Aussie Millions

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Poker players don’t mind traveling long distances to tournaments, especially when millions are up for grabs. It comes as no surprise, then, that so many international entrants show up each January in Melbourne, Australia to participate in the Southern Hemisphere’s richest poker tournament—“Aussie Millions.”

Perhaps less well known by its formal title, “The Crown Australian Poker Championship,” Aussie Millions is actually series of poker events that has been conducted annually at Melbourne’s Crown Casino since 1998. The Main Event features a prize pool in excess of A$7 million, and in recent years the Champion’s share has ranged around A$2 million, hence the appropriate nickname.

Among all poker tournaments in the world, Aussie Millions ranks as the sixth largest. It has become so popular that Fox Sports Net has contracted to film and broadcast many of its 26 events internationally, while PokerNews sends their Live Reporting Team to the floor of the Crown Casino to deliver the latest results, chip counts, news, photos and exclusive videos via the Internet.

The Crown Casino’s love affair with poker began in June of 1997, and it did not take long for the concept of a national tournament to catch hold. In July of the following year, 74 entrants put up buy-ins of A$1,000 each to create an A$74,000 prize pool for the Main Event—a Limit Hold’em tournament that was won by local player Alex Horowitz. Although the final table that year was dominated by Australians, three of the top nine finishers were from abroad, representing England, America and Slovakia.

Over the next four years, the buy-in for the Main Event gradually increased to A$1,500, then A$5,000, before reaching A$10,000 in 2003. During that period, Australian players demonstrated their prowess as the Championship went to locals Milo Nadalin, Leo Boxell, Sam Korman and John Maver, one after another.

In 2003, Boxall looked set to become the tournament’s first repeat winner, but Peter Costa of England broke the stranglehold to become the first non-Australian Champion. In fact the final table featured four Englishmen and an Austrian, outnumbering the local contingent for the first time ever, too. The next year, Tony Bloom of England proved the invasion was no fluke as he took home the A$426,500 top prize, trailed by two Americans.

When the 2005 edition attracted 263 entrants, the format had to be expanded to three full days of eliminations and the top prize was increased to an even $A1 million. Not about to let foreigners walk off with so much cash, the local players recovered their greatness, as resident Jamil Dia topped the leaderboard at the end of play and set the stage for Australian Lee Nelson to best three Americans and a Canadian in 2006.

The 2007 prize worth A$1.5 million saw only one local player at the final table, Julius Coleman, who ended up in fourth. Denmark’s Gus Hansen outlasted two Americans, a Canadian, a German and Andy Black of Ireland to land the Championship. Then, in 2008, Russian Alexander Kostritsyn grabbed A$1.65 million for finishing first.

Obviously, Aussie Millions had become a major international event by this time, but the local players were not about to let the rest of the world lay claim to being Australia’s best. Over the past four years, no outsider has won the event—only Aussies: Stewart Scott on 2009, Tyron Krost in 2010, David Gorr in 2011 and Oliver Speidel in 2012. On three occasions, the top prize reached A$2 million.

In the most recent iteration, there were 659 entrants and the Main Event had to be spread out over seven days. Two popular High Roller events were also on the schedule—the A$100,000 No-Limit Hold’em Challenge launched in 2006 and the A$250,000 Super High Roller, which was added in 2011. The latter was won in 2012 by American sensation Phil Ivey for A$2 million.

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