The Crown Casino in Melbourne is the home of some of Australia’s biggest and brightest poker tournaments, and it became the third stop on the PokerStars.com Australia New Zealand Poker Tournament (ANZPT) series. As part of the 2009 Melbourne Poker Championships, the ANZPT hosted the AUD $2,700 main event, a no-limit hold’em tournament to round out a series that included such events as the $5,200 high stakes NLHE and the $100,000 single-table challenge.
Despite its close calendar proximity to the 2009 WSOP, the main event garnered the support of 218 players. It was significantly lower than the 496 players who came out for the previous ANZPT event in Sydney, but the local players were happy to have the tournament take place at their Crown Casino.
Day 1 found some of the biggest names in Aussie poker show up for the tournament, like Tony Hachem, Grant Levy, Celina Lin, Eric Assadourian, Emad Tahtouh, Billy Argyros, and Lee Nelson. The two previous ANZPT champions - Karl Krautschneider and Paren Arzoomanian - were also in attendance, and the 218-player field made for a $545,000 prize pool to be split among the final 18 players, leaving $158,050 for the ultimate champion.
At the end of nine levels, it was Jie Gao at the top of the leaderboard with 257,400 chips, followed by poker reporter Heath Chick and his 214,100. The rest of the top five were, in order, Chris Kittos, Tino Lechich, and John Apostolidis.
Day 2 began with 69 players and took more than 13 hours to find the final nine. As the day wore on, it was John Joannou who found himself in the position of bubble player when his A-8 went up against the A-Q of Jie Gao. The board blanked and sent Joannou out with no payday, though David Zhao hung on and ultimately cashed in 18th place.
Tony Hachem ended his run in 16th place, and the action continued as the final table loomed in the distance. Finally, it was Peter Kotsiris who made the all-in move, and Ben Savage and Rodney Burles called. The two players checked down the board of until the river card showed, which prompted a bet from Savage with pocket threes that turned into quads. Burles mucked, and Kotsiris could only show pocket tens before leaving the tournament in tenth place with $8,175.
At that point, the final table was set for the following day, with Chris Levick in the lead and Burles as the short stack. All of the counts and seating assignments were as follows:
Seat 1: Heath Chick 283,000
Seat 2: Rodney Burles 168,000
Seat 3: Sam Khouiss 354,000
Seat 4: Chris Levick 969,000
Seat 5: Jie Gao 517,000
Seat 6: Ben Savage 682,000
Seat 7: Greg Shillig 190,000
Seat 8: Peter Aristidou 432,000
Seat 9: Kristian Lunardi 713,000
Action began with Levick losing the first hand of the day but recovering quickly to call when Burles pushed all-in with pocket tens. Levick showed pocket queens, and the board came to end the run for Rodney Burles, who finished in ninth place with $10,900.
Next to be at risk was Savage, who had been hurt by Levick earlier at the final table and ran into him again. It was after a flop of that Levick raised to 500K after Savage came out betting, and Savage made the all-in call with . Levick showed pocket jacks, however, and the rest of the board - on the turn and on the river - allowed that hand to stand, sending Ben Savage out in eighth place with $16,350.
And just before the dinner break, Lunardi decided it was time to push all-in for about 200K, and Shillig called with . Lunardi turned over pocket sevens to head off to the races. But the flop hit Shillig with . The turn and river finished it for Kristian Lunardi in seventh place with $21,800.
Upon returning from the dinner break, several players departed in one level in somewhat of a flurry of eliminations. Gao was the all-in player with pocket fives, but Levick woke up with pocket aces with which to make the call. The board blanked for Jie Gao, and he left in sixth place with $27,250.
Khouiss found an opportunity to double up during the beginning stages of the level, but upon the next attempt, he pushed with and found Levick calling with . The board came , and Sam Khouiss was forced to accept $38,150 for a fifth place finish.
One hand later, Aristidou pushed preflop with pocket nines and found none other than Levick calling with pocket eights. But when an eight came on the flop, Peter Aristidou was ousted in fourth place with $49,050 for the effort.
Shillig was very short stacked going into three-handed action and soon made the all-in move with . Levick called, of course, with , and saw the board come out in his favor as it produced . That left Greg Shillig holding $59,950 for the third place elimination.
Levick had a 5-to-1 chip advantage going into heads-up play, but Chick was able to double through twice in an attempt to make a comeback. Finally, though, it was Levick who announced “all-in” preflop with , and Chick called all-in for his tournament life with pocket queens. But the flop brought Levick’s card when it came . The on the turn and on the river changed nothing and sent Heath Chick home in second place with $103,550.
Chris Levick, in his first ever major tournament victory, was awarded the trophy and $158,050 in Australian dollars.
(Thanks to the PokerStars blog for live updates.)