ANZPT Canberra: Phil rides hometown advantage to chip lead

The doors are open at the Galaxy Nightclub here at Casino Canberra for the "official" celebration of poker's long-awaited return to the Australian capital. Day 1A of the first ANZPT Canberra Main Event marked the first time a major poker tournament had been played here since 2002, and the region's finest were here to share in the milestone.


Thought we weren't watching! Congratulations to Phillip Batticiotto, who topped the day 1A chip count

Starters today included Team Australia trio Eric Assadourian, Grant Levy and Emad Tahtouh, ANZPT Adelaide winner Rennie Carnevale, 2009 APPT Grand Final champ Aaron Benton, 2009 ANZPT Player of the Year third placegetter Joel Dodds, Chris Evans, Ricky Kroesen and experienced campaigners including Graeme Putt, Bob Crossman and Roy Vandersluis.

After eight one-hour levels, 40 of the 84 players who started day 1A were still standing and will return on Sunday in pursuit of the first ANZPT Canberra title. Notably second in chips is Rennie Carnevale. Currently sixth in points for ANZPT Player of the Year, the young powerlifting champ finished the day with 87,700 in chips.

Rennie's housemate is fellow PokerStars Qualifier Aaron Benton, who also finished the day in good shape with 67,300 in chips. Amazingly, the third member of the same household, Brendan Rubie, who plays tomorrow, went very deep two weeks ago at APPT Macau and then took out the Melbourne Poker Championship last week.

PokerStars Team Australia Pro Emad Tahtouh will also be back on Sunday with 36,500. However, the chip leader is Casino Canberra Satellite winner Phillip Batticiotto who bagged 103,600 in chips. Other well placed are PokerStars Qualifiers Aaron Golledge (77,500) and Adam Cameron (73,900) while Joel Dodds is nicely poised with 71,100.

We'll be back from 12.15pm tomorrow for day 1B of the ANZPT Canberra Main Event. In the interests of journalistic integrity and professionalism, we're off to wave the PokerStars flag at the players' party. Just one drink. Maybe two.