The Godfather of New Zealand poker has won again. Jack Efaraimo, who is one of the most recognizable players on the Kiwi poker scene, won the main event at the New Zealand Poker Championships last week and took home a nice prize with it.
The Main Event of the championships took place over the weekend in Christchurch. The final table took over 27 hours to settle and it might have gone longer if Efaraimo and Steve Smith hadn’t struck a deal. Efaraimo was far ahead in the chip count, so he made a deal with Smith, who was happy to finish in second to his good friend. Efaraimo went home with the majority of the first and second-place money while Smith went home with $42,500. Smith has had a couple of quality results in his poker career, including a win at the NZ Poker Champs Main Event in 2014 and a third-place result in the Canterbury Champs last week as well. Meanwhile, Erich Stadler finished in third place.
The top three beat out a field of 159 players who had paid $1,650 to buy in as they played for a prize pool of $238,500. The 64-year-old Efaraimo was third in the chip count after the first day and he only ascended from there. It proved to be a notable advantage for him as he was muscling people out with his big pile of chips all the way through to the end.
Efaraimo is well known in New Zealand for being a smooth talker at the table and he can be very persuasive with his words. He’s proven to be one of the best readers in the game as he interprets his opponents very well. That’s helped him collect several big wins, including the South Island Champs in 2013 and 2014, and an APPT event in 2012. He has been playing in this tournament since 1996, back when it was a $4,700 buy-in, and plans to spend this year’s purse on his family.
While he does get outside of New Zealand to play every once in a while, it’s mostly to Australia with the occasional trip to Las Vegas as well. But it is a long flight and he likes to hang out in his home country to help promote the game, becoming a bit of an ambassador in recent years. This year alone he was responsible for helping 27 different players make the trip from Wellington to Christchurch to participate in the seven-day poker series. After this year’s tournament, he gave a big compliment to players like Paul Hockin and Jackson Zheng, tabbing them as the next wave of young stars to watch.
Players like Efaraimo are very good for the game, especially in places like New Zealand, which doesn’t get a lot of attention on a global scale. As he mentioned, the buy-ins are lower now and the payouts are higher now that more people are coming out to play. As a result, the Godfather and other veterans of the New Zealand poker scene are helping newer players make a decent living playing the game they love.