APPT Auckland: Moving heaven and (middle) Earth

By Landon Blackhall and Sean Callander

Emad Tahtouh's chip lead isn't looking in any imminent danger with no big stacks yet to emerge as we reach the halfway point of day 1B of the APPT Auckland Main Event.

Hoping to follow Tahtouh, Grant Levy and Celina Lin into day two, Team Australia Pros Eric Assadourian and Tony Hachem along with Team Asia's Bryan Huang are all above the chip average. If the trio make it through to tomorrow's day two, this would mark the first occasion in APPT history that all Team Pros had survived day one.

apptaericass.jpg Team Australia Pro Eric Assadourian is well positioned midway through day 1B

Meanwhile Ralf Westphal, a PokerStars qualifier from Germany who cashed in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event earlier this year, has his nose ahead of the field on 60,000. Australia's Raj Ramakrishnan, who was fourth in the 2009 Aussie Millions Main Event, is close behind on 50,000.


Germany's Ralf Westphal is the chip leader after four levels

It's sharing up as an epic, just like The Lord of the Rings, which was famously filmed in New Zealand. As a result, fans of the highest-grossing cinematic trilogy of all-time have flocked to New Zealand to gain a taste of Middle-earth.

After almost 300 days of filming, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, directed by New Zealand's own Peter Jackson, were released in 2001-03.

The three films collected a combined total of USD $2.91 million in box-office earnings worldwide, 17 Academy Awards and thrust New Zealand's stunning and sometimes haunting scenery into the international spotlight.


Lord of the Rings' fans can get enough of Hobbiton, south of Auckland

Even in Auckland, you and your fellowship can partake in many LOTR-related activities including day trips out to many of the conservation reserves and national parks that featured in the films, as well as "Hobbiton" (about two hours' drive south of Auckland), which still has traces of The Shire embedded in the hills.

Meanwhile, enjoy some more images of Auckland and New Zealand with thanks to Lynn Gilmartin, as she previews day 1B:

Watch APPT Auckland 09: Day 1B Introduction on