ANZPT Auckland: The Honorary Kiwi

New Zealand is simply a friendly place. The location is beautiful and relaxing. The people seem to be some of the nicest in the world. They welcome people from all around the world with open arms. Doesn't matter if you're from Europe, Asia or the Americas, you will always have a friend in the Kiwis. Even Australians, whom clearly have a little bit of a cross-Tasman rivalry with New Zealand, are welcomed by Kiwis with arms wide open. That is especially true for Didier Guerin.

Just over a month ago, the ANZPT made its way to Melbourne. Of course, it was a Kiwi who won that event, with Paul Hockin taking down the title. Just a few days before Hockin won the Main Event though, and there was another tournament that was keeping the attention of poker fans from all around the Asia-Pacific.

The Australian Poker State of Origin (SOO) has a rich history and it's a history that New Zealand is proud to be part of. Despite having to come up against teams from every state (and the "territories") of Australia, New Zealand has held their own in the SOO, even winning the event back in 2009. Captained by Lee Nelson that winning year, it was Graeme "KiwiG" Putt who was in with the task of leading the 2012 New Zealand State of Origin Team. Putt is certainly no stranger to high pressure situations, but the pressure was on this year when the New Zealand team were short on numbers. Enter Didier Guerin.

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New Zealand's Graeme Putt survived yesterday's Day 1 flight

Leading in to the SOO and it was looking like New Zealand weren't going to be able to field a team. They were two players short of the eight needed to take to the felt and it was bleak times indeed. However, an agreement with the organisers of the SOO and New Zealand were dealt a couple of outs - they would be able to substitute in some honorary Kiwis, one of which would end up being Didier Guerin.

Apparently being asked a mere 24 hours before the event began, Guerin jumped into the spot enthusiastically and would then play an important role in seeing New Zealand make it all the way to a heads-up battle against New South Wales. Guerin even had the pleasure of playing the first hand of heads-up in the teams rotation style tournament. It can be argued that playing heads-up to secure New Zealand a victory on Australian soil is somewhat traitorous, but New Zealand and Australia are friendly enough with each other that the Aussies will happily give Guerin a pass. At least one time, anyway.

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Didier Guerin the honorary Kiwi

In the end New Zealand weren't able to snag a win, eventually falling to the might of the New South Wales team. Interestingly, the NSW SOO squad featured Aaron Benton, who is also in today's Day 1b field. Perhaps Guerin and Benton can settle the Australia vs. New Zealand battle on the felt at some point during the evening. They aren't at the same table at the moment, but lets wait and see what happens.

Joshua Bell
@PokerStars in Auckland