Taking a Shot

By: Jonno Pittock

My relationship with the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) stretches right back to August 2007 and the start of Season 1.  I was working for PokerNews at the time managing the Tournament Reporting team, and we had just secured a deal with the APPT to provide all the digital media requirements for the season.  To this day, the press release announcing the deal is the only article I ever published on PokerNews during my time there, which shows what it meant.

Looking back now, I was very excited at the time.  I had just got back from Vegas after doing the 2007 WSOP, and was eager to keep the momentum of the Tournament Reporting team going, and this new tour allowed me to do it from my own backyard.  I also got to work with some of my closest friends and visit some countries I had always wanted to see, but most of all, I just really believed in what the tour was trying to achieve in the region.  I fell in love with poker from the moment I walked into the Crown Poker Room as a wide eyed Dealer in 2001, and have been passionate about spreading the intricacies and purities of the game ever since.

Jonno PittockI followed the tour that year for PokerNews, along with a few stop overs in Europe and London for the inaugural WSOPE.  It was hard work, but very rewarding as the site went through a rapid growth spurt during that time.  The events on the APPT that first year were some of the toughest, due to technical difficulties and Internet issues at some of the stops, but they were also the most fun.  I got to work with Danny McDonagh again at each stop, my mentor at Crown and one of my closest friends (he stood up as my best man in Vegas in 2006), and catch up with all the players at each venue.  I had a good team, we worked hard, and we played harder.

Towards the end of 2007, I got a call from Crown asking me to come back and head up the Tournament team for the 2008 Aussie Millions.  I accepted, and the Macau leg of Season 1 would be my last for PokerNews.  I started back at Crown as Director of Tournament Operations on December 1st 2008 and one of the first things I did was book a flight to Sydney for the APPT Grand Final.  As cards were in the air on Day 1, I was on the balcony at Star City talking to the APPT crew about bringing the Grand Final to Crown for future years.  A long courting process ensued over the next few years, and finally we were able to secure the event in Melbourne for Season 5.

During that time my health declined, and in November 2010 I was critically ill in a medically-induced coma at St Vincents.  I missed the Sydney APPT in December (as I was still unconscious), and when I finally woke up and eventually opened my inbox I found this video…

I did make it back for the Aussie Millions that year.  Somehow, after seven weeks in hospital, countless dialysis runs, four blood clots in my lungs and intensive physical therapy to rebuild my atrophied body, I managed to check into the Crown  Towers, twelve days after checking out of the hospital, to run the 2011 Aussie Millions.  It was insane, and something that I would never do again if I had my time over.  I think I was just trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t sick, I didn’t need a new kidney, and that everything was normal – but it wasn’t.

Things pretty much continued that way for the next six months.  I continued to work just as hard as I always had, while my health continued to deteriorate.  I went from dialysis three times a week in the hospital, to daily dialysis on a specialized life support machine at home.  As the 2011 APPT grew nearer, I worked harder.  I was one of Pavlov’s dogs - it was a learned response to repeated stimuli that I had been exposed to over the years of running tournaments.  Big tournament approaching, work harder.  Given my attachment to the APPT, and the fact that I had worked so hard to get it to Crown, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure it was a success.  I worked an 80-hour week, and after my fifth 16-hour day in a row for the final table, I went home and fell into a coma for another seven days.  Again, it was insane and something I will never do again.

I didn’t go back to work after that.  My doctors said I was not to do anything until after I got my new kidney so I concentrated all my efforts on preparing myself for the transplant, and planning my post-op recovery.  For me, there was no doubt that the transplant would work.  My Dad was a 98% match and had gotten himself in tip-top shape over the previous 18 months in the lead up to it so we were ready to go.  I just had to get myself right, as I was too sick for them to operate.  I eventually did, the transplant was a success, and 22 months later, I am the fittest and healthiest I have ever been in my life.

Jonno PittockWhy am I telling this story now?  Well, tomorrow is Flight 1 of APPT Melbourne Season 7, and now that I am on the other side of the Crown Poker felt, I am going to have a crack.  I’m not a great poker player by any means - that much became obvious to me while I was doing the commentary for Aussie Millions and WSOP APAC.  The kids at the top of their game are now on another level.  I’m not a fish either; I’m just a guy taking a shot.  I’ve sold some action to some friends of mine so we’ll all get a sweat, and now it’s time to put my game face on.  Hopefully I’ll have something to write about over the weekend, so stay tuned to Poker Asia Pacific for all the updates.

Until next time…

Follow Jonno on Twitter @JonnoPittock