Australian Michael Chon is the chip leader in Queenstown’s half-a-million dollar poker tournament.
Chon had amassed 59,375 chips after the first day of the New Zealand Poker Tour Snowfest Tournament – run by internet gambling giant PokerStars.
Up to 200 players are expected for the $3000 buy-in event at Queenstown’s SkyCity Casino on Beach Street.
The event has staggered start times, so the final prize pool won’t be known until Thursday afternoon. It is part of PokerStar’s larger Asia Pacific Poker Tour and runs until Sunday.
Forty players took to the tables for the Day 1A pool, with 26 remaining by the end.
“There are some dangerous players who also built healthy stacks,” PokerStars’ tournament organiser Sam Dawson says.
“They include Mathew Wakeman (53,700 chips), one of Australia’s most successful online players and sixth place finisher in this event last year.”
The latest Full Tilt ambassador Tom Grigg at one point he looked likely to be the chip leader ahead of Chon but some tough hands late in the day saw him slip to 24,100 chips.
Other players to watch out for when Day 2 commences on Friday include Tobin Ryall (42,000 chips), Dean Francis (22,750 chips) and Jeffrey Rossiter (17,250 chips).
Some of the notable players unable to get through the day include newly-appointed Full Tilt ambassador Liam O’Rourke, Jesse McKenzie and Michael O’Grady.
PokerStars bought mothballed rival Full Tilt last year. It had been one of the casualties of the USA Department of Justice’s crackdown on online gambling sites on April 15, 2011 – known as Black Friday among poker players.