This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of World Gaming Magazine.
The Aussie Millions is not only the biggest poker tournament held in Australia every year it is the biggest poker tournament in the Asia-Pacific region, and the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. Many argue that if you were to name the four most important poker tournaments in the world and call them ‘Majors’ like in tennis or golf, the Aussie Millions would sit alongside the WSOP Main Event, The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the EPT final at Monte Carlo. If you’re a serious poker player then this is most definitely one tournament you must try at least once.
All the big international names in poker have made the trek ‘down under’ to play this prestigious tournament. Hellmuth, Chan, Ivey, Negreanu, Nguyen, J.C. Tran and Juanda are just a few of the big names to have battled local legends such as Lisandro, Tony G. and Billy ‘the Croc’. You won’t find a better poker atmosphere outside the World Series than at the Aussie Millions.
History of the ‘Aussie Millions’
The tournament became known as the ‘Aussie Millions’ in the mid 2000s. The name sounds vastly more exciting that the previous title: the Australasian Championship Main Event. It is a tournament very close to my heart as I finished third in 2001 and tenth in 2005. Winners of the Aussie Millions include Pete ‘the Poet’ Costa, Jamil ‘the real deal’ Dia and the first ever Aussie Champion Stewart Scott. The tournament hit a new high when poker superstar Gus Hansen – the ‘Great Dane’ – lifted the trophy in 2007. The tournament became increasingly popular with the European players in the early 2000s as they escaped the harsh European winter for the shining sun of Australia in January. When the tournament gained sponsorship from Full Tilt Poker it started the American migration down south. Since then the tournament has reached just under 1,000 starters and at entry fee of AU$10,000 a pop that makes it one of the biggest poker tournaments held anywhere in the world.
Melbourne – the home of poker in Australasia
Sydney may be Australia’s largest city with a population of 4.5 million, but Melbourne, the home of the Aussie Millions, runs a very close second with 4 million people calling it home.
January is the middle of summer in Australia and if you like hot weather you won’t be disappointed. Temperatures average around 30 degrees (celsius), though you can find some relief from the heat at the local beaches or inside the casino where all the action is. Asian visitors will enjoy the dry heat and the perfect summer climate.
Melbourne is known as the sporting capital of the world and the Australian Open Grand Slam Tennis Tournament runs at the same time as the Aussie Millions – another drawcard for visiting poker players. The ‘Aussie Open’ as it is colloquially known, is considered the most fan-friendly tennis tournament in the world and you can watch the world’s best battle it out for an elusive Grand Slam title. Horse racing and international cricket are also on the menu at this time of year.
From this multicultural city visitors will find a huge variety of international cuisine that is truly staggering in its variety and standard. You’ll discover an endless array of cosmopolitan cafés, bars and restaurants, all the way through to silver service dining. The city is easy to navigate, the trams and trains are simple to use and the locals will cheerfully show you the way. For a change of scene Sydney is only an hour’s flight away and other parts of this amazing country like the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru can easily be built into your travel itinerary.
Crown casino – best ‘down under’
The Crown Casino Entertainment Complex hosts the Aussie Millions and this is a building that won’t leave you disappointed. The floor space of the casino leaves Vegas casinos for dead and they have three world class-hotels to cater to all levels of accommodation. Tennis courts, pool and gymnasium, bowling lanes, movie theatres, countless restaurants and bars are all situated under one roof. The complex is nestled on the banks of the Yarra River which gives it a uniquely European flavour.
2007 Aussie champion – the ‘Great Dane’ – Gus Hansen
Unlike gaming meccas such as Macau or Las Vegas, Crown is the only casino in the city of Melbourne. But don’t be concerned, the sheer size of the complex and gaming areas will ensure that you’ll find an atmosphere that is right for you. Crown casino also has one of the best high rolling facilities anywhere in the world and there are plenty of areas where you can find a quiet place for a drink or to place a bet.
The poker room is one of the biggest and most professionally run in the world with over 50 permanent tables. This number increases during the ‘Aussie Millions’ to cater for a fantastic tournament schedule of 20 tournament events, countless satellites and a vast array of cash games. The room operates 24 hours a day and you will find well-trained staff and a world-class standard of operation. Crown has had a poker room for well over 10 years and it is evident that they know what players expect. They are in their element when running a world-class tournament like this and poker room manager Mr Jonno Pittock learnt his trade from the likes of APPT Tournament Director Mr Danny McDonagh.
Many poker players become frustrated when they go to a tournament and there is a lack of great poker action outside the main event. Have no fear, this won’t happen at the Aussie Millions. There are some excellent lead-up events, and there is a wide range of cash games and limits on offer, making the trip more than worthwhile. The main event itself is considered by players to be one of the best-structured and best-run anywhere in the world. You get a big starting bank, long levels and reasonable hours of play, particularly early on in the tournament. This is important to the poker tourist who wants to enjoy their holiday as well as the action on the felt. The tournament is nine handed, then goes to eight handed, and then even to six handed when it is down to 36 players. It is an AU$10,000 event and with the Aussie dollar now on par with the US there is even more appeal to make the trip south.
Sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt poker, offer fantastic packages to the Aussie Millions. For a very small outlay you could win yourself the trip of a lifetime.
You can also check out www.aussiemillions.com for everything you need to know about planning your trip. If you’ve never had the opportunity to travel to Australia then this is the perfect excuse to combine a bit of gaming with an exotic travel experience.