With Van Marcus' victory in the 2009 PokerStars.net APPT Tournament of Champions, the book closes on season three of Asia-Pacific's largest and most prestigious poker tour.
The APPT Tournament of Champions again attracted a world-class field, which comprised PokerStars.net Team Australia Pros Joe Hachem, Grant Levy, Tony Hachem and Eric Assadourian, The Poker Star winner Amanda De Cesare, PokerStars.net Team Nordics Pro and 2008 WSOP Main Event winner Peter Eastgate, 2008 APPT Manila winner Van Marcus, 2009 APPT Auckland champion Simon Watt and the man nursing the biggest hangover in Sydney, new APPT Grand Final champion Aaron Benton.
After some friendly but keen competition, Marcus had pocketed $10,000 for the Child Fund and had etched his place in APPT history as the first player to win multiple APPT titles. Not surprisingly, Benton didn't last long - he was second to be eliminated - but he could hardly be blamed after a long night celebrating his AUD $594,000 payday.
The 32-year-old recruitment consultant (and former contestant in the Australian edition of Big Brother) originally from Wollongong to Sydney's south, topped a field of 396 players. Earlier this year, he captured the biggest online prize in Australian poker history when he pocketed USD $262,500 for a runner-up finish in a major event.
"I used to play more for the entertainment in pub games, but I'm loving my poker and I wanted to take it to the next level," Benton, who qualified for every APPT season three event on PokerStars, said.
For the third year in a row, the APPT Grand Final trophy is staying on home soil after the victories of Grant Levy (2007) and Martin Rowe (2008). Indeed, the 2009 final table was comprised with the same mix of players as 2008 - seven Australians and two internationals.
It was one of the more entertaining APPT final tables. After losing a big hand early in the day, Benton decided to have a beer to settle his nerves. Then he had another ... you get the picture. Fuelled by some of Australia's finest, he was only too happy to ramp up the table-talk.
Benton's main adversary was Dutch PokerStars Qualifier Ernst Hermans, with the duo regularly going heads-up throughout the evening and early morning. The steam seeping from Hermans' ears was almost visible by the time the pair went heads-up, but credit to the European for his restraint, which was rewarded with second-place and AUD $381,348.
There was also plenty of focus on Leo Boxell, the veteran Melbourne player hoping to the turn back the clock to the days when he dominated the local scene like few others. A mechanic by trade, Boxell has weathered a lean period in recent years but was thrilled to make the trip to the cage to collect his AUD $213,840 for third-place.
An underlying theme of the 2009 APPT has been new and exciting venues, and Star City lived up to this challenge with a stunning backdrop for the last two days of the Main Event. Surrounded by massive screens, bars, restaurants and stadium seating, Star City's new Sports Theatre was the perfect venue for one of Australia's premier poker events after the opening days were played in the casino's new and equally impressive poker room.
As players start to say their goodbyes and head home - many for the final time in 2009 - we'd like to acknowledge season three champions Dermot Blain (Ireland), Simon Watt (New Zealand), Dong-bin Han (Philippines) and Aaron Benton (Sydney).
On behalf of my PokerStars blog colleague Landon Blackhall, our photographer Shannon Morris and the APPT and local PokerStars.net teams, it's farewell from Sydney, Australia and the 2009 PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final. Details of season four will be available soon on www.appt.com. See you next year!