ANZPT Perth: Another chapter written in the Hachem history
When news broke that Perth had been added to the schedule for season two of the PokerStars.net ANZPT, players rejoiced on either side of the country. For the first time, Western Australia's best would be able to test themselves against the best of the best from the eastern seaboard. For the visitors who'd found it difficult to squeeze WA's annual Western Classic into their annual schedule, ANZPT Perth provided the opportunity to experience the jewel of Australia's west.
A record-breaking field of 222 players converged on Burswood Casino for the AUD $2500 PokerStars.net ANZPT Perth Main Event, while the prizepool of AUD $510,600 was also a record for Western Australia.
But the biggest headline was to come after PokerStars.net Team Australia Pro Tony Hachem emerged victorious. The younger brother of 2005 WSOP champion Joe Hachem, Tony has battled the demons that come with chasing success in the same field as a famous sibling.
Excited by the opportunities that came with the new PokerStars.net ANZPT in 2009, he displayed maturity and considerable skill to cash in four of the five season one events, which earned him the title of ANZPT Player of the Year.
Last month, he made a dream start to season two of the ANZPT in Adelaide with his first final table. Although outwardly pleased to finish seventh, something nagged at Hachem's core, especially after he'd come so close to his debut title two years ago when runner-up in the New Zealand Poker Championships Main Event. For Hachem, it all came together in a packed tournament area at Burswood Casino.
But like any great story, it was full of ups and downs, none more so than Hachem's forgettable start to the tournament. He was down to 6000 in the opening level of play after paying off an opponent's full house but ended the day in reasonable shape on more than 32,000.
A late flurry on day two propelled him to fourth chip position overall, and similarly on day three, he started slowly before entering the final table in the middle of the pack. However, the odds were firmly stacked in favour of the hometown contingent with seven Perth-based players battling for the first ANZPT title at Burswood.
Hachem made his move with five players remaining, and by the time play reached three-handed, he'd snatched the chip lead from Aleks Lackovic, and the departure of reigning Western Classic winner Vesko Zmukic in third set up a dreams heads-up battle: mate against mate, state against state as described by Tony's PokerStars.net Team Australia teammate and good mate Eric Assadourian. Coincidentally, Lackovic lost heads-up to Assadourian four years ago in the Melbourne Poker Championships Main Event.
Trailling Hachem 1:2 in chips but without any immediate pressure from the blinds, Lackovic looked set to take the battle to the trenches but within 10 minutes of the first hand being dealt in the heads-up duel, the money was all in the middle. After seven hours of final table play, it came down to a flip; Hachem's jacks against Lackovic's A-K. The jacks held.
A combination of elation and relief reduced Hachem to tears, along with more than a few of the spectators who knew what the champion had been through on the road to victory. Joe Hachem, following from his Melbourne home, was equally thrilled by Tony's win - no-one knows better the road that Tony has travelled in the past few years than big brother.
Casting aside the emotion of Hachem's win, his ANZPT numbers are staggering: seven events, six cashes, two final tables, one victory and a runaway lead in the ANZPT points race. But for Tony Hachem, this victory represents just the end of the beginning. The monkey is off his back. He has nothing more to prove.
This concludes our coverage of the first PokerStars.net ANZPT Perth Main Event. I'd like to thank Deb Wyatt and the team at Burswood for their assistance and support over the past week, and congratulate them on the success of their first ANZPT tournament. Perth is now well and truly on the Australasian poker landscape - welcome aboard. Thanks also to the local PokerStars and ANZPT teams for their assistance in covering this tournament.
Our next ANZPT stop is Star City in Sydney for the second ANZPT Sydney Main Event. Preliminary events kick-off on April 15, before the AUD $2200 Main Event on April 21-25. In the meantime, farewell from Burswood Casino in Perth, Western Australia.