We thought it was going to be smooth sailing today. The equation was simple enough. Start with eighteen and reduce to nine. Unfortunately poker tournaments are rarely simple, and math is supposedly idiotic. However within four levels, the damage was done and when the smoke cleared our final nine were left standing, but not before some moments of apprehension.
The focus of the day was undoubtedly the heads-up duel between Leo Boxell and Danny Chevalier for the ANZ Player of the Year title. A heavyweight battle of the titans that had gone a full eleven rounds, with Boxell a narrow points leader and Chevalier looking for the knockout last round blow.
After Scott van Loon, Tim Wade-McDonald and Liam O'Rourke were early casualties, eyes were fixed on Leo Boxell when he moved his short stack into the middle with both Danny Chevalier and Jamie Hill coming along.
Chevalier was quick to check the board down and Hill obliged as it arrived K♠K♠7♣2♦Q♦. Boxell had to beat two opponents and he was first to show as he tabled A♥T♣ which notched Chevalier's A♣9♦. Could Boxell really survive with just ace-high? Alas, it wasn't to be as Hill's 5♥5♦ were enough to eliminate the Australian legend.
Boxell was forced to sweat the action from the rail as Chevalier shut up shop, knowing that a top ten finish would be enough to claim points and POTY honours.
The gallant run of PokerStars qualifier James Park came to an end when he ran top pair into the pocket aces of New Caledonia's Jonathan Dangio while Ryan McKay ran into trouble against Jack Drake with a one-two blow eliminating McKay in unlucky 13th place.
It was a day for the comeback kids, with Aaron Benton turning things around from just seven big blinds while Michael Guzzardi was down to around four big blinds but somehow picked the right spots to steal blinds and antes to recover.
The short-stacked survival left Danny Chevalier nervously awaiting the points bubble as he frequently left his chair to carefully watch the progress of the short stacks.
Eventually something had to give and it was local Tony Kanochkin who was next to fall. He moved in with K♠Q♥ but ran into a dominant A♠K♥ held by Brett Dennevig. The board bricked out and Danny Chevalier gave himself a celebratory fist pump and received a nice round of applause as the ANZ Player of the Year award was now officially his.
However we still had one more elimination to go before our day would come to an end.
With the points situation out of the way, there was $128,000 in prize money to fight for, with one player set to receive a whole lotta nothing for three days of toil.
It looked like that man was going to be Glenn Parry who was crippled after running into Danny Chevalier's pocket aces, only to find a double up to survive with his A♥2♥ outflopping Jonathan Dangio's A♣Q♥.
Parry was still the short stack of the field when a big hand unfolded on the other table. Jack Drake had opened to 6,600 on the button before Michael Guzzardi moved all in for around 50,000 from the small blind. Drake called with 8♥8♦ with Guzzardi showing A♦T♣.
The flop of Q♥K♥T♦ paired Guzzardi to take the lead, but Drake caught running hearts with the 6♥ turn and T♥ river to make a flush to end the day in dramatic fashion.
Final Table Lineup
Seat 1: Jonathan Dangio (New Caledonia) (PokerStars Qualifier) - 232,300
Seat 2: Danny Chevalier (Australia) - 83,800
Seat 3: Fotios Manolakos (Australia) - 121,600
Seat 4: Jack Drake (Australia) - 273,400
Seat 5: Mark Taylor (Australia) - 55,900
Seat 6: Aaron Benton (Australia) (PokerStars Qualifier) - 129,900
Seat 7: Glenn Parry (Australia) - 26,500
Seat 8: Jamie Hill (Australia) - 142,600
Seat 9: Brett Dannevig (Australia) - 119,300
Another solid day by Jack Drake sees him carry his chip lead over to the final day of play while Jonathan Dangio will be looking to take the trophy back to New Caledonia. Throw in 2009 APPT Sydney champion Aaron Benton, newly-crowned ANZ Player of the Year Danny Chevalier and a handful of locals, and we've got ourselves an exciting final table!
We'll recommence at 12:30pm (GMT+9:30) tomorrow so behave yourselves on Mitchell Street this evening and bright and early as we look to crown the final champion of Season 3 of the PokerStars.net Australia New Zealand Poker Tour!