Many talked about it, but it wasn't until the first hand was dealt on a sweltering Adelaide afternoon back in February that Australia and New Zealand finally had a poker tour to call their own.
The first season of the PokerStars.net Australia New Zealand Poker Tour has been run and won, with PokerStars Qualifier Scott Kerr taking out the ANZPT Queensland title and the first prize of AUD $168,075.
The 21-year-old from Newcastle in New South Wales deals poker games at Star City Casino in Sydney, and showed he knows a thing or two about what's happening on the other side of the table.
He joins Karl Krautschneider (Adelaide), Paren Arzoomanian (Sydney), Chris Levick (Melbourne) and Danny Chevalier (Queenstown) as season one ANZPT champions - a spot in local poker history that can never be erased.
Kerr's win ended a PokerStars.net ANZPT season that surpassed all expectations. The tour, which featured events at SKYCITY in Adelaide and Queenstown, Sydney's Star City and Crown Casino in Melbourne, ended with an innovative event in Queensland - the first time major tournament poker had come to Australia's Sunshine State.
For the first time in regional poker history, day one and two flights were played concurrently at two different venues - Conrad Treasury Casino in Brisbane and Conrad Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast, about an hour to the south.
The field of 249 for ANZPT Queensland meant the tour drew a total of 1309 players in its first year, with 334 of those winning their spots via PokerStars sponsorship or qualified via ANZPT satellites on PokerStars. The prize pool of AUD $622,500 for ANZPT Queensland meant almost AUD $3 million - AUD $2,982,196 to be exact - was up for grabs in the tour's first season.
Not only were players afforded the opportunity to play in quality, well-organised events, the ANZPT provided the ultimate poker tourism experience, especially in the last two stops of Queenstown and Queensland.
After three days of play, the remaining 40 players converged on Jupiters where they played down to a final table of eight yesterday. Joel Dodds was chasing his second final table of the ANZPT season after placing seventh in Sydney, and brought a massive chip lead forward from day three, but the cards didn't run his way and he was out in third.
The heads-up contest featured a pair of PokerStars Qualifiers - Kerr versus New Zealander Phillip Willcocks. This was the first time the two nations that host the ANZPT were featured in a heads-up contest on the tour.
It was going to be an uphill battle for Kerr, who trailled Willcocks by a margin of more than 3:1. It drove the Aussie to take down several sizeable pots early, applying the pressure before eventually securing a big pot to overtake the New Zealander.
With the blinds at 15,000/30,000 and a 3,000 ante, Kerr made it 75,000 to go on the button before the flop. Willcocks re-raised to 200,000; Kerr then three-bet to 450,000 and Willcocks made the call. Both players checked the flop of 9♠ 4♦ J♠.
On the turn of the 9♥, Willcocks checked to Kerr who made it 500,000 to go. Willcocks thought about it for a long time before letting it go into the muck circle. That put Kerr ahead for the first time at the final table.
The final hand came not long after when Willcocks raised to 75,000 from the buck; Kerr made it 350,000 to and Willcocks insta-shoved for around 1.4 million. Kerr snap-called and the cards were revealed Kerr A♥ Q♣ and Willcocks Q♠ J♠.
The flop of 2♠ T♣ 8♥ missed both players, however the Q♥ spiked on the turn. This gave the pair to both players, but kept Kerr in the lead with the ace kicker. The last card for the season was the 6♣ - and it was over. Kerr looked stunned as the enormity of his win and AUD $168,075 prize started to sink in, while Willcocks looked well pleased with his AUD $112,050 for second.
The Conrad Treasury and Jupiters teams could easily qualify for ANZPT rookie of the year status. Never before had a casino in the state hosted a poker tournament, but the teams in Brisbane and the Gold Coast put on a quality event despite the added hurdle of using two venues for the one event. Dealer shoes, chips lists instead of bags, etc ... all part of the charm of ANZPT Queensland.
PokerStars.net Team Australia Pro Tony Hachem finally emerged from his older brother's shadow in emphatic fashion to win the ANZPT Player of the Year. PokerStars.net Team Pro Joe Hachem was among the first congratulate Tony when he was confirmed as the first ANZPT Player of the Year after cashes in Adelaide (15th), Sydney (17th), Melbourne (16th) and Queenstown (18th).
WP Hash, and congratulations to Chris Levick and Joel Dodds who also won PokerStars sponsorships packages for finishing second and third respectively.
We poke a lot of fun at ANZPT commissioner Danny McDonagh, but he has filled more roles than Subway during season one of the ANZPT. From tour director in Queenstown to bus driver in Queensland, Danny has added to the experience of every player on tour with his boundless energy and enthusiasm. Can't wait to see what he has in store for season two!
We can actually reveal that the first piece of the puzzle for 2010 has been filled with Adelaide set to again host the opening event of the PokerStars.net ANZPT. SKYCITY Casino in the South Australian capital will host ANZPT Adelaide from February 9-14.
On behalf of my blogging partner Landon Blackhall and the entire ANZPT team, we've been thrilled to share the excitement of our very own tour over the past six months.
Our focus now turns to the first event on season three of the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour at the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino in Macau from August 25-30. Good night from Jupiters on Australia's Gold Coast, see you in Macau!