ANZPT Queenstown: Day 1B, levels 1&2 (blinds 50-100)

australia_poker_tour.png 2:18pm: Break

The players have been sent on their first break of the day.

2:15pm: The luck of John Guthrie

Chris Levick opened for 450 pre-flop and was called by Sandy Retallick before John Guthrie bumped things up to 1,400. Levick and Retallick both called, then both check-folded to a bet of 1,500 on a queen-high flop, Q♠3♦8♣.

"Come on, trips again," said a player to Guthrie. Guthrie responded by opening Q♣Q♥ for top set.

"No luck at all!" complained Guthrie, disappointed not to get paid off.

"You've got all the cards," replied the first player. "I wouldn't complain about luck like that!"

Tony Hachem agreed. "Set of nines, set of queens..." he trailed off.

2:04pm: Lowe's cautious line works out

Four people put in 600 chips pre-flop at Craig Lowe's table and took an all-diamond flop of Q♦9♦4♦. Lowe was the only player to call a 1,000-chip bet. He called another 2,000 on the 8♥ turn and a further 2,000 on the 9♣ river. Lowe's opponent may have thought he was in good shape with Q♠K♦, a pair of queens, but Lowe turned up a surprising K♠K♣ to collect the pot.

1:53pm: Neilson busto; Hachem decides not to raise

At some point in the last twenty minutes, Dan Neilson made a quiet exit from the tournament. Jackson Zheng now has 44,000 in chips, making him a likely culprit to have busted Neilson.

On Table 5, Tony Hachem opened a pot to 400, then faced a massive over-bet shove from Sandy Retallick for 9,575, all in. Hachem pondered and pondered before finally saying, "It's too early," and open-folding A♥K♥. Retallick flashed just one card -- the 3♦.

1:40pm: Scarf back in business

Another thing "they" often say at the poker table is that it's better to be lucky than good. Andrew Scarf wound up all in with pocket aces against an opponent's set of queens. But the turn and river came a running four-flush to give Scarf the nut flush and the best hand. He doubled up to about 24,000.

1:30pm: Scarf's tip doesn't help Mascangay

They say that only a fool gives lessons to his opponents at the poker table. We don't take Andrew Scarf for a fool; maybe just a nice guy offering just a piece of sound advice. He limped the small blind against Joey Mascangay's big blind. Mascangay rapped out a check, declaring, "I haven't looked at my cards. I check."

"You haven't looked at your cards?" Scarf asked in surprise. "Can I give you a tip? Look at your cards!"

Mascangay took that tip to heart after Scarf checked a 2♦9♥9♠ flop. He squeezed out his hole cards, then bet 300. Scarf called. On the 4♥ turn, Scarf took down the pot with a bet of 450. Despite winning that pot, Scarf is down to about 12,000.

1:24pm: Ramakrishnan rivered again

If there's an opposite of being crapped on by a bird -- breaking a mirror, perhaps? -- it must apply to Raj Ramakrishnan. For the second time today, Ramakrishnan was rivered for a sizable pot. He and Craig Lowe each put in 800 chips on the turn, 8♣2♦J♣Q♠. Ramakrishnan checked a dangerous A♣ river to Lowe. With 4,000 chips already in the pot, Lowe made the price of a showdown 3,000. Ramakrishnan called, then mucked when Lowe turned up a winning club flush, 9♣7♣.

1:18pm: Level 2 begins (blinds 75-150)

1:08pm: Four ten-handed tables

There have been two no-shows today. Their money will stay in the prize pool but, given the unlikelihood that they'll turn up, their stacks have been picked up. With two early eliminations, we're already down to 39 players. Table 1 has thus been broken and the field is now playing ten-handed at the remaining tables.

1:04pm: Chips flying around Table 2

Yesterday the action table was Table 3. Today the action magnet has moved to Table 2. After the earlier three-way all in, we had another all in a few moments ago. Dan Hunter and Raj Ramakrishnan got it all in before the flop. Hunter had pocket kings; Ramakrishnan showed pocket aces. Hunter was straining as the board developed no help, J♠8♣[10h]6♥. "Come on.... come on!" he implored. It worked; he spiked a tournament-saving K♣ on the river to win the pot.

Ramakrishnan had already chipped up early, so paying off 17,125 to Hunter didn't cripple him. It merely knocked him back to about 10,000.

Hunter-river.JPG

Dan Hunter's lucky river

12:53pm: Retallick on her own

Out of the 82 combined players who played Day 1A and Day 1B here in Queenstown, there is only one woman. Her name is Sandy Retallick and she's seated at Table 5. She's down a bit in the early-going but we'll be keeping on eye on Retallick throughout the day to see if she can fight her way through to tomorrow's Day 2.

12:40pm: McKenzie bursts out of the gate

Before play started, ANZPT Commissioner Danny McDonagh asked the players if a bird crapped on any of them last night (as happened to Day 1A chip leader Michael Spilkin the night before his flight). Nobody fessed up, but we wonder if Jesse McKenzie might not have been the recipient of such a "lucky" occurrence. He opened from early position for 250 and found a host of caller. On a flop of 7♠5♥6♣, McKenzie made it 625 to go. Benjamin Gilholme called behind him, prompting Dale Marsland to raise to 2,625. McKenzie called that raise. Gilholme then three-bet to 7,625, Marsland raised all in, McKenzie called and Gilholme also called as well! Twenty minutes into the day we had a three-way all in for a massive pot of 58,000 chips.

McKenzie: 8♦9♦, a nine-high straight
Gilholme: 7♣7♦, a set of sevens
Marsland: A♥8♥, an up-and-down straight draw

The turn 8♣ didn't change anything, but it did raise the specter of a three-way chop. The board did straighten on the river 4♦, but McKenzie's nine gave him the whole pot. He knocked out Marsland and crippled Gilholme as he rocket to the early chip lead.

12:29pm: A strong field takes form

44 starters are in today's Day 1B flight, and they're no slouches. Three of the top five ANZPT Season 2 POY points leaders are in the field: Tony Hachem (1st), Andrew Scarf (3rd) and John Maklouf (4th). They're joined by Canberra champion Jason Gray; "durrrr killer" Simon Watt, the New Zealander whose defeat of Tom Dwan heads-up for a bracelet at the WSOP this year may have single-handedly saved the high-stakes poker economy; well-known pros Jonathan Karamalikis and Julius Colman; Raj Ramakrishnan, best known for his 4th-place finish at the Aussie Millions Main Event in 2009; Chris Levick, winner of the $2,500 ANZPT event at the Melbourne Championships in 2009; and several other regulars to the ANZPT circuit.

It's not going to be an easy day for anyone in this room.

12:18pm: Shuffle up and deal!

ANZPT Commissioner Danny McDonagh ushered the players into their seats and said a few words. "This is a great place, Queenstown. One of the most beautiful places in the world. I believe JetStar is starting $199 flights from Australia next year." That comment was met with scattered applause from the Aussies in the room.

"Special mention to Simon Watt, who won the first ever Kiwi bracelet at the WSOP. Well done, Simon." Again, there was applause.

Executive Director of SKYCITY Casino Michelle Baillie took over the mic and welcomed the field, as she did yesterday. The mic to Watt, who uttered the magic words.

"Good luck everyone. Shuffle up and deal!"