If it's August, it's time for big buy-in No-Limit Hold'em poker in Macau. The first of the Macau major tournaments, the 2009 Asian Poker Tour Macau Main Event, kicked off today in an eighth floor ballroom at the Galaxy StarWorld Hotel and Casino. By the end of the night Australasian poker icon David Steicke, the champion of the High Rollers Event held here two days ago, secured the title of overnight chip leader.
Last year the APT Macau Main Event drew a total of 257 runners, many of them local to the Asian continent. 103 of those players chose Day 1A as their starting flight. This year the buy-in for the tournament was trimmed to US $4,400 from last year's US $5,300. That surely helped contribute to a Day 1A field that numbered 133, a year-on-year increase of roughly 30%. By the end of the night 37 remained.
The story of the day was Steicke, a player known for slightly quirky behavior and an uncanny ability to make correct calls that most poker players would never even consider making. He doubled up on the first hand he played in Level 1. Steicke was one of two players that called a preflop raise. When the flop came , Steicke check-raised the preflop raiser from 600 to 1,700. That players called to the turn, where Steicke bet 2,700, and again to the river. Steicke's weak lead of 2,400 was raised all in by his opponent, who held for the second nut flush. Steicke, however, had been dealt and quickly called to eliminate the player and double to 20,000.
From there Steicke built his tournament-leading stack by applying relentless pressure and mixing it with solid poker acumen, some run-goodness (catching aces against kings) and a few of his uncanny reads. The most audacious of those reads today came when Steicke called a 4-bet all-in shove for 50 BBs, half of his 60,000 chip stack at the time with pocket nines and found himself up against . Steicke's nines held up to vault him to about 90,000 in chips.
While Steicke was performing his typical magic on one side of the room, the rest of the field was grinding away trying to keep pace. Jay "SEABEAST" Kinkade had some early success at that endeavor, matching Steicke through the first few levels. He eventually settled into a group of five players — including Rasmus Akerblom, Ian Frazer, Michael Woo, and James Sudworth — that finished the day clumped together between 55,000 and 65,000 chips. Sudworth's lucky break came late in the day when he caught a miracle two-outer on the turn. Sudworth's pocket eights were in bad shape against an opponent's after a queen flopped with all of the chips already in the middle, but the came on the turn to give Sudworth the best hand. From there he made a substantial chip progress back to the top of the leader board.
Of course, with only 37 players of the original 133 surviving the day, three times as many players had a bad day as had a good one. Numbered among their lot was 2008 APT Macau Main Event champion Yevgeniy Timoshenko. Timoshenko, who wasn't old enough to legally play in his native U.S.A. at the time of his victory last year, never made much noise. He briefly climbed above the starting stack of 10,000 chips but seemed never to get any higher than about 12,000 chips. He ultimately found himself in a situation that every player dreads – flipping for his tournament life. Timoshenko's did not hold up against Woo's , one of a series of small-to-medium pots that Woo used throughout the day to build his second-place stack.
Joining Timoshenko on the rail throughout the course of the day were old-school players such as Mansour Matloubi and Young Phan; a plethora of Aussies, including James Potter, Jonathan Karamalakis, Mel Judah and Andrew Scott; and some young guns in the forms of Tony Dunst and Corwin Cole.
Tournament organizers announced that they expect tomorrow's Day 1B flight to number at least 200 players. If that happens, the combined field would eclipse 330 players and US $1.3 million in prize money. Those numbers will be determined definitively when play resumes at noon local time.