Australians love an underdog. It doesn't matter who or where, but we love punching above our weight, especially on the world stage. There's one other neighbouring country that loves nothing more than doing the same thing.
Aussies always look upon New Zealand as our little brother. We punch them in the arm, mess up their hair and pick on their funny accents. Eh, bro? But in the world of poker, the Kiwis are quickly shedding the underdog tag as they leave their mark as a genuine force to be reckoned with. Their player pool is hugely talented and their recent results have been superb - WSOP bracelet winner Simon Watt, Aussie Millions champion Lee Nelson, APPT and ANZPT winner Brotha D and big online scores to the likes of Damon Lum, Richard Lancaster and Paul Hockin. Just to name a few.
So it's a credit to their depth that today we saw three more Kiwis dominate proceedings on Day 2 of the PokerStars.net APPT Melbourne Main Event.
In the early stages it was the kamikaze style of Koray Turker that grabbed the most attention.
We already knew that Turker was aggressive to the extreme, but he made some excellent reads and picked his spots carefully. His call down with second pair on a four-flush board got everyone talking, and making quads after squeezing light with the old six-three offsuit were just some of the hands that could've easily filled a highlight reel.
Turker shot to the early lead, but he was joined by Jackson Zheng, thanks to a key coinflip where his pocket jacks held against the ace-king of Dave Allan. Zheng slipped back towards the end of the day, but survived in good shape.
However the star of the day was undoubtedly Phil Willcocks. We've seen a fair bit of Willcocks on the circuit with a couple of previous APPT cashes and a runner up in the ANZPT to his credit, however he'll rest tonight knowing that this will be his greatest opportunity for APPT glory.
Willcocks bagged up a massive chip lead with 774,000 chips at the end of the day, thanks in part to the double KO of our two Team PokerStars Pros today. First, Willcocks ended the tournament of Singapore's Bryan Huang when Huang shoved his pocket fives smack bang into Willcocks' pocket kings. A little later in the day, 2003 World Champion Chris Moneymaker met the same fate when his shoved his pocket sixes and Willcocks woke up with pocket aces.
It left the hopes of Team PokerStars in the hands of PokerStars Team Online player Keiran Harris who showed that he can bring his online game onto the live felt as he bagged up 389,000, good for 4th place on the chip count leaderboard.
Along the way there were of course plenty of casualties as our 146 players were reduced to just 37 after six levels of play. Notable eliminations included 2010 APPT Sydney Grand Final champ Jonathan Karamalikis, 2009 APPT Auckland Main Event champ Simon Watt, ANZ POTY leader Jesse McKenzie, Andrew Scott, Sam Khouiss, Ali Khalil, Billy "The Croc" Argyros, Jason Gray, 2007 APPT Sydney Grand Final champ Grant Levy and Aussie Millions champ Stewart Scott.
The remaining field is packed with local notables including James Obst (474,900), Julius Colman (315,400), Michael Guzzardi (230,100), Mitchell Carle (172,300), Leo Boxell (168,400), Tony Hachem (161,400), Ricky Kroesen (157,400) and 2008 APPT Manila Main Event winner Van Marcus (123,900).
With the Kiwis out in front, it bodes well for the next event on the APPT schedule when we head to the ski slopes of Queenstown in late August, but before that we have a trophy to award here in Melbourne. Day 3 will kick off at 12:10pm (GMT+10) tomorrow where our 37 remaining players will be reduced to our final table. Enjoy your Saturday night in Melbourne town and we look forward to your company again tomorrow!