Early nights all round as APPT gets started early

The APPT kicked off in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday, or was it today? Well, whatever day it was there was something different about the timing as things got underway. Anyone on the rail may have noticed players were perhaps sleepier, pining for coffee more potent than usual. The reason? Well maybe the uncharacteristically early start of 10.15am had something to do with it.

appt_auckland_skytower_20nov14.jpgThe Sky Tower in Auckland

It's certainly the first time we've heard of such an early start, it being a good 90 minutes before the traditional kick-off for a high stakes tournament, and at least 80 minutes before the average player has even pulled their trousers up.

The reason is obvious. It's called "poker hours".

If you're unfamiliar with the world of high stakes poker, let's just say 12 noon is considered plenty early.

As we've written about before on the PokerStars blog, the 24 hour clock is slightly skewed for poker players, as if the clock had fallen off the wall, rolled off the table and settled on the floor at an angle. For instance, morning ends at around 4pm. On a European Poker Tour event for instance it's not uncommon to be greeted with a jolly "good morning!" as you polish off a late lunch, or, if you're at EPT Prague in December, as the sun goes down.

Then there's the afternoon, which runs through to the dinner break at say 8pm. That means evening starts at about 9pm. Generally it's not really considered late until about 3am. All of which makes the players in Auckland this week vaguely heroic.

There is of course a good reason for the change, it's not simply a way to punish people or introduce a new "day shift" for poker players. It's a mere matter of logistics, as tournament director Danny McDonagh explained.

"With a limit on the number of tables in the poker room, we brought the start time for the opening flights forward, to free up tables so that the cash games and side events don't start too late," explained McDonagh, who is known to run a tight ship time wise.

"It's only on the opening flights, as the field will be reduced small enough on day two that it won't affect the side events to run them concurrently. So players will only be affected for one day."

It's not even the earliest they've started on the APPT. McDonagh added that a tournament in Sydney back in 2007 started at 10am (or "middle of the night" using the poker hours above). It's enough to send a shudder through even the most experienced grinder.

You might be able to get away with all of that down in New Zealand, where players routinely get up early to play the online tournaments that play on through the night in the northern hemisphere. But "up here", in Europe, the EPT has always started at noon (or later) without fail. Would this be something EPT organisers would be prepared to try? And what would the player reaction be? It's hard to say. But let's see how tetchy things get in Auckland first.

In the meantime follow all the action from the APPT in Auckland on the PokerStars Blog.

Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.