ANZPT Queenstown: Zheng to the fore of Day 1B field

australia_poker_tour.pngLeo Tolstoy opens his epic 19th-century novel Anna Karenina by noting that, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion." What was true of families in Tolstoy's day is true of poker players today: the happy ones (the winners) are generally alike, but the unhappy ones -- the short-stacks and the players who have been eliminated -- each knows his own particular form of unhappiness.

There was plenty of happiness and unhappiness to go around at Day 1B of the 2010 ANZPT Queenstown Main Event today at SKYCITY Casino in Queenstown, New Zealand. A list of the happy players might include Jesse McKenzie (69,375), who tripled up in the first half-hour of play by flopping the nut straight against a player with top set and another with a draw; Jackson Zheng, who ended the day as the chip leader (74,075) by continually chipping up throughout the day and having the good fortune to eliminate Daniel Neilson and Jonathon Karamalikis; and John Maklouf, who final-tabled the last two ANZPT events and is trying to continue a rapid ascent up the Season 2 points leaderboard. Maklouf managed to knock off Simon "durrrr killer" Watt in the last level of play to post a respectable end-of-day count of 49,425.

A list of the unhappy would surely include the aforementioned Neilson, Karamalikis and Watt, each of whom failed to progress to Day 2 in different ways. It might also include the well-respected Bruno Portaro, who climbed almost as high as 50,000 in the middle stages of the day before running into cooler after cooler to drop 6,500, and Team PokerStars Pro Tony Hachem. Hachem was brutally rivered by Matthew Pearson late in the day for pot worth more than 30,000 chips, leaving Hachem with just 4,875 at day's end.

Hachem had a rough time of it on Day 1B, but even whilst noting his bad luck after play concluded, he tried to remain positive. "I'm still in it," he said. He certainly is. A chip, a chair and a prayer is all that's required for an epic comeback, and the prayer is actually optional. Hachem is ranked 55th of the 56 players that will return tomorrow. His work is cut out for him, but it's not impossible. Players have faced longers odds -- and overcome them -- before.

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Tony Hachem hopes his positive attitude and infectious smile make it to Day 3

When play resumes at 12:15pm local time tomorrow, the 56 survivors of Day 1A and Day 1B will combine to a single field. They'll play 3 full levels and 35 minutes of Level 9 before stopping again, in time to get in some night skiing on one of Queenstown's fabulous mountains. Then on Saturday, whoever survives Day 2 will join with the 15 players who made it through the Auckland flight of this tournament last weekend to slug it out.

By the time we're finished on Sunday, there's only going to be one happy player. The remaining 118 will each have a different form of unhappiness to relate to anyone willing to listen.