The FINAL TABLE is underway at the SKYCITY Festival of Poker Main Event today, with nine contenders playing for a first prize of more than $200,000 from a total prize pool of over $750,000.
Here’s a look at who’s playing for the big bucks, including four New Zealand-based players (Seats 1, 2, 5 and 7):
Seat 1: Jason Brown from Auckland, New Zealand (709,000 in chips): The married father-of-two was as high as 1,000,000 in chips on day three of this event, but had to battle through some tough spots and comes to the final table in second chip position. The 33-year-old Brown makes a living as a property investor but that’s taking a back seat as his poker career takes off, having already scored a number of large cashes online and in live tournaments.
Seat 2: Richard Lancaster from Auckland, New Zealand (568,000 in chips): This 35-year-old local real estate agent and father of one is one of the more experienced players at the final table. He’s played in major tournaments around the world including Macau, Milan and the Aussie Millions in Melbourne. He also harnessed some valuable experience at last year’s SKYCITY Festival of Poker, and qualified for his Main Event here via a live satellite. “I’m very confident heading into the final day – I want to take it for Auckland,” the proud local said.
Seat 3: Ke Sijia from China (294,000 in chips): The 42-year-old full-time poker player has been jet setting between Australia and New Zealand in the past few years. He won his seat into the NZPT Auckland Main Event via a $120 satellite here at SKYCITY. He learned the game online, playing under the name eagle_ke and though he’s one of the short stacks, he says it’s “unbelievable” to make the final table. “I’ll still need to wait for good hands,” he said.
Seat 4: Assadour Assadourian from Sydney, Australia (231,000 in chips): The surname may be familiar to a lot of people, but this time it’s Assadour, the father of international player Eric Assadourian that takes his seat on the final table with 231,000 in chips. The 56-year-old lighting company director is relying on his aggression to take down the NZPT Main Event and add another trophy to the family pool room. “I’ve been starting short the last two days, but have always doubled up,” says Assadour. “If this keeps going it should help me win!”
Seat 5: Simon Watt from Auckland, New Zealand (581,000 in chips): A 26-year-old software developer, he was a former chip leader in this event with the size of his stack swinging wildly over the past two days. He is already assured a massive return on investment having qualified via a $22 rebuy event online. With five years of experience under his belt, the Auckland local can’t wait to take his seat among the final nine: “I’m very confident going into the final table,” he said.
Seat 6: Gerome Guitteau from Paris, France (1,204,000 in chips): Guitteau comes into the final table as our chip leader with more than 1.2 million in chips, a far cry from his early days learning the game of poker on his yacht while sailing the Indian Ocean. The 30-year-old full-time poker player was happy to reminisce about his nautical adventures, but it’s not only Gitteau that’s got game – his wife Claude-Estel is also a keen poker player having performed well in international tournaments. “It’s nice to do well and get lucky for once!” Guitteau said.
Seat 7: Lance Climo from Hamilton, New Zealand (350,000 in chips): Just days before the SKYCITY Festival of Poker Main Event, this bar owner won his spot in a Last Chance Seat Only satellite online. The father of two has been playing poker for five years and this is by far his biggest result in the game. And he plans to make the most of the opportunity: “I’m going to be patient at the final table,” he said.
Seat 8: Michael Shinzaki from Los Angeles, California, USA (620,000 in chips): Having made his start five years ago playing college home games, the 22-year-old UCLA sociology graduate has built up a bankroll online and is now travelling the world playing poker full-time. “It feels really nice to make the final table,” Shinzaki said. “I’ve been playing really well and I’m looking forward to seeing more of New Zealand after this event.” He’ll have more than enough spending money, having made his first ever live major tournament cash here at SKYCITY Auckland.
Seat 9: Jens Walther from Germany (335,000 in chips): The story of this qualifier from Germany should give hope to every aspiring pro. After winning an NZPT Auckland seat online, he decided to take the opportunity to journey to New Zealand to play in his first live event. The 36-year-old, who works in the air conditioning industry, said he was “excited to be in New Zealand and playing at the final table”.