Benton turns up the heat in Darwin

Today saw 30 players enter the SKYCITY Darwin Casino for Day 1b of the ANZPT Darwin Main Event, and despite the modest numbers, the field was loaded with well-known pros.

Liam O'Rourke, John Apostolidis, Mario Ljubicic, Ryan McKay and Tim English were among the starters as well as ANZ Player of the Year contenders Jesse McKenzie, Ricky Kroesen and Leo Boxell who delayed his trip to the WSOPE just to play in this event. We also had several previous champions in the field with ANZPT Perth winner Grant Levy, 2009 APPT Sydney champion Aaron Benton and the APPT Queenstown champion in Germany's Marcel Schreiner.

marcel_schreiner_anzpt_darwin.jpg

With the Oktoberfest in full swing in the gardens of the SKYCITY Darwin Casino, you'd expect the German to be right at home, but Schreiner struggled to match the lofty heights he set for himself in Queenstown. He tangled with Ryan McKay and Liam O'Rourke with the two Aussie young guns eventually getting the better of the battle. Schreiner will be back on Day 2 but will have a lot of work ahead of him as one of the short stacks.

At the other end of the scale ANZ Player of the Year contenders Jesse McKenzie and Ricky Kroesen both got off to remarkable starts today.

jesse_mckenzie_anzpt_darwin.jpg

McKenzie was the first to double up with a set over set cooler of a hand send Song Yu to the rail as the first casualty within minutes of the start of play. With a double stack, McKenzie was on cruise control for the rest of the day and ended up bagging roughly the same amount five levels later.

Kroesen also got chips with a set over set, but it was in slightly more unconventional fashion. After accidentally announcing his cards, and even flashing one of them, with another player still in the hand, Kroesen turned a set of kings to trump his opponent's set of deuces, and still got paid off to climb up the leaderboard.

Ryan McKay, Grant Levy and Liam O'Rourke were also prominent, while ANZ Player of the Year leader Leo Boxell struggled early before finding a big double up through Levy with kings against tens. Boxell bagged up an above-average stack to be well on track to claim the POTY honour.

However rising above them all was a man familiar with the spotlight in 2009 APPT Sydney champion Aaron Benton.

aaron_benton_anzpt_darwin2011.jpg

Benton soared to the top when his flopped set of sevens cracked an opponent's pocket aces and he never looked back, bagging up 58,075 chips for today's chip lead and second place overall.

Click here for the End of Day 1b Chip Counts

Click here for the Day 2 Seating Draw

While Danny McDonagh has devoured his body weight in oysters at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and the dust is settling from tonight's ANZPT Player's Party at the Sand Bar, 47 players are hopefully tucking themselves into bed in readiness for another big day ahead tomorrow.

They'll have to be back at 12:30pm (GMT+9:30) as we start to determine the contenders from the pretenders. We look forward to your company then!