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01 December 2007

2007 ends on a high with APPT Tournament of Champions win

 Joe Hachem celebrated his first major tournament win on Australian soil with victory in the PokerStars.net APPT Tournament of Champions in Sydney, setting up a great springboard for the new year.

A long year is about to come to an end. It’s interesting to reflect on 2007 as I’m about to take part in my final event for 2007, the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Tournament of Champions.

This event was a late addition to the schedule for the final APPT event of the year, and featured fellow Team PokerStars Pros Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, Isabelle Mercier, my good friend Scotty Nguyen plus four of the season one APPT winners – Brett Parise (Manila), Ziv Bachar (Seoul) and two Sydney boys, Eric Assadourian (who won the High Roller tournament in Macau) and Grant Levy, the APPT Grand Final winner.

Grant did well to front up for this event just 12 hours after taking out the title (I don’t think he had any sleep) and joining the few Australians to have $1 million on the tournament circuit.

The APPT Tournament of Champions was a chance for me to play against some good friends (who happen to be world class poker players), and if things turn out well, there’ll be a prize of $50,000 heading to the Shane Warne Foundation.

Events like this are always a challenge for me. I like to raise my game to a different level and you can fairly sure that there’ll be no erratic or crazy play – all-in, call, bottom pair against overcards. People say these sorts of tournaments are about bragging rights, but it’s really just another day at the office.

The past two months have been another whirlwind. After the trip to South Africa, it was time to pack the bags for Macau to share in poker history at the first No Limit Hold’em tournament ever played in China.

I took my seat to find my brother Tony seated at the same table (tournament staff soon put that right!), then I looked down to find my first two hands were pocket aces, and the Chinese poker gods must have been smiling on me as there was action on both hands.

Then just before the first break, I played an interesting hand when the action was folded to me on the button and I looked down to find 5 2 off-suit. Blinds were at 100/200 and meant to raise but I dropped a 500 chip and it was taken as a call. The small blind called, big blind checked and the flop came 9 5 2 with two diamonds. I bet 500, the small blind folded but the big blind made it 1400. Could he have nines? I made it 4500, he insta-called with Q 5 and I went to the first break in very good shape.

This was an important event for me. I was focussed from the minute I woke up each morning and tried not to lose sight of the goals I set along the way to get through day one. It was good to get this monkey off my back. I worked through a couple of mistakes I was making, corrected them and made it through. It was also great to have Jeannie at my side – my wife brings me the most luck, and on her birthday, she won a jackpot on the pokies. She is a strong believer in omens, so this was a really good one!

My stack carried me through day two and late in the evening, I doubled through (again with aces) to make my first APPT final table. I was in sixth chip position, and looking forward to the challenge of talking on some of the young guns like Team PokerStars Pro ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and PokerStars player Guillaume Patry.

Ironically, I again had aces when I was busted out in eighth position. Sangkyoun Kim raised to 60,000, I made it an extra 90,000, then Kim put me all-in. Again, I had the best of it against Kim’s Ah Qs but he’d filled a straight by the turn and I was out.

Within a day of flying back into Melbourne from Macau, it was time to dust off the suit for the Hachem/Warne Charity Poker Event at Crown. Wow, what a field – TV, sporting and entertainment identities were there along side some poker players who also got behind the night.

Guests also enjoyed a special preview of Wild Turkey’s new ultra premium bourbon, American Spirit. It’s only just been released in Australia and there are only 6000 bottles nationally. It’s a truly small batch bourbon, and it is “100 Bonded Proof”.

It’s a perfect sipping bourbon, which makes it ideal for drinking slowly over a long game of poker, and it’s certainly a connoisseur’s spirit. It retails for $125, making it the most expensive of Wild Turkey’s bourbons and the drink of choice for you aspiring high rollers. I love my Wild Turkey Rare Breed, which is one of their most premium bourbons, but this 15 year old is something special.

After some learn-to-play sessions, the $1000 buy-in event followed. The first prize was a guaranteed $25,000, with the other five final table qualifiers pocketing $5000 each. The format allowed the field to be whittled down to the final six before Shane and myself stepped in to the final table. We were delighted to be able combine our talents and raise $250,000 for the Shane Warne Foundation.

Next up was the first major poker tournament in Sydney – the PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final. One of the features of the APPT has been the opportunity to take part in some exciting activities – in Macau, I had my first experience of bungee-jumping.

I think I have a neurological conditions where heights don’t bother me – if the next APPT Macau event is held on the 60th storey of a building, I’m a shoo-in!

In Sydney, we had a great afternoon at Bondi learning to surf (although I wasn’t too happy to hear that three days later, the first shark attack in 70 years occurred at Bondi). Coincidentally, I’d been swimming with the sharks at the Manly Aquarium the day before we went surfing. Again I survived the first day of the main event but bowed out on day two when Barry Kohlhoff made a better full house than my eights full of queens.

After a day’s break, I returned for the APPT Tournament of Champions. We’ve just finished up play and I’m delighted to be sitting here with the trophy – which means that an extra $50,000 will be going to the Shane Warne Foundation – a great start to our relationship.

I had an 8:1 chip lead over Greg Raymer, and he decided to take a stand on the fifth hand of heads-up play. Unfortunately, his Qs Js was up against my Ac Ks, and the board of 8h 8c 8s Kd 10h didn’t help Greg. It was a great 24 hours for Australian poker, with Grant Levy winning the APPT Grand Final.

To be honest, the year was a topsy-turvy one for me, going right back to the Aussie Millions when I folded my way to 23rd place like a muppet. I just didn’t pull the trigger when I had to, and I’ll never forgive myself for that until I actually win the Aussie Millions.

And here we are in the final 30 minutes of the year and the cards came. The last time I hit a few hands like that was at the Five-Diamond Classic at exactly this time last year.

The PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final marked the start of a ‘trifecta’ of events that bridge Christmas-New Year with the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure coming up in late-December, then it’s home to Melbourne for the 2008 Aussie Millions. Both events will have a first prize in the range of $1.5 million; both events will have a great field and there’s a week’s break for Christmas.

I’m looking forward to a bigger APPT in 2008, and after reaching the final table in Macau, I’m looking forward to carrying this great finish to 2007 into the New Year. See you at the Aussie Millions and on the APPT in 2008!

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