This article first appeared in the WSOP 2012 special issue of World Gaming magazine.
As poker’s popularity continues to grow, tournament buy-ins are reaching astronomical proportions. The Dragon looks at where it all began.
This year’s WSOP is going to see the first ever tournament with a US$1 million buy-in. With the growing popularity of poker and an increasing number of millionaires created by the game this was always going to happen. It was only a matter of time. But you might be surprised at which station this steam-train of huge buy-in tournaments departed from.
While a seven-figure tournament buy-in is undoubtedly far from the norm, the fact the game has progressed this far marks a milestone in poker history. Poker has evolved to yet another level. Some might argue that it’s actually not in poker’s best interests, but as far as we’re concerned if there are enough runners willing to front up the cash then who are we to tell them what they should do with their money.
Massive High Roller tournaments serve to add to the poker landscape and going forward could well begin to dominate. High Roller events have always sat alongside the Main Event as the highlight of any poker festival and these bigger buy-ins can only serve to attract more megawealthy gamblers to the game – players who up until this point in time may have struggled to get a real gambling rush out of poker.
So where did this all start? When did things start getting so out of control? You could be forgiven for thinking that it was at the Bellagio, the WSOP or even one of the card rooms in Macau, but you would be wrong. The idea of huge buyin tournaments first started at Crown and it happened at the Aussie Millions.
The Aussie Millions has always brought the very best of the best to Australian shores. The big names in the poker world – many of them with bankrolls totaling more money than your average Joe will see in three lifetimes – have always flocked to the Aussie Millions for the sun, fun and most of all the gamble.
While the WSOP has always been the game’s most prestigious tournament series it runs to a very tight schedule and every big player is chasing bracelets. The Aussie Millions differs in the respect that while it always offers a busy schedule to overseas players looking for their poker fix, there is still plenty of time to enjoy everything that Melbourne has to offer.
However, some players just aren’t interested in culture and sightseeing and there are always those action junkies looking for the next big game. No matter what you offer some players off the table, those who have cut their teeth on the fast-paced action of high stakes poker will always put off a game of golf or a trip to the wineries for a “sick” game of poker. So when Crown gave them the opportunity in 2006 a new type of tournament was born – the Super High Roller.
While the first AU$100,000 tournament was a speed poker event and only attracted 10 players, it did catch the poker world’s attention. With the stage set it jumped to 18 players in 2007, then 25 players in 2008. By 2011 that figure had grown to 38 runners, with British pro Sam Trickett defeating a final table of poker’s best and brightest to put his name on the trophy. The big buy-in madness didn’t end there though, and the AU$100,000 event had established itself as such a popular fixture that Crown added an AU$250,000 event that same year. This Super High Roller saw 20 players pit wits against each other to fight it out for a first prize of AU$2.5 million. Seasoned pro Eric Siedel took it down and catapulted himself from 9th to 3rd in the world for all-time tournament winnings.
The big boys will be saddling up again in 2013. This year at the Aussie Millions the “big guns” will bring their ammo to fight out the big events. Even though the WSOP have their $1 million buy-in, Crown can honestly claim they have played their part in this shift in the poker culture. For all you mere mortal poker players out there don’t be put off. The Aussie Millions is a tournament developed for the average player and while it is the birthplace of the Super High Roller concept, it will always cater to every bankroll.