As a Melbourne boy born and bred, it fills me with great pride when a major poker event like the Asia Pacific Poker Tour rolls into town. It's a great opportunity to show our visitors from all across the world a city that is full of life, colour and culture, where old and new, riche and boheme, local and foreign are all somehow packed in and grid-locked around Port Phillip Bay to create a place where you could lose yourself for a day and still find your way back home.
Forget the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Forget the Arts Precinct. Forget Federation Square. In fact, take that tourist guide out of your bag and throw it away. If you want to experience the true spirit of Melbourne, all you need is a Daily Zone 1 Metcard and a keen sense of adventure. Oh, but remember to take a coat with you. It's a bit chilly out there at this time of year.
The first part of your journey isn't that far away from Crown Casino (assuming that you're staying here of course). Start your adventure early and hop the 112 tram down Clarendon Street. There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants there, but you could try one of the world-famous dim sims from the South Melbourne Market.
From there, head back up towards the city, switch to the 75 tram at Flinders Street and take it all the way down to Bridge Road in Richmond. There's plenty of discount factory outlets from some of the biggest local and international fashion houses, so you'll be saving plenty of dough on those new threads.
Be sure to also stop off for another coffee at one of the cafes there before returning to the city, hopping off at Swanston Street. From here, walk up to Melbourne Central, stopping into the EB Games store on the way and warm up from the winter cold by playing some Wii Sports in the Nintendo Experience section upstairs. It's free!
By this time, you've probably worked up an appetite again, so stop into Don Don for lunch (also on Swanston Street). You can't miss it - it's a tiny little Japanese restaurant right opposite the State Library and has a line stretching around the block. Fear not, that line goes down quick - no sooner that you've placed your order, it's already served up to you, freshly made to order.
Now for some more fun stuff. Head up a little further on Swanston Street towards Victoria Parade (any tram running towards Melbourne University will do) and find the indoor rock-climbing place and try your hand at scaling the walls before walking back to Bourke Street Mall for some more shopping. Then, catch the 96 tram heading down towards Spencer Street.
This tram will take you past Crown, so hop off there and dump your bags in the hotel room before taking the same tram, heading away from the city, all the way down to St. Kilda. Hop off at the tram stop opposite Luna Park, then walk down either Fitzroy or Acland Streets and take your pick at one of the many restaurants for dinner before stopping into the Esplanade Hotel for a couple of brews.
From the outside, this watering hole may look a little "rustic", but for budding local musicians, "The Espy" is an institution. You never know - you might just hear the sounds of the next big Aussie act, so stick around for a while and cut a little rug before heading back into the CBD for a nightcap at either the Cherry Bar or The Croft Institute - assuming of course, you can find them. They're in one of the alleyways somewhere.
Hopefully though, for many of today's players returning for Day 2 of the PokerStars.net APPT Melbourne Main Event, they'll have to hold off on their citywide expeditions for a bit longer. The action will be getting back underway here at 12:10pm AEST (GMT+10), so be sure to keep your browsers locked onto the PokerStars Blog as we bring you all the updates.