The top poker players in New Zealand will this week converge on Christchurch casino, hoping to take home a share of the likely $350,000 prize pool generated from one of the country's biggest poker events.
The 2016 New Zealand Poker Champs started on Saturday with a $440 deepstack turbo tournament and culminates this weekend with a $1650 buy-in main event tournament which is expected to drum up a prizepool of $200,000.
In between there are six different events, which range in buy-in from $250 to $880 and include No Limit Holdem, Pot Limit Omaha, a women's event and a teams event.
The New Zealand Poker Champs Main Event has produced four Kiwi winners over the past four years after Jay Gilbert and Jason Brown split last year's purse, taking home $40,500 each. Australian Shane Hicks won $45,500 in 2014, Kiwi Steve Smith took $47,000 in 2013 and Paul Hockin won $35,000 in 2012.
The series attracts some of the best players from Australasia and this year Hockin, who was also the 2014 Cebu Phillipines APT and 2012 ANZPT Melbourne Main Event Champion, headlines the list. Other notable players expected to play in the Main Event are comedian Mike King and World Series of Poker bracelet winner Simon Watt.
The tournament series has been running since 1999 and is the longest established poker championship series in Australasia and Christchurch Casino poker manager Warren Wyllie expects over 200 card sharks to play either in the cash games or tournaments throughout the week.
Last year, the Christchurch Poker Championships attracted 481 entries over eight tournaments, with a total prizepool of $390,000.
"With the current seat sales Christchurch Casino expects to at the very least, match last year entries," said Wyllie. "But I'm confident we will exceed last year's entry numbers and prize pool."
The 2015 Main Event prize pool was just over $200,000 and the series attracted 481 entries over eight tournaments.
"It is very important to the Christchurch Casino that playing the New Zealand Poker Championships Main Event is attainable for the majority of New Zealand poker players," said Wylie. "We believe we achieve this by keeping the buy-in at $1650. The expected prize pool should be near to/ or exceed $200,000, with a 1st prize worth close to $50,000".