Queenstown Snowfest: Final table player profiles
Three days of poker are in the books as the Queenstown Snowfest Main Event field has been reduced from a field of 149 players to our final table of nine.
It's a super line-up with some ANZ regulars, some fresh-faced amateurs and a few highly talented online players looking to get their first taste of success on the live poker felt. All that's missing is a Kiwi?
Let's take a closer look at the members of the Queenstown Snowfest final table:
Seat 1: Matthew Wakeman, Newcastle, New South Wales (PokerStars Qualifier) - 165,000 chips
One of Australia's premier poker talents, Matthew "mjw006" Wakeman is a 27-year old from Newcastle with a formidable online poker record. After getting started in home games with friends, Matthew has dominated mid-high stakes MTT's online for the past five years, amassing more than US$1.2 million in career winnings and earning the honour of Australia's #1 ranked online player.
Matthew says that he has loved everything about his time here in Queenstown and is thankful for hitting a two-outer with pocket threes against Dave Allan's pocket jacks to help him reach this final table. Matthew is a keen rugby league fan, but we won't hold that against him, as he enters the final as one of the shorter stacks.
Seat 2: Jordan Westmorland, Phuket, Thailand (PokerStars Qualifier) - 523,500 chips
One of our International players at the final table, Jordan Westmorland is an energetic American who now resides in Thailand in order to continue grinding online poker. With over US$500,000 in lifetime online winnings under the handle "JWPRODIGY", Jordan is starting to make an impression on the Asian live poker circuit after a cash result at the 2011 APPT Macau Main Event and final tabling at the recent Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon.
After winning a huge pot to end Day 3, Jordan will carry the second biggest stack into play on this final table.
Seat 3: David Evans, Perth, Western Australia (PokerStars Qualifier) - 95,000 chips
David Evans is a Real Estate Agent who has flown a long way to be here from his home in Perth, Western Australia. David got started in poker through his local WA Poker League and has been playing for around five years. He won his way into this event through a PokerStars online satellite.
While David is largely unknown on the local scene, this is actually not his first major final table, after he finished 6th in a major poker event in Cebu in February for a US$10,534 score.
Away from the tables, David enjoys horse racing, so if he can win a few races early on the final table, he may be an outside chance at the title.
Seat 4: Ken Demlakian, Sydney, New South Wales (PokerStars Qualifier) - 529,500 chips
Our chip leader entering the final table is Sydney's Ken Demlakian. A Structural Engineer by trade, Ken has been playing poker socially for a long time. He first got interested as a teenager before recently getting more involved in the game with his brother and his friends.
Ken can usually be found playing the $5/5 NLHE cash games, and this is his first tournament result of note. The most defining moment of this tournament for Ken was a devastating set over set hand that crippled Michael Kanaan. It proved to ultimately be the difference between chip leader and bubble boy.
Ken enjoys playing competitive tennis and basketball, and says that he has really enjoyed the variety of outside activities here in Queenstown.
Seat 5: David Zhao, Melbourne, Victoria - 511,000 chips
David Zhao is one of the most aggressive and talented young players in Australia, and will be very dangerous on this final table. David is a 27-year old from Melbourne with seven years experience in the game. David is normally found grinding the $5/5 and $5/10 NLHE cash games in Melbourne, but is also extremely competent in tournaments with a runner-up finish in the 2011 Melbourne Poker Championships to his credit.
David won a key coinflip with pocket queens against the ace-king of Kristian Lunardi on the final hand of Day 2 to jump towards the top of the counts, and with a big stack in hand, he was never threatened as he dominated Day 3.
David has loved Queenstown, and says the great food and friendly people have highlighted his trip so far. Winning the title will cap it off perfectly!
Seat 6: Bryan Huang, Singapore (Team PokerStars PRO) - 263,500 chips
Team PokerStars PRO Bryan Huang is one of the most respected and decorated poker players in Asia, with over US$500,000 in live tournament cashes to his credit. Bryan is Singapore's all-time leading tournament money earner with his biggest result coming at the 2008 APPT Macau where he finished in 3rd place.
The 2010 Asia Player of the Year has flown largely under the radar in this event, successfully forcing folds from his opponents to accumulate chips rather than taking unnecessary big risks. It's a strategy that has worked so far as Bryan enters the final table nicely placed in the middle of the pack.
Hopefully Bryan is able to get some rest as he has also qualified for the finals of the inaugural PokerStars Frisbee Golf Championships. Could we see a rare double here in Queenstown for the Team PokerStars PRO?
Seat 7: Ricky Kroesen, Broadbeach, Queensland (PokerStars Qualifier) - 191,000 chips
32-year old Ricky Kroesen has been playing poker for six years after getting started when he was invited to a $10 home game with some of his mates. It's a hobby that he's turned into a very profitable venture, with a string of results in Australia as a regular on the ANZ live poker circuit. Ricky's biggest result was a runner-up finish in his home town tournament at the 2011 ANZPT Gold Coast. That result was worth AU$116,235, but he'll be keen to go one better at this final table.
Away from poker, Ricky enjoys triathlons and touch football, and while he is blessed with plenty of sun back home, he also enjoys the snow, so he'll be hoping to squeeze in some skiing here in Queenstown.
Ricky feels that his success in this tournament has come down to nothing but staying patient and avoiding mistakes. It's a solid game plan that will be tough for his opponents to crack on this final table.
Seat 8: Ivan Zalac, Sydney, New South Wales (PokerStars Qualifier) - 92,500 chips
Ivan Zalac is one of the most lovable characters that we've encountered on the ANZ tours. His personality away from the felt belies a deceptively-steely focus and determination to succeed on it.
Ivan has been playing poker for three years after first seeing the game on TV and jumping into his local pub poker tournaments. Ivan describes himself as a semi-professional player and has become a master of winning satellites into these events on PokerStars.
"I love pulling off amazing bluffs that only men of my age can do!" said Zalac to us excitedly at the end of today's play. "It's not only the young guys who can three-bet, four-bet and five-bet!"
Ivan has already tasted success this week after winning the Pot Limit Omaha trophy during the week which he is looking forward to taking back home to show his biggest fans - his wife and kids. Although even as these bios were being written, Ivan was overheard asking about the structure for tonight's side event, so perhaps he's looking for yet another trophy...or two! He has some work ahead of him, entering the final table as the short stack of the field.
Seat 9: Dave Allan, Sydney, New South Wales (PokerStars Qualifier) - 393,500 chips
One of Australia's most feared online poker players, Dave "dave798111" Allan is looking to make his first major impression on the live tournament scene here in Queenstown.
Dave had a mighty start to the year with a 3rd place in the PokerStars Sunday Million and a 2nd place in the PokerStars Sunday Storm on the very same day. An incredible achievement in itself, but just weeks later, Dave secured a win in the Super Tuesday to give him online winnings in excess of US$200k in the first two months of the year.
After flopping a straight early in the tournament to double up, Dave has dominated proceedings. He was the chip leader after Day 1 and Day 2, and only lost the lead late on Day 3 after copping a two-outer against Matthew Wakeman. Dave will still enter the final table in good shape in fourth chip position.