By Sean Callander
The journey started in the steamy Philippines capital of Manila in late-August, swept through the bustling metropolis of Seoul in South Korea, made a stop in the world’s gaming capital Macau before culminating in Australia’s biggest city, overlooking some of the world’s most recognisable landmarks.
The first season of the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour has ended with the crowning of the APPT Grand Final champion at Star City Casino in Sydney.
Grant Levy, a teacher from Sydney’s outer-west has become the first Australian player to a $1 million prize on home soil after he outlasted Jeremiah Vinsant from the USA in a marathon heads-up battle that went 67 hands (and a final table of 226 hands).
The 28-year-old father of two had plenty of support at the final table from friends and fellow local players, while his family (and students) kept a close eye on his progress via this blog.
A former rugby league coach, Levy has stamped himself as the hottest property on the local tournament scene. He was third at the PokerNews Cup in Melbourne, outlasting a field of 428 players to finish third (winning $131,800) and has taken down two significant online tournaments in recent months.
Vinsant, who had already planned to dedicate himself to 12 months of major tournaments in 2008, has built himself a handy start bank in claiming the second prize of $621,540.
Another local player, Lei He, captured third place while the other Australian at the final table, Jai Kemp, finished fifth.
Players from more than 30 countries converged on Sydney for the $6000 buy-in event: many of them making their first trip to Australia.
The field of 561 for the APPT Grand Final was the second largest for a big buy-in event in Australian poker history, and generated a prize pool of $3.336 million.
Despite a field that included four world champions (Team PokerStars Pros Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem, plus PokerStars player Scotty Nguyen), fellow Team PokerStars Pros Lee Nelson and Isabelle Mercier and WSOP bracelet winner Jeff Lisandro, it was a relative newcomer who conquered the field – continuing a tradition established in earlier APPT events this year.
The winners of the respective events have underlined the diversity of people who’ve been swept up by the excitement and drama of tournament poker in recent years.
Brett Parise: a young student from the USA who won his way to the Philippines via a freeroll on PokerStars and won $180,000; Ziv Bachar, an aspiring 25-year-old poker pro from the Israel who took out the APPT Seoul title and took home $140,000; and Dinh Le, born in Vietnam, living in the UK and etched in poker history as the winner of the first event on Chinese soil as APPT Macau: Asian Poker Open champion.
The APPT has also brought poker to a new audience. Team PokerStars players like Joe Hachem, Daniel Negreanu, Isabelle Mercier, Vanessa Rousso, Lee Nelson and ‘ElkY’ Grospellier have been great ambassadors for the APPT and poker in general over the past four months
In 2008, the PokerStars.net APPT will return. More stops, more innovations, more players, bigger payouts. On behalf of the team who’ve worked tirelessly to bring you all the news from the PokerStars.net over the past four months, thanks for your support and see you in 2008!
Results: PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final, Star City Casino, Sydney, Australia
PokerStars Video Blog
Grant Levy winner interview: