Boys from Downunder

***updates below***

I'll be getting fit while I work today following eight players from Team PokerStars Australia and New Zealand as they are spread from one end of the vast tournament floor to the other.

There are two guys I'll keep a close eye on, as they're feared on the tournament scene at home and have youth and stamina on their side.

29 year old Russell Davies and I have history. He was on my right at a final table during last year's Victorian Poker Champsionships, and knocked me out fifth. But I forgive him, especially as he went on to show how strong a player he is at the Aussie Millions this past January.

That event, the richest Downunder, was eventually won by our own Lee Nelson (on his birthday) and Russell finished in 6th place, his biggest payday so far.

"I'm just treading water for now" he told me, sitting on an average stack. Poor guy is suffering a head cold and has a bagful of medicine at his feet.

Russell used to go to home games with Toby Atroshenko, a 33 year old pro player who now lives mostly on Koh Samui Island, Thailand, and brings a chilled out attitude to the table.

"I certainly won't be getting involved like Emad yesterday" he told me. "I'll just try to play solid cards today". Toby's biggest cash finish to date was 1st place in a tournament at The Bicycle a couple of years back, and he has cashed in plenty back home in Australia.

Internet legend Johnnybax was on Toby's table but just busted out. Crippled when he ran pocket Aces into a set of eights, Johnnybax was all in with AK, which didn't improve, against pocket nines.

Another Australian player, Peter Sun from the Gold Coast has been using creative visualisation to give himself an edge. He runs a motivational business coaching franchise operation back home, and says he's been picturing himself next to a huge pile of cash.

"It helps" he said, "I used it at the British Open and came 12th."

**update** 3:40pm

I've done a lap around the floor and our Aussie and Kiwi players are holding their own - or most of them. I think we might have lost Damon Alcock much earlier on, there was an empty seat where he used to be.

Toby has 9.6k, Josh Egan from New Zealand has 11.5k, Russell has 13k, Peter Sun is visualising his way towards 50k tonight and is currently on 12k, and George Magdas is sitting on a solid 17k after taking down lots of smallish pots.


Toby Atroshenko has doubled up and went smiling into the break minutes ago.

"I got lucky, I'm too embarassed to tell you" he said. So I twisted his arm.

It was Toby's button and he had AQ, with the Ace of spades. He bet 900 and was called, and happy about it when the flop came Qs 9s 3s. He check-raised with top pair and the nut flush draw, and induced an all-in bet from his opponent, who had fl0pped a set of nines. Toby's flush came on the river.

He now has 25k.

Russell Davies is still treading water with around his starting stack, but just made a great laydown. He only had pocket 33 but made a full house with three tens on the board, and something told him the other guy was holding the fourth one. When he bet the river Russell mucked, and sure enough, the other player showed him quads.


Ray Sukkar, from Sydney, is out. He had struggled to get much beyond his starting stack. He found pocket QQ and was called by AK in the big blind. He bet out on a flop of 2 3 4, and checked when an Ace fell on the river. Hoping his ladies were good he called an all-in bet and was busted out.

**update** 9:40pm

A useful skill picked up from CSI, along with lots of other things Vegas, is the grid search. I've just combed nine-tenths of the floor increasingly worried I was looking for a corpse.
Happily Toby Atroshenko had just moved tables, and not out the door. He's got 26k but feeling exhausted, after not sleeping last night.

Another big PokerStars player, Sam Khouiss, from Sydney, has just taken a huge hit. He had around 45k, and got 20k of them into a three way pot with the second nut flush. The trips were no issue, but the nut flush was in there too.

Russell Davies is leaking chips, down to 4k after a series of small losses. Josh Egan and George Magdas are steady Eddies, hovering around 13k and 17 respectively.

**update 1230 am**

A post-it note is being blinded out on table 103 and and 12 hours into Day 1B, has outlasted about a thousand people. But with 875 chips it seems unlikely to find its way into Day 2.

On the same table is a man widely regarded as one of Australia's best live players. Sam Khouiss is old school and always entertaining. He has a string of final table finishes under his belt back home, most recently 1st in a No Limit Hold'Em event during the Aussie Millions in January 2006 and a 2nd place in the 2 Card Manila during the same tournament series.

This is his second outing to the WSOP. His first was in 1997, where he was an early chip leader and clashed memorably with Stu Ungar, who went on to win it. I'll catch up with Sam and see if he'll share that story with us.

Meanwhile, in less than 90 minutes of play tonight Russell Davies chomped his way through a bag of hard candies and transformed his mini-stack of 4k into more than 30k. It's not all sugar rush either, I watched him fire 6k at a pot (finding out later he was King high on a flop of 8h 8s Ac), and a couple of hands later bet out big with pocket Aces, but his ploy to lure in someone with a suspiciously large bet didn't work that time and just took the blinds.

Toby Atroshenko ran into trouble and has halved his stack but still hovering around 10k, and George Magdas had a solid 18k or so.

Josh Egan from New Zealand has 12k.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker