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By JAMES PUGSLEY, December 31, 2011
This year has seen a great deal of NZ based poker successes, with our players making some deep appearances at a number of key events. There was also some success in the online felts, though most of the regular performers were kept at bay by the variable nature of tournament poker. Since I myself am involved primarily tournament poker — and do a semi-decent job of spewing chips at mid-stakes, I can’t comment so much on cash; but would like to have a shot at summarizing some of this years most successful tournament players. Since it’d risk being unfair or missing something rating players from the top to bottom — the players listed here are in no particular order.
Willcocks has had an amazing 2011, with the main focus being his second place finish at APPT Melbourne. Willcocks faced off against Australian veteran tournament grinder Leo Boxell for the title, eventually coming short but pocketing $207,000 AUD for his efforts. What was truly impressive however, was that just a few months later, Willcocks returned to the final table in Melbourne, after making another deep run in the ANZPT $2,000 Main Event. The competition was tough, with kiwi Lee Nelson also a strong presence at the table, and it was with his soundly aggressive game that Willcocks’ demise came in 5th. While not quite the boost that his six figure score would’ve been, $34,100 is certainly not a bad day at the office. Moreover, Willcocks’ reputation has become as such that most regulars on the circuit have learned to fear him, which says a lot about his game.
After winning the Auckland based NZ Open in 2010, Jackson begun 2011 with a bang, earning an early final table in a side $1,000 6-handed event at Aussie Millions. After tallying up another impressive 2nd place at a $500 teams event which netted him another five figures, Zheng walked away with nearly $40,000 in cashes at Crown Casino. This was to be only the beginning of Zheng’s outstanding year, as he returned to the NZ poker open to win it again, netting back to back titles and another $50,000 in the process. It was then on to APPT Melbourne, where he played with Willcocks but came short in 8th. Another impressive run, Zheng received one more five-figure score worth $36,000 for his efforts, totaling a significant amount of cashes in 2011. To top it off, he cut his way through a difficult field at APPT Queenstown, taking a brutal river beat to send him out in 10th; illustrating just how frequently he’d made the right decisions to put him in a position to win. Sometimes tournament poker isn’t about results — it’s about making the right decisions and seperating the results from the way you played, and more than anything , Jackson showed he is capable of just that. After winning a seat online — look out for Zheng this year at the Pokerstars Carribean Adventure.
Elliot “EeeTee2008″ Nicholls
Primarily a sit and go grinder, Nicholls has been killing the online felts since 2008, with his “breakout” year being 2009. Since then he’s kept up an impressive amount of volume, chalking up more than 40,000 games, which is comprised of both SnG’s and Multi Table Tournaments (MTT’s). This year saw his total cashes move over $1.5 million, with just $300,000 in profit, but no doubt a massive amount in bonuses. Unlike some SnG players, EeeTee has had some great success playing some of the highest buy-ins online, with two impressive top 3 finishes in Pokerstars $1,050 “Super Tuesday.” This year he managed a post Black Friday 3rd place in the tournament, tearing through the hardest of fields online, and netting himself $20,000 in the process. Moreover, Nicholls sits atop the Pocket Fives sortable rankings for New Zealand, which while focused a little more on volume as opposed to “skill” (which is hard to quantify in cashes alone), is an impressive feat indeed. Expect to be see much more of Nicholls in 2012, as he continues to crush the online game, and branches out his action into live.
“Proto” — The Anonymous WCOOP Hero
While he declined to interview with us, and he was unknown until his WCOOP 2nd place — Prot0 is still deserving of a tonne of credit. Taking home $145,000 for besting a field of more than 8000 entrants in a $215 tournament is no small feat, and Prot0 managed it with class. Many players who make such final tables are often privileged with great luck but lack in the skill department – but anyone who watched the final table with hole cards shown would realise that he had the skill to make it. Prot0’s second place finish represents the deepest run ever made by a kiwi in WCOOP, and to that end, we congratulate the unknown star. As if to prove that it wasn’t simply a lucky run, our anonymous hero then went on to claim 31st in event #32, once again putting himself in a position to take down a massive score. Seemingly involved in a smaller amount of volume with a good amount of success, Prot0 appeared on the radar again in December, besting a field of hardened tournament regulars in a Pokerstars $100 rebuy tournament. Rewarded roughly $16,000 for his efforts, winning such a tournament is about more than money — as many tournament pro’s regard $100 rebuy’s as the pinnacle of online MTT competition. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of this up and coming grinder in 2012.
Lee “Final Table” Nelson
An old hand on the live tournament circuit, Nelson solidified his reputation by outright winning ANZPT Melbourne this year, pocketing a healthy $156,000 and change for his work. Perhaps more importantly, Nelson was heavily involved in the release of one of the year’s most well received tournament strategy books — “The Raisers Edge: Tournament-Poker Strategies for Today’s Aggressive Game.” The book covers a multitude of key tournament concepts, and follows as a sequel to the now renowned “Kill Everyone”, which provided many players with the baseline concepts important to consistently profit in MTT’s. You can guarantee that we’ll be seeing more of Lee — he’s proved himself time and time again to be one of NZ’s finest.
So there you have it — there’s my take on this years most successful tournament players. It’s also worth mentioning that others had put in some great play, but fell short when matters were out of their control. Jason “Poker_Lord76″ Brown was certainly one such player, running near the final table in a number of WCOOP events, and chalking up a nice deep Sunday Million run to boot. Joel “Acesdreams” Davies was another notable player — who plays on Pokerstars under the screen name “AQUA RAIDER.” Davies managed to tally up around $100,000 in profit online alone, and took second in the Pocket Fives sortable rankings for NZ players. Let’s hope that 2012 can bring many more successes for New Zealand poker — and a happy new year to everyone.
After an initial field of 310 taking to the felt on Saturday the 24th of September, 11 players returned to Melbourne’s prestigious Crown Casino yesterday to compete for the ANZPT title. With first place sitting at an impressive $156,550 AUD, a slew of Australians and two highly decorated Kiwi Poker pros began the final table – Lee Nelson and Phillip Wilcocks. Neither need any real introduction; with Lee spreading his talents across the poker community, being an author, and playing the live tournament circuit. Lee eventually bested Australian Nick Georgoulas, claiming his second Melbourne based title after his win at the 2006 Aussie Millions.
Wilcocks has found himself at the head of many live final tables recently, and apparently had lead quite a quiet tournament to find himself starting with around 1 million chips when the clock was wound back by tournament officials to start play at 8,000/16,000 blind levels. Nelson shared a similar stack as the final table began, and for quite some time, play was very tight. It wasn’t until 2 hours after play had resumed that Danny Chevalier claimed the first scalp of the final table, sending Justin Sanchez of Australia home in 9th place for $13,020.
Play continued in a relatively solid manner, with Willcocks pushing some action against Chevalier, and Lee chipping up substantially to around 1.7 million. Another two hours gone by, and it was time for a succession of eliminations, which included Brett Chalhoub (8th), and Stephen Eliesen who took 7th after shipping Q5o with 10 big blinds into the KQo of Phillip Willcocks from the button. Sporting a self-styled t-shirt with the words “Degenerate Gambler” emblazoned on it — Elisen watched as the board ran out dry, departing with $22,320 for his efforts.
As the blinds continued to increase, effectively making play extremely short-stacked and pre-flop based, more competitors joined the rail. Previous chip leader Tom Wing found the exit shortly after he called a pre-flop all-in from Willcocks who shoved the button, with Wing tabling A7s from the big blind for what he likely thought would be the best hand, but Willcocks held AJs to have him crushed. After there were just five, it was Nelson who would eventually knock out Willcocks, after he lost a succession of pots, firstly against Nick Geogoulas, and secondly against Nelson post-flop. The two eventually got it all-in afterwards when Phillip put in his last 550,000 with 106s from the cut-off position, only to be called by Nelson’s A8 off-suit. While he was able to find a pair on the 6 4 Q rainbow flop that followed, the turn and river came 5 and 7 to deliver Lee with a four to a straight, cementing Willcocks’ 5th place finish for $31,100.
What followed after was a chain of all-in situations, the first of which coming when Nelson opened with a raise to 100,000 from the button with the blinds at 25,000/50,000, and Karan Punjabi moved all in for his last 430,000. Lee made the call and tabled a virtual monster with TT, while Punjabi trailed with just A9o. It was not to be for Australian, as no help came with the dealer, with Karan awarded a healthy $43,090 for his commitment. It was not long after that a similar spot had unfolded, when Danny Chevalier put in his last 825,000 with 33 and was called by Nelson’s ATo. Again Lee found his magic as the board ran out a boat with tens full of Aces, and Chevalier was sent home in 3rd for $55,180 in change.
Finally as heads-up began, it seemed that Lee was ready to gamble with his massive chip advantage. A few all-in confrontations later, with relatively equal stacks, both players got all their chips in quite thin. Nick Georgoulas opened to 150,000, and Lee moved all-in, with the effective raise being roughly 2.1 million given Georgoulas own stack size. Whatever the odds though, Nick quickly made the call and tabled 44; with Nelson turning over JhTh for “classic” flip. It was virtually over almost immediately, as the dealer fanned out a flopped flush for Lee, bringing a royal flush re-draw when the board came A K 8, all hearts. The turn brought a harmless brick, leaving Lee as the champion and winner of the $156,550 first prize. The final results are shown below:
1st Lee Nelson (New Zealand) – $156,550
2nd Nick Georgoulas (Australia) – $99,200
3rd Danny Chevalier (Australia) – $55,180
4th Karan Punjabi (Australia) – $43,090
5th Phil Willcocks (New Zealand) – $34,100
6th Tom Wing (Australia) – $27,900
7th Stephen Eliesen (Australia) – $22,320
8th Brett Chalhoub (Australia) – $17,670
9th Justin Sanchez (Australia) – $13,020
Stay tuned to PokerNZ as we continue to follow the ANZPT, with the next chapter in Darwin. We’ll also be on the lookout for Lee, as we’re hopefully able to interview him over his latest tournament conquest.
By JAMES PUGSLEY, AUGUST 28TH, 2011
After two more days of grueling deep stacked play, the final table of APPT Snowfest is ready. There were a number of harsh casualties as the play continued onto day 2, with Koray Turker taking an early lead above day 1C chip leader Alicia Sale. Koray dominated play for a long time, only to later find himself all in with A5 offsuit against Tom Grigg’s pocket Kings.
Starting out with a lot of history and action between the two, the spot finally came when Griggs 3-bet Turker’s initial raise of 1800 to 4750, only to have Turker reportedly tout that Griggs was “about to get owned”, as he clicked it back to roughly 12,000 total. Griggs followed with the 5-bet to induce further action, and Turker pulled the trigger only to be shown Griggs’ monster hand with the pot around 192,000, or 250 big blinds. It was then not to be for Turker, who crashed out spectacularly as the day wore on, which also saw Alicia Sale’s dreams crushed, as her big stack was swiftly acquired by 2010 APPT Sydney champion Jonathan ‘xMONSTERxDONGx’ Karamalikis.
After a massive call hero call against Tom Griggs with AQ high in a 4-bet pre-flop pot, German Marcus Schreiner shot to the chip lead at the end of day 2, which left the field with 21 players. Day 3 was delayed to a late start in order to give players some more rest, and more time to enjoy the deep structure. APPT and SKYCITY officials eventually made some changes to the structure, in order to keep the average stack size as large as possible. After a few eliminations, the first of the big names to go was Cole Swannack, who pushed his stack into the middle after Matty Yates made a 3-bet preflop. Swannack was instantly called by pocket kings, only to table a measly 56 offsuit himself. Swannack found some hope when the flop ran out A 2 4, but ultimately found bricks on the turn and river to finish in 15th.
As the day wore on, Ben Paurini saw his great tournament come to an end; after picking what looked like a great cold 4-bet spot, shipping AQs over the top of active players Matty Yates and Marcus Schreiner. Schreiner, who eventually made a relatively thin call off with 55, then held to knock out Paurini, who was rewarded $6,000 for his efforts. Shortly after, Ryan Mckay’s tournament life came to an end too, as he found himself all-in and crushed by Hugh Cohen’s pocket tens, with Ryan holding 33. Gavin Vickers was the next to join the rail, having turned his initial freeroll qualifier on Pokerstars into a healthy $7,720 for 12th. Eleventh place went to Charles Caris after shoving all-in pre-flop with A2o and failing to improve against Karamalikis’ pocket tens.
The day finally came to an end in brutal fashion, with kiwi Jackson Zheng falling just short of another big final table. Zheng had raised from under the gun with KcQc, only to have Matty Yates call from the small blind. The flop fanned Th Ks 4d, which was met with a check, a bet from Zheng, and a flat call from Yates. The turn brought the Queen of spades, which led Zheng to follow with another barrel, this time for 24,000 total. Yates then check-raised all in for a further 90,000 to Zheng, who instantly made the call, despite the boards’ dangerous texture. Zheng obviously knew he was ahead as he watched Yates table just As Qh for just middle pair and a gutshot. Excitement ensued on the rail as the river was left to be dealt. Thinking perhaps that he could fade a card through calling for it himself, Zheng then called for the Jack to the come on the river. Moments later the dealer had put out the J of hearts, dashing Zheng’s chances of a commanding chip count going into the final table, eliminating him in 10th for $7,720 in change. Behind Schreiner, Yates is now second in chips, holding the highest count of any New Zealander left.
Here are the final table chip counts:
Seat 1: Hugh Cohen (Australia) 146,500 PokerStars Qualifier
Seat 2: Marcel Schreiner (Germany) 591,500
Seat 3: Daniel Laidlaw (Australia) 193,000 PokerStars Qualifier
Seat 4: Jonathan Karamalikis (Australia) 174,000 PokerStars Qualifier
Seat 5: Carl Knox (New Zealand) 180,500
Seat 6: Tom Grigg (Australia) 296,000
Seat 7: Matty Yates (New Zealand) 523,500
Seat 8: John Waterman (New Zealand) 153,500 PokerStars Qualifier
Seat 9: Xiao Dong Xia (China) 107,500
For more profiling information regarding players not covered here, please see Pokerstars’ ongoing blog for the event, found here. With a table combining many Aussies and Kiwi’s, it’s certainly shaping up to be a trans-tasman battle of epic proportions. We’ll be doing a round-up to cover action after the final table is concluded, so stay tuned — it’s going to be a long day.
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