Coleman (62,000) holding the two biggest stacks approaching the mid-point of day 1A. It would be a massive boost for the local poker scene to have some local representation at Monday's final table.
With every stop we make on the ANZPT comes another little quirk. The cards are dealt out of a modified shoe like Star City and Jupiter's, but burned and turned in normal fashion. We're also fond of the giant dealer button but three votes to the dealer who called time on a surprised PokerStars.net Team Australia Pro Grant Levy. That's the sort of dedication we love.
3.30pm: Level 4 (100/200 with an ante of 25)
ANZPT chief Danny McDonagh has confirmed that we'll be playing eight levels today, which will mean the first beverage will be poured at tonight's players' party around 9pm (maybe 8.59pm if we're lucky). We're up to level four on day 1A of the ANZPT Canberra Main Event.