The marquee event of the 2010 Sydney Poker Championships kicked off yesterday with Day 1a of the $1,650 Main Event rolling into the Star City Poker Room.
With plans of besting the 324 players that took to the felt just twelve months ago, a field of 149 set great expectations of a 400-player plus turnout this year round. Of those players that took the felt for Day 1a, old-schoolers Martin Comer, Emanuel Seal, Antonis Kambouroglou and Billy ‘The Croc’ Argyros, along with online whizz-kids Andrew Hinrichsen, Tom Grigg and Tom Rafferty, as well as those that had tasted victory in this very room; Aaron Benton and Daniel Neilson were all in attendance.
Unfortunately the above mentioned would be bad beat and bluffed out of the field as only 50 players managed to bag and tag their chips after ten hours of intense poker. Referred to as a cult figure in some circles, it would be Joel ‘Strong Play’ Dodds leading the charge into day two as he amassed 150,400 in chips.
Dodds managed to spike a set of eights against an opponent’s pocket kings, and from there, used all the skill that had seen him become an established player to build his stack into a massive one. Snapping on his heels however are fellow New South Welshman Andre Dowling (127,000), Scott ‘Punty’ Smith (126,900), Matthew Pongrass (124,800) and Sam Khouiss (101,600).
Dowling doubled on the very first hand of the day when he cracked Raemin Alexander’s aces with a flopped set of fours after all the money went in on the flop. Although remaining relatively quiet throughout the duration of the day, Dowling never relinquished chips as he continually added to his top five-chip stack from the get-go. Seated together for the second half of the day, Pongrass and Smith battled continuously – even at one point having the former exchange $50 to see Smith’s cards after both were involved in a 100,000-chip pot – for the record Smith would reveal top pair.
Khouiss may not be the happiest player in the country, but after experiencing an early day massage on the tables, Khouiss collected chips at will before shipping a monster pot when his Ace-King spiked a king on the turn against pocket tens after all the money went in preflop. Relinquishing some chips late, Khouiss will still be a favourite to mount a charge at collecting a score here in Sydney; which would be his first in New South Wales since 2004.
Many players weren’t as blessed as some of the above mentioned as they battled hard throughout the day luckily bagging a few chips to remain in contention. Recent NPL Champion Terry Tserdanis bagged an impressive 96,300 to continue his hot form as PokerNetwork Australasia Player of the Year contender Ricky Kroesen continued his good run in major tournaments collecting 60,200 in chips. Tony Hachem managed to increase his starting stack to 47,300 which will fall short of his expectations.
Sitting jointly atop the leaderboard at one stage, Grant Levy battled hard before losing a big pot with nines against Ace-King and Jacks at a very important stage to see his stack crippled to half what he started the day with. That got chopped in half late in the day, but the 2007 APPT Sydney champion managed to surge back to bag 22,400.
Today sees an expected 200-plus field take to the felt for Day 1b action as PokerNetwork will again be on the floor providing the exclusive live coverage of all the action from 12:30pm as we slowly make our way to crowning a second Sydney Poker Championships winner!