Queenstown: Planet Earth's Best Kept Secret

If you were to ask anyone in the poker industry about why they love the game so much, they could rattle off a list of reasons a mile long. The Micros, however, summed it up perfectly in their pilot episode: for the big pots. For the life-changing money. For travelling around the world and playing in the biggest games on the planet.

What they don't tell you - nay, can't tell you, for it's something you have to experience for yourself - is the rush they get from all of it. The thrill of the chase. The ecstasy of victory against all odds. Risking it all to reap huge rewards and basking in the fame, fortune and glory, even if it's just that one time.

Riding that epic emotional roller-coaster is the essence of poker and if you could take that essence and bottle it, mix it into clay and build a city out of it anywhere in the world, then we couldn't think of anywhere more fitting than this idyllic mountain hamlet beneath the Remarkables mountain range in the Otago region of New Zealand's South Island.

Ladies and gentlemen ... kia ora, haere mai and welcome to Queenstown.


The spectacular views of Queenstown are truly something to behold (photo courtesy of Destination Queenstown)

When the first European settlers arrived in Queenstown back in 1860, the unspoiled countryside "fit for a queen" was scouted as an ideal location for farming, but thousands of prospectors flocked to the region after gold was found in the Shotover River two years later and the town boomed. When the miners moved on in the early 1900s, the population dwindled to less than 200, but was revived as a premier holiday destination in the 1950s.

Fast forward to today and Queenstown is now a bustling, vibrant and cosmopolitan utopia, home to some 14,000 locals and almost two million visitors every year. It's not hard to see just why Queenstown is far and away New Zealand's most popular tourist destination - even the view out of the plane window upon the descent into the airport is breath-taking.

Queenstown is renowned for being the epicentre of the global action and adventure sports industry. In fact, if there's a cliff face or mountain range or cavernous gorge within eye sight, chances are you can strap yourself on a bungee cord or into a swing and throw yourself off it. You can also try your hand at jet-boating, skydiving, paragliding, luging, hang-gliding, whitewater rafting and of course, skiiing and snowboarding at one of the many resorts during the winter months.

There's also plenty on offer for those who like to take a walk on the mild side. From taking a boat or paddle-steamer cruise around Lake Wakatipu, to hiking, biking or horse trekking through the living scenery that almost upstaged the entire Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, to relaxing in a bubbling hot pool or pampering yourself at a day spa - there's something for everyone.

Naturally, it's all capped off each day by tucking into the freshest produce in the world at one of the many restaurants and cafes in the city centre, all of which take no more than five minutes to walk to from your hotel. Really, what more could you ask for?


SKYCITY Casino Queenstown

Poker, of course! And we're gearing up for what could be arguably the best poker event in Asia Pacific Poker Tour history - the PokerStars.net APPT Queenstown Snowfest at the SKYCITY Casino.

Up to 180 players are expected to take part in this year's combined APPT and ANZPT event, which will surely spice up the Australia New Zealand Player of the Year race, led by Australia's Leo Boxell, who took down the inaugural APPT Season 5 event in Melbourne less than a month ago.

2005 WSOP Main Event champion and Australian PokerStars Team Pro Joe Hachem will also be flying the flag for the trans-Tasman neighbours, but the Kiwis are sure to come out firing. Amongst those expected to lead the charge include Simon Watt, (2009 APPT Auckland champion and New Zealand's only WSOP bracelet winner), as well as hip-hop icon Danny "Brotha D" Leaosavaii (2010 APPT Auckland and ANZPT Darwin champion) and Jamil "The Real Deal" Dia, fresh from his recent victory in this year's New Zealand Poker Championships Main Event in Christchurch.

Play is expected to get underway at 12.30pm local time tomorrow (GMT +12) and assuming we haven't had one too many Toblerone cocktails from the Whild Thyme bar, the PokerStars Blog team will once again be front and centre to bring you all the action as it happens. Let the first APPT Queenstown Snowfest begin!

PokerStars.net Australia New Zealand Player of the Year Leaderboard (as of August 23):

1 Leo Boxell (Australia) 214.10
2 Jesse McKenzie (Australia) 163.90
3 Ricky Kroesen (Australia) 160.78
4 Oliver Grujic (Australia) 150.45
5 David Gorr (Australia) 141.95
6 Danny Chevalier (Australia) 138.60
7 Octavian Voegele (Austria) 132.45
8 Luke Edwards (Australia) 125.03
9 Antonis Kambouroglou (Australia) 118.95
10 Mario Ljubicic (Australia) 111.15
11 Grant Levy (Australia) 109.50
12 Graeme Putt (New Zealand) 108.25
13 Peter Matusik (Australia) 107.75
14 Michael Kanaan (Australia) 107.50
15 Sebastian Pagana (Australia) 106.95
16 Aaron Lim (Australia) 104.93
17 Charles Caris (Australia) 101.40
18 John Apostilidis (Australia) 100.25
19 Phillip Willcocks (New Zealand) 97.63
20 Norah Greer (Australia) 91.30

Landon Blackhall
@PokerStars in Queenstown