APPT Auckland Day 1a: Levels 3 & 4 (Blinds 150-300, Ante 25)

4:50pm: Ten-minute break

4:45pm: Big flop, little action

Tao Luo, Ricky Kroesen and Bernhard Perner just took a three-way flop that each of them hit really hard. After seeing their holdings we might've expected them to get their money in, but only 2,200 went in on the 7♣J♣Q♣ flop, another 5,000 on the 2♦ turn before all three checked down the 4♦ river.

Kroesen opened A♠Q♦ for top pair, Perner showed J♥7♥ for two pair but it was Luo's 7♦7♠ for a set of sevens which was good to take it down. Luo is up to 48,000 with Kroesen slipping to 65,000.

4:41pm: Dapena continues to block his opponents

As we wandered past the table of Julian Dapena we spotted him standing up and having a stretch in between hands.

"I'm a goalkeeper so I'm used to stretching," chirped Dapena.

After some further probing we discovered that Dapena was originally from Argentina and represented his country in hockey for many years.

"I've been on TV for hockey, and now I want to be on TV for poker!" he added.

It's fascinating to watch how well competitive sports men and women adapt from their previous sports to the world of poker, as the competitive drive, instincts, and ability to understand your opponents often draw many similarities.

Dapena now resides in New Zealand and he'll be looking to make his mark on the poker world here at the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland Main Event as he currently sits with 27,000 chips.

4:35pm: Easy come, easy go

Tom Grigg didn't waste any time putting his new-found chips to work. However they didn't quite do the job he required as Paul Hockin picked up a nice pot.

Catching the action on a flop of 8♣Q♦9♥, Hockin checked to Grigg to made it 850 to go. Hockin tossed out chips with the intention of calling, but accidentally grabbed a 1,000-denomination chip instead of a 500, and as such his 1,350 chips was ruled as a min-raise to 1,700. Grigg seemed a little perplexed by the "misclick" but just flat-called to see the 3♦ hit the turn.

Hockin checked again and Grigg fired 2,500. Hockin stuck around to see the A♥
complete the board, and another check to Grigg who released a third bullet worth 6,200. Hockin made the call and Grigg sheepishly revealed 4♥2♥ for a complete air-ball. Hockin tabled a modest T♣9♠ which was good to take down the pot and move up to 27,500. Grigg slips to 20,000.

4:25pm: The Rock KO'd

Kevin "The Rock" Clark has lost his battle with his short stack at the hands of Tom Grigg. Clark moved all in preflop for his last 4,800 with ace-jack and was in dominant shape against Grigg's A♠T♠. However two spades on the flop and a third on the turn were enough to give Grigg a flush as Clark headed to the exit.

4:19pm: Neilson doubles a shorty

Daniel Neilson's stack has just taken a hit after doubling up the short-stacked Bernhard Perner. The chips were in preflop with Neilson's T♠T♥ in good shape against Perner's K♠T♦ but the 9♠A♠2♣6♠2♠ board gave Perner a four-card flush and the double up. The Austrian is now up to 22,000 while Neilson slips to 26,000.

4:15pm: Kroesen in control

Ricky Kroesen is in a rich vein of form right now. Fresh off a runner-up finish in the PokerStars.net ANZPT Gold Coast event last month, and two more Main Event cashes since, Kroesen has jumped out to the tournament chip lead following a succession of sizable pots.

Firstly, Kroesen chipped up when his A♠J♦ held on a flop of A♦5♥J♥ against an opponent's Q♥T♥ for a straight and flush draw when the turn and river bricked out.
A few moments later Kroesen was in the thick of it again when his ace-queen turned a full house to better an opponent's flopped flush. Kroesen is now up to a commanding 86,000 chips and busily raising every pot!

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PokerStars qualifier Ricky Kroesen jumps out to the chip lead at APPT Auckland

4:04pm: Clark down but not out

With a raise to 600 from the hijack position, Kevin Clark made the call on the button and Tom Grigg in the big blind to see a flop of Q♥6♠J♥.

Action checked to Clark who made it 1,500 to go. Grigg check-raised to 4,000 for force a fold from the third player, before Clark moved all in with Grigg making the call.

Clark held 9♥6♥ for a pair and flush draw as Grigg opened Q♣J♦ for top two pair. The turn was the 4♦ and river the T♠ to leave Clark with just 2,000 as Grigg climbed to 25,000 - the most chips he's held all day.

However Clark's day isn't done with just yet as the local found a double up moments later with pocket queens against pocket eights. The board bricked out safely as Clark got himself back to 4,500 and a little breathing room.

3:50pm: Level up, blinds 150-300 (ante 25)

3:44pm: Oh my from O'Grady

The tournament structures in the PokerStars.net APPT events are some of the best in the world. 20,000 start bank, one hour levels, and plenty of room to play. However players just have that urge to gamble as Michael O'Grady just demonstrated with a creative play that paid dividens.

O'Grady limped from under the gun and American PokerStars qualifier Noah Vogelman came along before Daniel Neilson raised from the big blind to 1,200. O'Grady decided to punish the punisher by moving all in for his last 8,225 but he didn't count on Vogelman making the call as Neilson sheepishly stepped aside.

Vogelman held a respectable A♣K♥ but O'Grady held live cards with his 7♥6♥ and managed to spike on the 9♠T♠7♦J♣7♠ board. Not one out of the textbook, but a double up for O'Grady none the less, with Vogelman still comfortable with 42,000 chips.

3:39pm: Smooth as Silk

Sometimes it's nice when you spike a set on the river. It's even better if you're holding pocket aces. The two-outer "ace from space" can suddenly turn a tricky situation into one of mighty profit. But then again, this is tournament poker, and it's not always that easy.

Just ask Julian Cohen, who caught an ace from space that resulted in him losing a large chunk of change to PokerStars online qualifier Danny Silk.

Cohen opened with a raise to 550 with two players making the call, including Silk in position, to see a K-6-3 flop with two spades. Cohen fired out 1,200 with both players coming along to see a deuce hit the turn. Check, check to Silk who made it 2,500 to play. Cohen called as the third player escaped.

The river was an ace and Cohen checked to Silk who fired a hefty 7,000. Cohen went into deliberation for several moments before declaring himself all in for around 30,000. Silk made the call and Cohen opened pocket aces for a rivered set. However it wasn't enough as Silk's creative 5♣4♣ had made a straight to scoop the massive pot.
Silk is now up to 59,000 with Cohen back down to 15,000.

3:22pm: Willcocks flushed by Torres

One of the first big casualties of the day is New Zealand's Phil Willcocks in a cruel flush over flush situation against APPT Macau champ Victorino Torres. The two players, along with Tom Grigg, took a flop of 9♥2♥J♠ where action checked to Torres. He fired 800 with Willcocks called to force Grigg from the pot as the 5♦ hit the turn.

Torres came out swinging again with a bet of 3,200 and again Willcocks flat-called to see the T♥ complete the board on the river. Torres released a third barrel worth 6,200 but Willcocks moved his entire stack into the middle. It was an additional 16,575 to Torres and he made a pretty quick call with K♥J♥ for the second nut flush. It was good as Willcocks tabled 4♥3♥ and hit the rail.

Meanwhile Victorino Torres has continued where he left off in Macau as he flies out to 54,000 for the tournament chip lead.

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Victorino Torres leading from the front at the APPT Auckland Main Event

3:09pm: Benton out of turn

Aaron Benton and Brooke Howard-Smith were just involved in an interesting situation on table seven. With the board reading 7♦2♥T♣K♠8♣, Benton acted out of turn with a bet of 4,000 resulting in the floor being called. Howard-Smith was pushing to the rule where Benton would be forced to check behind if he himself checked, but the bet of Benton would stand unless Howard-Smith changed the action with a raise. Howard-Smith grabbed a stack of chips and flirted with the idea, but Benton verbalized that it wasn't a good idea.

In the end Howard-Smith tossed out calling chips but mucked when Benton opened T♥7♥ for two pair. Benton is up to 24,000.

2:50pm: Play resumes as Grigg recovers

Tom "tollgate" Grigg is well-known for being dominant in the PokerStars online qualifiers as he has regularly won packages to events on both the ANZPT and APPT tours. Once again Grigg was successful in qualifying for this event in Auckland on PokerStars, and after taking a few early hits, Grigg has managed to recover some chips.

In a raised pot, Grigg's last 5,575 was all in on the flop of 2♣K♠5♥ against Sam Courtenay who earlier in the day managed to hit a Royal Flush. With his hand lacking Royal Flush potential, Courtenay decided to let his hand go as Grigg chipped up to 16,000.

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Tom Grigg in action at the APPT Auckland