New Zealand and the city of Auckland provides a serene landscape of stunning hillsides and picturesque harbours, yet it remains one of the more geologically volatile lands you’ll find. Auckland is dotted with dozens of dormant volcanoes, while its location close to the boundary of the Earth’s tectonic plates has resulted in many earth tremors over the years. The most recent of which was just a few weeks ago, when a devastating earthquake rocked the city of Christchurch on the South island.
Mother Nature can be unpredictable in her ways, and we’re pretty sure she spends some Sunday afternoons with the Poker Gods who often show signs of similar devastation.
Today, none felt that pain more than Australian Aaron Benton as Day 1a of the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland Main Event kicked off in the SKYCITY Auckland poker room. At times, Benton looked every bit the 2009 APPT Grand Final champion as he cut through the 89-player field like a knife through hot butter, as he flirted with the chip lead. However in a matter of minutes Benton went from hero to zero in a series of two-outers and cruel river blows to crash out of the event. Such is the nature of tournament poker.
Several other notables who joined Benton on the sidelines throughout the day included SKYCITY Auckland Ambassador Brooke Howard-Smith, Phil Willcocks, Kevin Clark, Damon Lum, Daniel Neilson, James Honeybone and Jackson Zheng.
The volatility was also felt by Australian young guns Tom Grigg and Andrew Hinrichsen who both halved their starting stack in the first few levels. However their aggressive nature is tailor-made to handle these swings and they were able to turn things around to make it safely through the day as one of the 41 survivors. Incredibly Hinrichsen amassed 69,400 by the day’s end.
Joining them will be PokerStars qualifier Ricky Kroesen, who continues a rich vein of form to once again find himself amongst the chip leaders. Kroesen chipped up when his A♠J♦ held on a flop of A♦5♥J♥ against an opponent’s Q♥10♥ before making a full house soon after to crack an opponent’s flopped flush. Kroesen held onto his big stack throughout the day and will take 81,900 into day two action.
Others in good shape include John Harman (94,300), Tao Luo (94,050), and Sam Courtenay (86,525) who was always set for a big day out after making a Royal Flush in the early stages of play. Other notables to survive include Mark Ericksen (39,275), Cole Swannack (26,350), hip hop artist Brotha D (23,675), ANZPT Queenstown champ Julian Cohen (22,175), APPT Macau champ Victorino Torres (12,125) and PokerStars sponsored Nigel Brine (9,150).
However the man they will all be chasing is American Noah Vogelman. The PokerStars qualifier broke Day 1a play wide open when he sent Daniel Neilson crashing to the rail. Vogelman held pocket queens but managed to spike another lady to crack Neilson’s pocket kings. From there Vogelman surged to the top of the chip counts and never released, ending the day with a commanding 128,275 chips as the only player in six figures.
However it may not remain that way as a huge field is expected in the SKYCITY Auckland Poker Room tomorrow for Day 1b action. We’ll be joined by PokerStars pros Tony Hachem and Lee Nelson, defending champion Simon Watt, a plane load of Australian tournament veterans and swarm of local Kiwi talent as the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland Main Event continues!