PokerStars.net are no strangers to giving the “Average Joe” a shot at being poker’s next superstar – back in 2005, Joe Hachem won a cool USD $7.5 million, planting the seeds for the “Great Australian Poker Boom” which saw the game’s popularity soar in the land of sweeping plains. This led to Hachem’s appointment with PokerStars.net as a Team Pro and cementing his place as Australia’s poker ambassador.
Fast forward to 2010 and the poker landscape in Australia has matured, with an ever-growing pub poker scene and of course, the establishment of the PokerStars.net Australia New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT), providing more and more people the chance to take on the region’s best players.
Making the jump from playing in pubs and clubs to the professional circuit has always been considered a huge challenge for any player aspiring to reach the top, but now PokerStars has closed that gap, offering a money-can’t-buy opportunity of living the life of a professional poker player with the “Dream Job Australia” promotion.
After hosting a series of freerolls online, thousands of hopefuls were whittled down to ten finalists, who are now in the running for an AUD$100,000 sponsorship package on the ANZPT, which includes an AUD$5,000-a-month salary.
For your consideration, here are the finalists in order of Voting Tournament ID:
Nigel Brine (Adelaide, SA) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888078
Brine is certainly no fish out of water when it comes to computers (but he does love fishing). The 32-year-old heavy metal fan and karaoke enthusiast, who first started playing poker on a video game console, is a senior systems engineer for a major defence company and is also studying a PhD in Wireless Communications. Brine has also started a campaign on PokerNetwork, posting his resume in the forums under the alias “Orphaned Gland”.
Lloyd Zischke (Brisbane, QLD) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888079
Zischke first started playing No Limit Hold’em after watching it on television eight years ago and has since become a regular player in pub poker tournaments and online. The 52-year-old grew up on a farm but moved to Brisbane to study. From there, Zischke became a public servant and enjoyed a successful career but then took time out to look after his father. Zischke continues to play poker regularly with his good friends at a social club every Sunday.
Chris Sheehan (Hobart, TAS) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888080
Sheehan, a 44-year-old from Hobart, has just moved back from Sydney with his wife and returned to the painting and decorating trade after working as a warehouse manager and supervisor. Having played many variants of poker all his life, Sheehan has spent the last eight years concentrating on No Limit Hold’em. Sheehan has had no major tournament results to date, but given the opportunity, he hopes to make up for lost time.
Anthony Walker (Ulladulla, NSW) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888081
Walker first took up the game in Sydney three years ago and since then has spent plenty of time at the tables, both live and online at PokerStars.net. Walker says that he is under no illusions that winning this opportunity could change his life, but in terms of strategy, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest. What we do know is that Walker may be used to dealing with variance (and perhaps the odd prop bet) as the 44-year-old concreter is also a keen golfer.
Raija Thapper (Springfield, NSW) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888082
The 55-year-old mother of two is a former cross-country skier from Finland, so she’s no stranger to competitiveness and endurance, which she believes are the key attributes needed to become an elite poker player. Thapper leads a very life, working as an office manager for a construction company by day and gardening in her spare time, but in between she’s regularly honing her skills in pub poker games along the NSW Central Coast.
Peter Eccleston (Sydney, NSW) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888083
The 48-year-old town planner has already put his Dream Job Australia campaign into motion, having posted on the PokerNetwork forums under the handle “ecco”. Eccleston starting playing No Limit Hold’em at the local pub after Joe Hachem’s victory in the 2005 WSOP Main Event and hasn’t looked back since. Though his friends may describe him as an “all-round nice guy”, we expect the competitive cricketer to come out swinging on the felt.
Darrin Marr (Drouin, VIC) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888084
The lone Victorian out of the ten Dream Job Australia finalists, the 28-year-old sales manager only took up the game 18 months ago, but is a fierce competitor on the tables, which derives from his love of sports, particularly golf and tennis. Marr says that he is very excited about the opportunity that the Dream Job offers and is looking forward to pitting his skills against the best and continuing to improve his game by playing more online.
Chris Farrugia (Port Pirie, SA) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888085
The 22-year-old labourer took up poker three years ago and since then has had his sights set on becoming a professional poker player. Farrugia says that qualifying as a finalist in the Dream Job Australia promotion is the best thing to ever happen to him. Farrugia draws the most inspiration from boxing, adding that the dedication and commitment required is something to be admired. Some could say that the same attributes are necessary for poker.
Peter West (Dubbo, NSW) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888086
The 27-year-old father of one is an avid student of the game, having playing home games with his family growing up, but it wasn’t until recently that West started taking poker more seriously, subscribing to strategy sites, reading books and practicing in pub poker events as well as online. West is currently studying for a Bachelor of Business Accounting and when he’s not crunching numbers on the paper or the felt, he can be found at home playing the didgeridoo.
Garth Bailo (Sunshine Coast, QLD) – Voting Tournament ID: 257888087
Bailo is the latest to launch his campaign for the Dream Job on PokerNetwork, posting in the forums under the alias “GADZOOOX”. The 26-year-old financial planner has been playing poker since 2005, but despite having only taken up the online version of the game this year, Bailo has chalked up close to USD $5,000 in cashes to date, according to his records on PocketFives. Bailo is also an accomplished golfer, playing off a handicap of two.
The contenders will meet with PokerStars.net Team Australia Pros Grant Levy, Emad Tahtouh and Tony Hachem and must prove their worth by attending ANZPT events, undergoing a poker knowledge test and most importantly, convince the Australian poker nation that they are worthy of the top prize.
You may have seen a few of the finalists state their case on the PokerNetwork forums, but you can also follow all the finalists’ progress on their blogs, Twitter and Facebook before casting your vote at PokerStars. To cast your vote, download PokerStars, head to the lobby and register for your favourite candidate using their corresponding Voting Tournament ID – you can only vote once, so choose carefully.
Voting closes on May 9, 2010 and the winner will be announced the next day. Good luck to all the Dream Job Australia finalists from all of us at PokerNetwork!