It's a more relaxed atmosphere in the SKYCITY Casino poker room this morning as players mill about prior to the start of play on day three of the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland Main Event.
The 32 players still in the race for the title are all assured a minimum cash of NZD $5523, relieving at least some of the pressure after a typically anxious bubble period leading up to the end of play last night.
However, chip leader Jason Brown has his sights set firmly on the big prize of NZD $209,085, and starts day three in great shape with more than 630,000 in chips.
He shares the top 10 with five PokerStars Qualifiers, including Auckland's own Simon Watt who lies second in chips, and excitement machine Gerome Guitteau, who kept us entertained with his roller coaster ride up and down the leaderboard yesterday.
The two "headliners" back today are PokerStars.net Team Australia Pro Eric Assadourian and Wellington's Daniel Craker. The only Team Pro still in contention, Assadourian is hoping to continue a rich run of results on NZ soil that includes the 2007 NZ Champs Main Event title and back-to-back NZ Pot-Limit Omaha titles in 2007-08.
Craker is out to emulate his triumph in last year's APPT Auckland Main Event in which he outlasted a field of 305 rivals to collect more than NZD $250,000 in prizemoney. He is one of 13 New Zealanders still in with a chance of ensuring the SKYCITY Festival of Poker title stays in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Play will be underway in the next few minutes, with blinds starting at level 16 (3000/6000 with an ante of 1000).
Top 10 chip count at the start of day 3
Jason Brown (New Zealand) 632,000
Simon Watt (New Zealand) PokerStars Qualifier 430,500
Jens Walther (Germany) PokerStars Qualifier 349,500
Michael Shinzaki (USA) 346,500
Gerome Guitteau (France) PokerStars Qualifier 317,500
Shilton Smith (New Zealand) 256,000
Rob Toleafoa (New Zealand) 241,000
Lance Climo (New Zealand) PokerStars Qualifier 235,000
Kani Edwards (New Zealand) 157,500
Oleg Epp (Germany) PokerStars Qualifier 145,500
The structure available for today's play is:
Level 16: 3000/6000 (ante 1000)
Level 17: 4000/8000 (ante 1000)
Level 18: 5000/10,000 (ante 1000)
Level 19: 6000/12,000 (ante 2000)
Level 20: 8000/16,000 (ante 2000)
Level 21: 10,000/20,000 (ante 3000)
Level 22: 12,000/24,000 (ante 4000)
Level 23: 15,000/30,000 (ante 5000)
Level 24: 20,000/40,000 (ante 5000)
Level 25: 25,000/50,000 (ante 5000)
Level 26: 30,000/60,000 (ante 10,000)
Level 27: 40,000/80,000 (ante 10,000)
Level 28: 50,000/100,000 (ante 10,000)
Level 29: 60,000/120,000 (ante 20,000)