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.