Dumped Black Cap turns to competitive poker

By Jarrod Booker

Craig McMillan is never short of a comment for the opposition on the cricket field - and that won't change when he's at a table with the world's best poker players.

"If the cards aren't kind, there could well be some sledging going on. To be fair, I'm pretty used to that. If it does [get returned] it will be water off a duck's back, really."

The New Zealand cricketer is out of favour with the national test selectors and has had time on the sidelines to indulge his other passion ahead of the two-day New Zealand Poker Championships starting at Christchurch Casino today.

"I'm just as competitive at poker as I am at cricket, so there will be no stepping back.

"I suppose it's probably a hobby, but quite a serious hobby."

Superstition plays a big part in his batting and it's the same with poker. "I found an old Smurf that I ... must have had when I was about 5 or 6. I thought maybe that might end up being a lucky charm."

The championships have drawn top players such as Australian Joe Hachem, who won the main event of last year's World Series of Poker in the United States, and New Zealander Lee Nelson, who won $1.43 million in the Aussie Millions poker tournament in Melbourne in January.

A $200,000 prize pool and a seat at this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas are on offer.

"I have got no expectations at all, to be honest, because this is my first actual go at tournament poker," McMillan says.

"I think I have got a reasonable standard of knowledge of the game. I have read a lot of books about it. I'm still tossing up whether I am going to wear sunglasses."

McMillan has honed his poker skills against fellow Black Caps while touring with the New Zealand team but also has got hooked playing poker online.

"You can be playing against guys anywhere in the world."

Half of the tournament field of 150 will be cut today, and the survivors will go on to play for the champion title tomorrow. McMillan's aim is just to make it through the cut.

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