ANZPT Auckland: Battling in the Rival Ring

Australia versus New Zealand. It's a rivalry that exists and won't be going anywhere anytime soon. In many ways, that's what this poker tour is all about. Who can win a tournament on home soil? Who can claim a victory on the felt of their cross-Tasman rivals? Professional boxer Shane Cameron is aiming to accomplish that very task tonight as the Kiwi fights Australia's Danny Green in Melbourne. The massive title fight is about to be sprayed across the screens of the poker room and the players watch on in anticipation as they fight their own battles on the felt.


It's Australia versus New Zealand in the boxing ring and at the felt

Winning any event, be it poker, rugby or tennis is a huge achievement. Win it on home soil and it will feel oh-so-sweet to be a home-grown hero. Win an event when you're out of your comfort zone, away from home, with your opponent having a home field advantage, well, that's a different story all together.

When Paul Hockin first sat at the felt of the Crown Poker Room in Australia for the ANZPT Melbourne Main Event, the Kiwi most likely had his eye on one thing - bringing a trophy home to New Zealand. Day by day he played his heart out, bagging up chips at the end of the night, before sleeping it off and doing it all over again. Eventually he made it to the final table. A final table has nine players. Eight of them were Australian. One was from New Zealand.

It could be argued that poker felt is the same at every casino, but that isn't the point. Poker is a mind game and a player's greatest opponent is themselves. But Hockin kept his cool and one by one Aussies hit the rail in Melbourne until only three players remained. Ashley Warner and Michael Guzzardi, both Australians, is what stood between Hockin and a victory. After some tough poker action, Hockin was good enough to dispose of his rivals and win the ANZPT Melbourne title for the Kiwis, proving that his PokerStars screen name "KingPaulie" was not chosen in vain.

Hockin is doing great so far here on Day 1a of the ANZPT Auckland Main Event. He looks cool, calm and simply at home on the felt of the SKYCITY Auckland Casino. He is currently sitting behind 40,000 in chips, with his stack doubling since the start of the day. Hockin's two Aussie rivals, Guzzardi and Warner, are also alive and well and will be looking to do what Hockin did to them. Can the Aussies claim back a title on Kiwi felt? Or will Hockin make it back-to-back wins to keep the trophy on home soil?


Paul Hockin is looking comfortable on the Kiwi poker felt

Shane Cameron faces the same problem tonight that Hockin faced in Melbourne. What he has to get through is Danny Green, in the city Green knows so well, with a crowd full of fellow Australians. It's going to be tough for Cameron, but if he keeps his cool, the Kiwi can make his country proud and bring the title across the Tasman and onto the shores of New Zealand.

Joshua Bell
@PokerStars in Auckland