APPT Sydney Day 2: Fortune favours the brave
It was a day of coolers, suck outs and the cream rising to the top as Day 2 of the PokerStars.net APPT Sydney Grand Final has come and gone.
163 players hit the floor of the Star City Casino in the hopes of reaching the money but one by one they dropped away until a little after 11pm when our final 32 were found.
The day started with the elimination of Team PokerStars Pro Lee Nelson who couldn't double up his short stack. He was soon followed by 2005 World Champion Joe Hachem who missed with his straight and flush draws. This left Daniel Negreanu to carry the flag for Team PokerStars and the four-time WSOP bracelet winner certainly had a rollercoaster ride on his way to reaching the money.
Negreanu looked set for a big stack when his pocket queens out-flopped Jimmy Ghobrial's pocket kings when a lady appeared on the flop, but a king on the river gave Ghobrial the re-suck to stay alive. It wouldn't be the last of the drama for the Team PokerStars Pro.
Negreanu was able to find a double up when his ace-jack spiked a gutshot Broadway straight to crack the set of tens of Korean In Wook Choi. Negreanu then dispatched Jay Kinkade with a perfectly set trap with pocket aces, to find himself back in contention. The railbirds were loving every minute of his as Negreanu cruised through the remainder of the day.
Along the way there were some casualties as we also lost 2009 Aussie Millions champ Stewart Scott, Tom Grigg, Tony G, Billy "The Croc" Argyros, Simon Watt, Casey Kastle, Brotha D, 2008 APPT Sydney champ Martin Rowe and defending champion Aaron Benton.
Luck seemed to favour the brave today and there were none braver than Reza Vakili.
A colourful character on the felt, Vakili was always amongst the chip leaders but surged late in the day with some huge eliminations. First Vakili was able to take out Day 1b chip leader Daniel Neilson when Vakili's king-jack spiked a three-outer king on the river to crack Neilson's ace-jack.
One chip leader down, and Vakili set his sights on Day 1c chip leader Aleks Brkovic. It was a strange hand that was four-bet preflop and Vakili floated a flop bet holding ace-king to then spike yet another king on the turn. Brkovic pushed with his pocket jacks and it was lights out.
Joining Vakili at the top of the charts is Jonathan "xMONSTERxDONGx" Karamalikis who also enjoyed plenty of good fortune today. Karamalikis got himself going by winning a race for his tournament life with ace-king versus pocket sevens, but his key hand came when his pocket kings managed to crack the pocket aces of Aaron Tran when a third king hit the turn. It was the biggest pot of the tournament and one that shot Karamalikis into the lead and the unlucky Tran out the door.
However the biggest hard luck story today belongs to the lovable Ali Khalil. The big guy has a cult hero following in this country, and he was a dominant force for almost two days in this tournament. Unfortunately a cooler of a hand saw Khalil run his pocket kings into the pocket aces of Brendon Rubie and the bubble was burst. Khalil took the defeat with complete class but he heads home empty-handed as our final 32 was set.
It's a stacked lineup that will return tomorrow and we're all licking our lips at the prospect of a sensational final table on Sunday. Reza Vakili bagged up 775,000 chips for the lead, with Jonathan Karamalikis (733,000), Roland de Wolfe (715,500), Brendon Rubie (690,500) and PokerStars qualifier Antoine Amourette (515,500) rounding out the top five.
Other notables include Daniel Negreanu (293,500), Jarred Graham (254,500), 2010 Aussie Millions champ Tyron Krost (94,500), 2008 APPT Macau champ Eddy Sabat (60,000) and 2007 APPT Sydney winner Grant Levy who has now cashed in this event in three out of four years.
The players will relocate to the spectator-friendly confines of the Star City Sports Theatre tomorrow from 12:30pm local time (GMT+11). It should be a ripping day of poker ahead of us. Until then, it's good night from Sydney!