LG... Life's Good
Filling out my customs arrival card when landing back in Australia two days ago was so bizarre. I said that I boarded that plane in Argentina, yet spent most of my time in New Zealand. What a strange route. Welcome to the strange life that I love! I’ve been from what feels like opposite sides of the world, from New Zealand to Argentina in just two weeks, and what a whirlwind it was.
Auckland, New Zealand
Despite feeling like I’m just next door to my home town in Melbourne, Australia, I find that Auckland has an extremely relaxed, peaceful atmosphere that’s so refreshing compared to the busy city lifestyle in Melbourne. I mentioned in my recent guide to Auckland that this is home to some of the friendliest people on earth, and it’s no lie. Despite the Maori looking like some of the scariest people (see The Haka, and even the champion Brotha D in the Wrap Up video), as soon as they open their mouths, you almost just want to give them a giant hug! Here is a video we made when we first arrived. I must say, it was hard work putting it together with every line taken from a different place across the city, so I’m pretty proud of it.
The APPT Main Event was short and sweet, with only one Day 1, which means we had a champion in just four days. It was a pretty entertaining four days, with Team PokerStars Pro Tony Hachem attempting the Haka and Daniel Neilson and Andrew Hinrichsen jumping off the Sky Tower. To top off a fantastic week, we saw the Main Event dwindle down to heads-up play between two extremely deserving people. Everyone was torn between Brotha D, the lovable and well-known Godfather of New Zealand Hip Hop, and Australian poker-scene regular Tom Grigg. It was quite the epic heads-up battle lasting more than four hours, and it was Brotha D who eventually triumphed, with Grigg being gracious about it. You can see all of this and more crammed into the following four minutes.
It was quite the ride getting to the LAPT Grand Final. After the long-haul flight from Down Under, throw in an expected three-hour drive from Buenos Aires that took twice as long because of a strike with a driver that couldn’t speak a word of English, and boy was I happy to finally arrive in Rosario and go straight to bed! Of course, it was all totally worth it. What a fantastic place Rosario is. We had a couple of days to wander the streets, and our hotel was just walking distance from the main strip, Cordoba, so there was plenty of sightseeing and shopping to be done. It was unbelievable how cheap everything is. From $60 shoes to $4 bottles of amazing local wine over dinner – we were loving life over there.
That video was made with ease thanks to our luck in finding a cab driver who just happened to live between Rosario and Las Vegas. Jackpot! An English-speaking cab driver is a rare find, so we kept him with us for about an hour to give us our own little guided-tour to catch all the sights.
I resurrected Calling the Clock after it sat off the shelf for quite some time. The first victim was Tennis Pro Gaston Gaudio, but then my highlight was on our very own PokerNews hostess Kristy Arnett with thanks to the help of the entire PokerNews team.
Throughout the LAPT Main Event, we had so much fun, as always. The Welcome Party that PokerStars threw at the City Center Casino was fantastic, with the band making use of the most bizarre things, such as plastic bags, as instruments, and cannons firing out PokerStars-themed confetti to send off Season 3 with a literal bang. We saw some of the most amazing looking women wandering around the poker room, and I met some of the most generous and lovely people. A third of the final table were local, and amazingly, in the back-to-back fashion that has existed on the LAPT, with Team PokerStars Pro Nacho Barbero winning two Main Event titles, and Team PokerStars Pro Christian De Leon winning back-to-back Second Chance side events, the LAPT Florianopolis Champion Matthias Habernig made his way to this Main Event final table. He didn’t take it down, but what an amazing achievement for him after starting off in Brazil as an unknown Austrian qualifier. The title eventually went to Peruvian Martin Sansour whom you can meet in the following wrap-up video, once again rolling our days of nonstop laughs and poker into just three minutes.
Another highlight while in Rosario, was when Kristy took the PokerNews cameras to the hotel to film a Sunday Grind with player manager Dan Frank and Team PokerStars Pros Victor Ramdin and Gualter Salles. I guess you could say Salles suffered a bad beat only seconds before our arrival, as his laptop screen was shattered when we got there. You’ll have to wait for that video to come out soon!
Auckland, known as the “youngest city in the world,” is the largest city in New Zealand, with 1.3 million people calling it home. It is one of only a few cities that sits on the shores of two major oceans and is dotted with extinct volcanoes. New Zealand, despite being comparable in size to Great Britain or Japan, has a population of only four million – one of the world’s least-crowded countries – making it a sanctuary for those seeking peace and relaxation, or, on the flip side, a playground for a thrill-seeking adventure. Throw in some of the friendliest people on earth, and one of the most elite poker tournaments in the Southern Hemisphere, and you have yourself one hell of a vacation destination.
- Language: English, but Maori is the native lingo
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar
- International Dialing Code: +64
- Weather: Cold!
Getting There and Around
If you’re coming from the US, you’ve got at least 12 hours of flying to do. Air New Zealand is your best, and by far the cheapest option. Don’t be fooled by the cheap fares – I’ve spent a lot of hours in the sky over the years, and they’re definitely up there as one of my preferred international airlines.
The airport is about a 30-minute drive from SKYCITY Auckland, the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Auckland host casino, costing roughly NZ$70 for a taxi. The venue is so well located, only minutes away from the harbor, that most places to see are within walking distance. If you’re not interested in braving the cold, then a short taxi ride won’t cost much.
Auckland has also been labeled the “City of Sails,” with more boats per capita than any other city in the world. Eat your heart out Monaco. So with the mass of small islands and volcanic fields surrounding the city, why not jump on a yacht to get around for the day?
Here's a tour of the city we did last year straight from the airport.
I can’t say I enjoy having my accent mistaken for that of a New Zealander. I’m not denying that Aussies sound a little strange at times, but the New Zealand accent has a particular twang that just makes everyone laugh, that is, if it’s not attached to a Māori, as they’re the only people it suits. Aussies love to make fun of the Kiwi accent, so much in fact that a YouTube video known as “Beached As” went crazily viral, and I just had to put together a little remake last year.
You don’t need to travel far when seeking adventure in Auckland. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the SKYCITY building since directly above it is the Sky Tower, offering a 200 meter jump for a creative way to de-tilt on dinner break.
If you have time for a day trip, take a short ferry ride across to the stunning island of Waiheke, that is home to 92 kilometers of stunning beaches, vineyards, and seaside villages. Taking a few happy-snaps is the most you’ll get out of the beaches at this chilly time of year, but with over 30 vineyards to visit, you could make quite a boozy afternoon out of the trip. My favorite wines are produced in New Zealand, so I can’t leave without trying some direct from the vineyard. If you just want the fun and none of the responsibility of finding your way around, then taking a tour such as Wine on Waiheke is just what you need.
New Zealand is most famous for its extreme sports and fantastic ski seasons, so during these winter months the mountains are full of tourists seeking their share of fun in the snow. If you do have more than a day free to venture out to the slopes, then Queenstown on the South Island is the best place to go. If you don’t want to travel too far, head somewhere such as Mt. Ruapehu, the North Island’s premier skiing destination. It’s an active volcano (yep…) situated halfway between Auckland and Wellington, about a four-hour drive from Auckland city.
If you’ve ever seen the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, then you’ve witnessed the extremely intimidating Haka and will 100 percent click on the below video to amuse yourself again. If you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favor. It’s a traditional Māori dance to acknowledge achievements or to give a warm welcome, but I wouldn’t want to be faced with this kind of hello in a dark alley.
I can't wait to head to Auckland once again for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour's fourth season. If you're not lucky enough to join us yourself, then you can catch all the live updates and videos right here on PokerNews.
I was in Vegas for a couple of months, minus a week in Connecticut for NAPT Mohegan Sun, and what a crazy time it was! I’ve been living with my boyfriend, Garry, and his roomies Jane and Donnie. They're all poker players so I've been playing a lot more than usual, both online and live, and learning more and more every day. I became a little obsessed with MGM's new 50c/$1 "beginners" game - although I've never actually seen a "beginner" on the table and it's usually just a drunk shove fest with a maximum $50 buy-in. I accidentally slow rolled a Brit in $1/$2 at Bellagio for $200 with Aces but we still managed to become Facey friends rather than enemies. I played one of the weekly ladies tournaments at Planet Hollywood - there was around 35 entrants, I took fourth, and it was the most frustrating tournament I've ever played, but I guess I ask for that playing ladies events. I also played one of the Pink Ladies Poker Tour events at the Golden Nugget. That was quite a decent ladies event but unfortunately was uneventful for me. That leaves me 2 for 3 in ladies tournies... WSOP Ladies Bracelet? My wrist is waiting.
Kristy Arnett recently joined PokerNews and she's been welcomed with open arms! I met her during the World Series last year but it hasn’t been until that I’ve really got to know her. She’s such a great chick, and as she said in her blog, we are obviously long lost sisters simply by resemblance The one day/night that stands out is St Patrick's Day. We started our day at the local Irish Pub Fado’s, dressed in our St Paddy’s Day kits and drank plenty of beer and danced like hooligans to the band in broad daylight. Once everyone’s heads were crispy burnt, we trekked to Fremont Street where Kristy and Andrew met us for giant footballs full of green beer and Long-Islands. They had a lot of catching up to do, but Kristy is such a lightweight she caught right up after five sips. We ended up playing carnival games with everyone winning Light Sabers thanks to GG’s brilliant basketball skills – that then lead to Kristy and I having a “Light Saber Danceoff” which drew a huge crowd in the middle of Fremont Street! Long story short, everyone ended up in the Golden Nugget spa. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking for that night and the rest...
I then spent a well needed 10 days at home in Melbourne. It was so nice to see my family and friends again, especially my two gorgeous nephews who seem to double in size every time I return home:
As for now, I'm in Macau once again for the start of APPT's fourth season. I have to admit, I really forgot how awesome this place is. This year we are lucky enough to stay at the Grand Lisboa, and although the hotel we were in last year blew me away, this one has even more. If you have a few minutes and you haven't been here before, check out our welcome video where we toured the streets (and Glo and I managed to strategically work a little shopping into the day):
The most interesting part of the trip would have to be my first night here when I had a knock at my hotel door at 6am, greeted with who I thought were just three drunk girls at the wrong room being cheeky saying they're housekeeping. But then when I get another knock 2 minutes later after telling them they have the wrong room, again hearing "house keeping" and them trying to still come in, I realized exactly what they were... Hookers. Call me naive and sheltered, but I've only just realised that they're everywhere! There's so many that it's hard to not (unfairly) assume that most pretty girls you see are most likely working. I went across to the Lisboa Casino today, and there was a group of about eight of them doing laps around in circles just looking for clients. At the APPT Player Party's "after party" at Lion's Bar at MGM there were soooo many girls just lined up trying to get all the boys attention. Whether they were working, or just looking for "that special one", who knows, but it's certainly an eye opener. Speaking of the APPT Player Party - that was a doosey thanks to "Michael Jackson". Danny McDonagh and Robin Lim were cruel enough to drag me on stage to dance with "Michael" which lasted 2.5 seconds before I jumped off blushing. Anyway, "Michael" was pretty cool - no one will ever be as amazing as the real MJ of course - but he did steal everyone's attention for the entire show. We even got him to perform an encore at Lion's Bar (he rocked up fully dressed - I wonder if he dresses like that all the time?)
Anyway, if you haven't been following the live reporting from APPT Macau then click here! The Live Reporting Blog has a brand new set-up, so let me know what you think of it?
That's it from me for now, once we wrap up here in Macau (after a take down the Ladies Event tomorrow night of course) it's back to Vegas for the longest grind of the year at WSOP!