Your travel guide to APPT Queenstown Snowfest

It's time for Snowfest once again, only not quite like you remember it. In its fifth season, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour has now added a Snowfest of its own, heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, for the second leg of its tour. It's a new stop this year, the second new destination in as many APPT events, and this one runs from August 22 through 28. Like its EPT cousin, the Pacific version of Snowfest will provide the mix of poker tournament and resort vacation that makes it stand out from the tournament crowd.

The week's festivities will be headquartered at the SKYCITY Queenstown, where you have to be at least 20 years old to gamble. The Main Event has a soft cap of 210 players. Here's a look at what's in store for them over the course of the week:

Monday, August 22
3:00 PM | Main Event Satellite w/$20 Rebuys + Add-on | $60 ($50+$10)
On Demand | Main Event Single Table Satellite | $330 ($300+$30)
8:00 PM | Main Event Mega Satellite | $650 ($600+$50)

Tuesday, August 23
12:30 PM | Main Event - Day 1A | $3,000 ($2,700+$300)
On Demand | Main Event Single Table Satellite | $330 ($300+$30)
8:30 PM | Turbo No Limit Hold'em (50 Player Cap) | $550 ($500+$50)

Wednesday, August 24
12:30 PM | Main Event - Day 1B | $3,000 ($2,700+$300)
On Demand | Main Event Single Table Satellite | $330 ($300+$30)
8:30 PM | Pot Limit Omaha [Double Chance Format] (50 Player Cap) | $550 ($500+$50)

Thursday, August 25
12:30 PM | Main Event - Day 1C | $3,000 ($2,700+$300)
8:30 PM | Turbo No Limit Hold'em (50 Player Cap)*** | $550 ($500+$50)

Friday, August 26
12:30 PM | Main Event - Day 2A
3:30 PM | Main Event - Day 2B
6:30 PM | Main Event - Day 2 Merge

Saturday, August 27
12:30 PM | Main Event - Day 3
4:00 PM | ANZPT Next Event Satellite | $440 ($400+$40)
8:30 PM | Turbo No Limit Hold'em (50 Player Cap) | $550 ($500+$50)

Sunday, August 28
12:30 PM | Main Event - Day 4
1:30 PM | No Limit Hold'em | $1,100 ($1,000+$100)
6:00 PM | No Limit Hold'em - Teams Event | $550 ($500+$50)

There's no historical information with which to amuse since this event is the first APPT for the region, however Queenstown has hosted two previous ANZPT events. Danny Chevalier survived a field of 134 in 2009 to win NZ$87,435, while Julian Cohen is as close as we have to a defending champion when he defeated a field of 119 to grab the title and NZ$73,630 in 2010.

What we do know is that the couple of hundred players who inaugurate the new APPT stop will be immersed in a one-of-kind poker and travel experience that won't quickly be forgotten. In fact, the tournament is just a fraction of the interesting miscellany that Queenstown has to offer, and you should read on to find more to find out what to expect when you get there.

Queenstown is a quaint, all-season resort town in the south-central portion of New Zealand's South Island. Full-time population? About 10,000. Contrast that to Macau's half million or the four million of Melbourne, and you can see how the location will represent a big change of pace for the APPT. The town lies within one of Lake Wakatipu's harbors, its spot carved out gorgeously by glaciers all the way back when. The lake brings all manner of water sports into the mix (mostly during the summer), but the area is also well known for golf, mountain boarding, skydiving, bungee jumping, canyon swinging(!), and adventure tourism. It's not summer there right now, but that only means you'll have plenty of time to check out the world-class wintry views from above the lake while you ski or snowboard down one of the surrounding peaks. Bring your gear or rent it at the lodge.


The magnificent Lake Wakatipu

Getting around
Beginning your trip in Queenstown is easy because the airport is less than 10km away from the city center, in Frankton. Shuttle service is available to the casino for as little as $7, and taxis and buses run throughout the lake region. A taxi ride to the casino area should run you around $40, and the Connectabus is a very convenient and frugal way to get around the valley, as well. Being a major tourist destination, expedient bus travel is also available to the larger cities of Dunedin and Invercargill. If you have vehicular transportation of your own and a twitchy driving bone, don't miss the chance to wind your way through the hills of State Highway 6, the country's highest paved road. And bring your camera.

Staying put
The PokerStars qualifiers will be staying in the Sofitel Hotel & Spa, and it is well-appointed with 24-hour room service, Wi-Fi, fitness center, jacuzzi, sauna, and massage parlor. It's within close walking distance to the casino, as are the five-star Hotel St. Moritz and Millennium Queenstown for those needing to book their own rooms. If you're on a budget, a decent room can be had for half the price at the Earnslaw Lodge--a 15-minute walk from the tournament itself. The views are free, and they're spectacular all over town, so don't hesitate to pinch pennies on lodging if you feel the urge to splurge elsewhere.

You can book your room directly through APPT Hotels.

Out and about
It's not like you're going to be spending much time in your room anyways, right? You are in the Adventure Capital of the World, after all.

Whether or not you prefer to do the whole "tourist thing" during your stay, the benefits of the thriving tourism industry are evident everywhere in Queenstown. The night life gets the biggest boost during this winter ski season, although it's still a bit more tame than the club scene surrounding most big-city poker tournaments. Think more along the lines of cozy pubs with wood fires and wine tastings.

Speaking of wine, Queenstown is very well reputed for its wine making. The city lays in part of the southernmost wine-producing region in the world, and you may want to grab a couple bottles of the local pinot to send back home before you go.

Fancy a hike? You could consider taking the day-long, relatively strenuous excursion up to the top of the 1,748-meter (5,375-foot) Ben Lomond, a mountain top that offers one-of-a-kind views overlooking the lake. It's walkable in the summer, but you better be more prepared for the elements this time of year. If that's a bit much for you, at least take the easy way out and catch a ride part of the way up on the Skyline Gondola to see what you can see from one of the more relaxing tracks. Still too much effort? Give The Helicopter Line a call and they'll show you Queenstown from the sky's unbeatable vantage point with very little required on your part--just a few hundred dollars.

And, of course, there's the skiing. Looming over the lake, Coronet Peak is the most popular place to pound the powder, and it's about 20 minutes from the casino. A few million dollars went into a renovation of the facilities there recently, and the results are a world-class ski resort with panoramic views pretty enough for a postcard. Remember that awesome stretch of State Highway 6 from earlier? Drive it for about an hour and you'll end up in Wanaka, an outdoor lover's dream. You can choose from friendly (Cardrona), enormous (Treble Cone), or challenging (Snow Park) skiing and snowboarding, and Wanaka also serves as the entry point to the inspiring Mount Aspiring National Park.


A ride up Bob's Peak

PokerStars is even doing their own part to keep you entertained in Queenstown. On Wednesday the 24th, SKYCITY's bar, Wild Thyme is hosting the welcome party, and the closing festivities will be a short walk away at the hip Barmuda on the 28th.

Full live coverage of APPT Queenstown Snowfest begins on PokerStars Blog on Tuesday at 12.30pm local time.

Eric Ramsey
@PokerStars in Queenstown