Season three of the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour saw players venture to one of the more remote poker locations on the globe in Auckland, New Zealand, for the second event of the 2009 tour. It's a long flight from Las Vegas or London, but that hasn't deterred many international travelers from finding their way to this beautiful city to join the strong local Kiwi and Aussie contingents on the felt. One of those Aussies, PokerStars Team Australia Pro Emad Tahtouh, seized the Day 1a chip lead.
The SKYCITY Casino in the heart of Auckland is one of the easiest casinos in the world to locate. Just head to the top of biggest tower in the Southern Hemisphere and then look directly down. The 1,076 foot (328 meter) SkyTower will entertain many tourists and a few disillusioned poker players alike over the next week while the modern casino with its spacious 18-table poker room at the base of the tower play host to the SKYCITY Festival of Poker and APPT Auckland Main Event.
Last year, local Daniel Craker netted a whopping $257,040 NZD for his victory and he was back again for Day 1a action to defend his title. Joining him among the 135 entrants were PokerStars Team Australia Pros Emad Tahtouh and Grant Levy, PokerStars Team Asia Pro Celina Lin (fresh from a 27-hour flight from the EPT London), and notables Lee Nelson, Joel Dodds, Graeme Putt, Stewart Scott, Steve Topakas, Daniel Neilson, Brooke Howard-Smith, Kevin Clark, Dennis Waterman and Dan Sing.
Two big stories came out of the day, each about varying fortunes. The first story involved Lee "Final Table" Nelson. The mic was still warm after he uttered the immortal words "Shuffle Up and Deal," but remarkably, he became the first casualty of the day at the hands of Sherif Badran. On just the second hand of the day, Badran flopped a set, Nelson turned a bigger set, and the chips went into the middle when Badran improved to quads on the river and the nuts against Nelson's full house!
The other big story was the complete dominance of Tahtouh. After having all his chips in the middle in just the first level of the day, Tahtouh rebounded in incredible fashion. A run of good cards, highlighted by consecutive bust-outs holding pocket aces mixed with controlled, relentless aggression, saw Tahtouh's stack constantly grow. At its peak, he bagged up 162,900 chips to end the day as a clear chip leader. Only Michael Shinzanki (109,800) and James Ciurlionis (105,600) were able to get by the 100,000 chip barrier in the seven levels of play as 67 players survived to bag up their chips. Among the survivors were Cracker (37,000), Levy (35,200), Putt (55,200), Waterman (36,400) and Lin (16,300).
A fresh group of hopefuls will enter the fray tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. local time as the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland Main Event looks to push past the magical $1 million NZD prize pool.