Hachem creates history in Darwin as Gao leads the final 12

It was a day that ebbed and flowed but one that Team PokerStars Pro Tony Hachem will be more than satisfied with as he sits down this evening to enjoy the lemon chicken and a refreshing ale at the Dragon Court Chinese restaurant at SKYCITY Darwin Casino.

While Hachem will return tomorrow to strive to become the first player ever to win multiple ANZPT titles, he has already made history today when he secured back-to-back ANZPT Player of the Year honours.

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2010 PokerStars.net ANZPT Player of the Year, Tony Hachem

The ANZPT Player of the Year rewards excellence and consistency, and Hachem has proven that he has both in spades. Hachem has cashed in 8 out of the 13 events in ANZPT history, which is a staggering success rate, and his breakthrough win in Perth earlier in the year got the monkey well and truly off his back.

Hachem displayed a unwavering focus today, knowing that once Aaron Benton was eliminated in 15th place, all he needed to do was survive to reach the money. It took nerves of steel as Hachem was forced into a position where he laid down some big hands on multiple occasions. However his game has never been about taking big flips or risks, as he has proven his ability to continually grind out small-ball pots and make as few mistakes as possible.

Once Daniel Laidlaw became our bubble boy in 13th place, Hachem's vision had been achieved and the prestigious honour was once again his for another twelve months.

Earlier in the day 32 players returned to the SKYCITY Casino with the goal of reaching some monetary rewards for three days of hard work here in Darwin. The action was frantic early as the local contingent struggled to survive, but once the first dozen players were out of the way, play crawled to a screeching halt.

It took a long time before our final two tables were reached as hip hop king "Brotha D" stormed into the chip lead, thanks largely to a fortunate hand against Stephen Holloway. Brotha D held K♦Q♠ against Holloway's K♠K♣ with all the chips in preflop, but the board ran out 8♣8♥Q♦J♦Q♣ to give Brotha D a full house. It was a cruel blow to Holloway, as Brotha D continues a rich vein of form that has seen him capture the APPT Auckland title last month and an ANZPT Darwin side event trophy earlier in the week.

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Brotha D is proving that he has what it takes to match the best of the best on the poker felt

With Aaron Benton and Tony Hachem both still alive, the attention and pressure turned onto both PokerStars sponsored players. Ironically in crocodile country, it would be a friendly croc that would ultimately spell the demise for Benton.

Billy "The Croc" Argyros may wear a goofy hat, but he's an Australian Poker Hall of Famer for a reason as evident by yet another deep run in a major Australian tournament here in Darwin. However he can thank the poker Gods after his ace-queen found a lucky lady on the river to cripple Benton and his dominant ace-king.

From there Benton couldn't recover and bowed out in 15th place and tantalizingly close to the money and his own ANZPT POTY aspirations.

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In the end the crocs got the better of Aaron Benton in the Northern Territory

The last Darwin local was Nick Ergos but he departed in 14th place, and when Daniel Laidlaw unsuccessfully pushed his 8♣7♣ into the A♣K♥ of Argyros, the final twelve players were set.

The hyper-aggressive style of Jie Gao has earned him the distinction of chip leader but it's a stellar line up returning on Day 4. There are previous ANZPT, APPT and Aussie Millions champions still in the field and several young guns waiting for their moment to shine.

Here's how they will line up tomorrow:

Jie Gao (PokerStars Qualifier) - 299,000
Billy "The Croc" Argyros - 247,000
Danny "Brotha D" Leaoasavaii - 231,000
Tony Hachem (PokerStars Team PRO Australia) - 187,000
Tim English - 165,000
Chris Levick (PokerStars Sponsored Player) - 153,500
Trevor Potts - 146,000
Angelo Limanis - 114,000
Anthony Flanagan - 103,500
Ben Savage (PokerStars Qualifier) - 103,500
Bruno Portaro - 102,000
Luke Edwards (PokerStars Qualifier) - 76,000

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Our chip leader is PokerStars qualifier Jie Gao

For those in Darwin looking to catch a glimpse of the final table action we'll be heading downstairs into the hub of the casino in the traditional poker zone for the conclusion of this event. Can Tony Hachem (or Chris Levick) become the first player to win multiple ANZPT titles? Can Billy "The Croc" Argyros continue to thrive in his natural crocodile habitat? Can Bruno Portaro win and rescue his trapped toy duck from the trophy cabinet?

Tune into the PokerStars Blog from 12:30 local time (GMT+9:30) tomorrow to find out!