By James Potter
KiaOra or welcome to the Land of the Long White Cloud. New Zealand is one of the world’s hidden gems. Comparable in size to Great Britain or Japan, the country is packed with some of the world’s most stunning scenery – from vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, sweeping coastlines, deeply indented fjords and lush rainforests.
If you are, however, one of those thrill seeking types you won’t be disappointed either as bungee jumping and jet boats are both proud NZ inventions. Combine all that with a temperate climate and a tiny population of just four million and you have an ideal year-round holiday destination.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is the host for the tournament and day one of the main event kicks off on Thursday. Auckland really puts the ‘Pacific’ in Asia Pacific Poker Tour – the city lies on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Auckland’s waterside location has fostered the locals’ love affair with the sea, earning it the nickname “City of Sails”.
Auckland’s heart beats to a Polynesian rhythm, its people a melting pot of South Pacific and Asian cultures and a strong indigenous Maori heritage. This diversity brings with it an abundance of unique dining and shopping experiences.
New Zealand hasn’t been immune to the wave of poker fever sweeping the planet. So it’s appropriate that New Zealand has been added to the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour schedule for 2008.
SKYCITY Auckland casino will be the venue. Visitors won’t have any trouble finding their way to the venue, as it lies at the base of Sky Tower, the southern hemisphere’s tallest tower at 328m (taller than even the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Tower).
In addition to the Sky Tower, the Skycity complex (refurbished just two years ago) includes a large theatre, a convention centre and hotel, and six bars and seven restaurants. The main feature however is the casino, offering more than 100 tables and, of course, Skycity’s own branded poker room the Poker Zone.
This is the first major international poker tournament ever held on New Zealand’s North Island, and the best Kiwi players are licking their lips at the prospects of taking on some of the world’s best players.
Make no mistake; some of the world’s best will be here with the likes of Team PokerStars pros and World Champions Joe Hachem and Greg Raymer confirmed starters. Other world class players like PokerStars Sponsored Players Grant Levy, Eric Assadourian and Tony Hachem will join a large ‘Aussie’ contingency who will travel ‘over the ditch’ to head the charge.
Leading the list of contenders is Team PokerStars Pro, Lee Nelson, NZ’s best known and most popular poker personalities. After moving to Auckland from the US in the early 1990s, no player has done more to promote poker in New Zealand than the man known as “Final Table” for his habit of running deep into poker tournaments. His crowning achievement came in 2006 when he pocketed $A1.3 million for winning the Aussie Millions.
Nelson heads a list of experienced local campaigners including Graeme ‘Kiwi G’ Putt, Robert Wang (two final tables at the 2008 Aussie Millions), Constantine Harach and Jamil Dia, who won the Aussie Millions in 2005. Also take note of the next generation of the strong local talent headed by players including James Honeybone (last year’s Manila Cup champion), Josh Egan (fourth in the 2007 PokerStars EPT London main event), Richard Grace (runner-up in the 2007 NZ Champs main event) plus online standouts Joel Davies and Shaun Goldsbury.
We are very excited to bring you all the action from the culmination of the first SKYCITY Festival of Poker – the NZD $3000 buy-in PokerStars.net APPT Auckland Main Event which will start at 12.15pm on Thursday (local time).