APPT Auckland Day 1a: Levels 1 & 2 (Blinds 100-200)

2:40pm: Ten-minute break

2:32pm: Benton back in business

Aaron Benton was struggling in the early stages of today's play, but a much-needed double up has seen his stack return above his starting stack for the first time today.

With a limp and a raise to 800 in front of him, Benton and the player on the button made the call, along with the early-position raiser to see a flop of K♣4♥9♠. The preflop aggressor fired out 1,200 before Benton popped it to 3,000. The player on the button decided to re-raise to 8,600 with was too much for the early position player, however Benton was committed enough to move his last 9,125 into the middle. His opponent made a reluctant but pot-committed call as he showed A♥8♥ for an ambitious air-ball as Benton flipped K♦T♦ for top pair.

The 3♣ turn and T♠ river safely bricked out for the 2009 APPT Sydney Main Event champion for the generous double up.

"Wowee!" exclaimed one player as Benton was relieved to rake in the chips.

"He doesn't realize I'm not going to fold for 5k! Thank you very much my friend..." continued Benton as he recovers to 23,000 chips.


Aaron Benton happy to recover some chips

2:20pm: A couple of action flops

Ahskay Nauhria opened with a raise to 500 with PokerStars online qualifier Danny Silk making the call. The flop fell A♦7♣5♦ and the madness started with Nauhria firing out 775. Silk responded with a raise to 2,200 before Nauhria popped it back to 6,775. Silk went into the tank for several minutes before he announced yet another raise, as he made it 14,200 to play. Nauhria had seen enough as he let it go to had Silk the pot to move up to 27,000.

Also chipping up is New Zealand fan-favorite James Honeybone. After taking a flop of 9♥K♣4♣ from the blinds, Honeybone flopped a set of fours and got his chips into the middle against an opponent holding 9♣8♣ for a pair and flush draw. The turn was the A♦ and river the 7♦ to safely brick out for Honeybone for the double to 31,000.

2:02pm: Neilson likes it at the top

Daniel Neilson is one of the hottest tournament players on the Australasian circuit right now, leading the way in the 2010 PokerNetwork Player of the Year rankings following a win and a runner-up in events last week in Sydney.

Neilson finds himself in Auckland in search of more points, more trophies and plenty of fun. However he's slipped back to his starting stack after we just caught him lose a small pot. Neilson fired bets of 725 on the flop, and 1,150 on the turn before checking down the river on a board of Q♠5♥8♥4♠T♦. Neilson showed down pocket nines but his opponent's J♠Q♥ was good for top pair and the pot.


Daniel Neilson in action at the APPT Auckland Main Event

1:55pm: A royal moment for a young Kiwi

It's not often you hear the entire table break into applause when a player wins a pot. For a moment we thought Tiger Woods must've saved par with a nice putt, as we turned around to catch table 14 in a rather unusually friendly moment with young Kiwi Sam Courtenay raking in a pot. Upon closer inspection Courtenay had revealed K♥Q♥ on a board of A♥-X-X-T♥J♥ - good for the old Royal Flush!

Unfortunately for Courtenay he didn't get paid off as his opponent folded on the river, but as you do, Courtenay had to show the goods and accept the generous applause!

1:40pm: Level up, blinds 100-200

1:38pm: Cohen continues where he left off in NZ

PokerStars qualifier Julian Cohen is off to a perfect start with an early double up through local Reza Yari. Catching the action on a flop of 9♣T♠8♦, Cohen fired a bet of 1,500 before Yari made it 4,500 to go. Cohen responded by committing his entire stack with Yari making the call and tabling J♣J♠ for an overpair with a straight draw. However Cohen had flopped a set with his 8♥8♣ which held on the 5♣ turn and 9♦ river.

Cohen is now up to a healthy 38,000 chips.

1:30pm: Schaffman wheels in Hinrichsen

When you flop the virtual nuts against someone as aggressive as Andrew Hinrichsen, it's a good idea to let him do all the betting, and that was exactly the plan of Oliver Schaffman who hit the 4♠2♦3♠ flop with his A♠5♣. We caught the action with the Q♠ turn when Hinrichsen fired 2,200 and Schaffman called to see the J♣ hit the river. Hinrichsen released another 5,000 and Schaffman snapped off a quick call to see Hinrichsen's cards hit the muck and his chip count slip to 7,500. Schaffman moves up to 29,500.

1:15pm: It's good to be prepared

Ahskay Nauhria has ruffled a few feathers early on table seven, which also features Julian Cohen, Brooke Howard-Smith and Aaron Benton. Nauhria is seated with a notepad in hand and appears to be taking plenty of notes on the action as it unfolds.

Howard-Smith called the floor over with tongue firmly in cheek to question the note taking. Aaron Benton joined in as he quipped, "If he's allowed to take notes then I'm going to bring my secretary down here!"

"Don't worry..." continued Benton, "The only notes you need to take on me is that I'll have jacks or better!"

Well, if it doesn't work out for Nauhria on the felt then perhaps he has a career ahead of him reporting for PokerStars!

1:00pm: Locals are out in force

Today's field is comprised of an interesting mix of New Zealand young guns, Australian tournament regulars with a sprinkling of International flare.

Headlining the field is the most recent APPT champion in Victorino Torres, who captured the title in Macau back in May for a tidy HK$3,246,200 (US$416,000) collect. Victorino has brought his brother Vincent along for the trip this time to enjoy the delights of Auckland together.

Making their way across the Tasman are Australian young guns Daniel Neilson, Nigel Brine, Aaron Benton, Ricky Kroesen and Julian Cohen who has enjoyed recent success on these shores after winning the ANZPT Queenstown event in July.

Also in the field are locals Phil Willcocks, James Honeybone, Brooke-Howard Smith, Jackson Zheng, Kevin "The Rock" Clark, Cole Swannack and the first Kiwi to win the PokerStars Sunday Million in Damon Lum.

Team PokerStars Pro Tony Hachem scouts out his opposition while Danny McDonagh previews the field in the following "Intro To Day 1a" video...

12:40pm: Haka Gets Blood Pumping For Day 1a

Welcome to the SKYCITY Casino in Auckland, New Zealand for Day 1a of the 2010 Asia Pacific Poker Tour Auckland Main Event. The players have made their way to their seats, exchanged sore-head stories from last night's memorable player's party, and settled in for a long day of poker ahead.

If the players were feeling a little under the weather, their pain was soon compounded as they were welcomed in the traditional Kiwi manner with a performance of the spine-chilling Maori Haka.


The Maori warriors perform the fearsome Haka

The first New Zealanders, the Maori, migrated here from their ancestral Polynesian homeland of Hawaii more than 1,000 years ago. As such, Auckland beats to a Polynesian rhythm, with European, South Pacific and Asian cultures more recently mixing with a strong Maori indigenous heritage. So it seems fitting that the players were greeted by the traditional Haka. Many Australians are familiar with the Haka from our days of being smacked around the rugby field by the New Zealand "All Blacks", but for first-time visitors to these shores, the Haka can be a real eye-opener. The intimidation, aggression and fearlessness of the Haka carries similar traits that our players must adapt and use on the poker felt today. It the Haka doesn't get the blood pumping and inspire our players to greatness then nothing will!

SKYCITY Auckland Executive Manager for Table Games, Ejaaz Dean then took to the microphone to welcome the players to these shores, "I've seen the Haka three times now, and each time it scares the suitcase out of me!" APPT Tournament Director Danny McDonagh spoke to the players to let them know that we'll be playing a total of seven levels today before the final pre-game honours were handed to New Zealand hip hop artist Brotha D for the official "Shuffle Up and Deal!"