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History of the Aussie Millions

Written by James Potter

This article first appeared in the WSOP 2012 special issue of World Gaming magazine.

Now in its eleventh year Crown’s Aussie Millions has become one of poker’s must-not-miss events. WGM explores the history of the Southern Hemisphere’s and Asia’s largest poker tournament.

Many argue if you were to name the four most important annual poker tournaments in the world “majors” like in tennis or golf, the Aussie Millions would sit alongside the WSOP in Las Vegas, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the EPT grand final. If you’re a serious poker aficionado then this is definitely a tournament you should play at least once.

Held every year at the iconic Crown Melbourne, the Aussie Millions is one of those titles that every poker player dreams of winning. Not only is it the biggest poker tournament held in Australia, it is also the largest in the Asia-Pacific region and the Southern Hemisphere.

All the big international names in poker have made the trek “down under” to play this prestigious tournament. Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen, Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Daniel Negreanu and Erik Seidel are just a few of the big names to have battled local legends such as Joe Hachem, Jeff Lisandro, Tony G and Billy “the Croc” Argyros.

What pros say about the Crown Aussie Millions…

 

“One tournament a year! The place I keep coming back to, Melbourne – the poker, the tennis, the atmosphere and the people. The exquisite effort by Crown to make it a great event for the novice, the aspiring amateur and the high-stakes pro keep you coming back time after time!”

Gus Hansen, 2007 Aussie Millions Champion

“The Aussie Millions is awesome. The people from ‘down under’ are not actually ‘down under’ but instead a cut above! And what an amazing city! Melbourne. Wow! For sure they found the ideal place to hold such a prestigious event!”

Phil Laak, WSOPE Bracelet Winner and WPT Champion

“I look forward to being in wonderful Melbourne to play the Aussie Millions every year. Crown runs an amazing series and there are so many events and satellites to choose from to suit all bankrolls. My favorite time of year!”

Oliver Speidel, 2012 Aussie Millions Champion

“The Aussie Millions is one of the best if not the best tournament in the world. Quite simply, if you don’t attend you are not qualified.”

Tony G, WPT Bad Boys of Poker Champion

“Anyone who has been lucky enough to compete in the Aussie Millions at Crown, knows it is a first class event unmatched by any other stop on the poker circuit. The hotel, the weather, the staff, the food all combine to make this a special experience every year and one I always look forward to.”

Erik Seidel, 2011 Aussie Millions

$250,000 Super High Ro ller Champion

“The Aussie Millions is amazing and there is simply no better place to be in the world in January.”

Marvin Rettenmaier, ETP Monte Carlo

Grand Final Champion

“Crown is an excellent venue and if you’ve never experienced Melbourne I highly recommend it.”

Daniel Negreanu, 4-time WSOP Bracelet Winner

and 2-time WPT Champion

“I can honestly say that the hospitality of Crown and the grand scale of the Aussie Millions is second to none. Melbourne in January is a great time to visit, but everything about this place has me coming back for more!”

Maria Ho, Last Woman Standing in the 2007

WSOP and 2011 WSOPE Main Events”Aussie Millions is one of the absolute best and most prestigious and professional poker tournament series in the world.”

Lynn Gilmartin, PokerNews.com Presenter

 

You won’t find a better poker atmosphere outside the World Series than at the Aussie Millions and it boasts more than its fair share of action and adventure. This year’s tenth anniversary event, which took place in January 2012, saw Oliver Speidel walk away as champion with a cool AU$1.6 million (US$1.7 million). Just as big a story was Phil Ivey’s Aussie Millions campaign. Ivey finished 12th in the Main Event and took down the AU$250,000 Super High Roller for a monstrous AU$2 million, showing just why many consider him up there with the likes of Stu Ungar – vying for the title of “greatest ever to grace the felt”.

Aussie Millions 10 years on

Crown’s Aussie Millions has played an important role in the development of poker in Australia. The Crown Poker Room first opened in 16 June 1997, which makes its meteoric rise to one of the most respected poker rooms in the world particularly impressive.

In July 1998 the first Australasian Poker Championship was held with an AU$1,000 buy-in and just 74 runners. In 2000 the buy-in was upped to AU$1,500, increasing to AU$5,000 in 2002 when the tournament rescheduled to January, where it has remained ever since. Re-branded as the “Aussie Millions Poker Championship” in 2003 with an increased buy-in of AU$10,000, this was the year it truly became recognized as a major event on the international poker circuit.

The Aussie Millions became increasingly popular with European players in the early 2000s as they escaped the harsh European winter for the sunshine of the Australian summer. Internationals dominated the early years with winners Peter “the Poet” Costa and Tony “the Lizard” Bloom hailing from England and Lee “Final Table” Nelson and Jamil “the Real Deal” Dia coming from New Zealand. By 2005 the prize pool had soared to over AU$2.6 million and Dia became the first winner to walk away with AU$1 million for first place. Player numbers continued to grow – increasing by over 70 percent year on year – before hitting a new high of 747 entrants in 2007, the year poker superstar Gus “the Great Dane” Hansen lifted the trophy.

In 2009 the Aussie Millions saw its first ever homegrown champion in the form of Stewart Scott and this heralded a period of Aussie dominance that continues to the present day. Every champion since 2009 has been Australian, keeping the trophy firmly on home soil. Since 2007 the tournament has averaged 722 entrants and with an entry fee of AU$10,000 a pop that makes it one of the biggest poker tournaments held anywhere in the world.

10 Years of Champions
Year
Winner
Country

First Prize

(AU$)

Runners
Prize Pool (AU$)
2003

Peter Costa

England

394,870
122
1,220,000
2004

Tony Bloom

England

426,500
133
1,330,000
2005

Jamil Dia

New Zealand

1,000,000
263
2,630,000
2006

Lee Nelson

New Zealand

1,295,800
418
4,180,000
2007

Gus Hansen

Denmark

1,500,000
747
7,470,000
2008

Alexander Kostritsyn

Russia

1,650,000
780
7,800,000
2009

Stewart Scott

Australia

2,000,000
681
6,810,000
2010

Tyron Krost

Australia

2,000,000
746
7,460,000
2011

David Gorr

Australia

2,000,000
721
7,210,000
2012

Oliver Speidel

Australia

1,600,000
659
6,590,000

 

Crowning glory

The Crown Entertainment Complex can be summed up in one word: huge. The floor space leaves Vegas casinos for dead because 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 Melbourne also has one of the best high roller 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 complex is nestled on the banks of the Yarra River, which gives it a uniquely European flavor. With three world-class hotels, tennis courts, pools, gymnasiums, bowling lanes, movie theatres and countless restaurants and bars all situated under one roof there is more than poker on offer when visiting the Aussie Millions.

Make your own piece of history:

Become the first American to EVER win the Aussie Millions

While many have come close a US citizen has never won the Aussie Millions Main Event, though not through want of trying. No Americans made the final table at all in 2012 and while Miami’s Randy Dorfman managed to get close in 2011 he had to settle for fifth. Reno’s Steven Friedlander came up short with seventh place in 2010, as did Pennsylvania’s Zach Gruneberg in 2009. Some have come even closer only to come up agonizingly short, stumbling at the very last hurdle:

2009 Runner-up – Peter Rho

2nd place prize: AU$1,000,000

The Las Vegas native was within touching distance of the trophy and things seemed to be going Rho’s way when, facing a raise from Aussie Stewart Scott, he looked down to see A♥ J♣ and moved all-in. Unfortunately Scott had his gun loaded with A♠ A♦ and shot Rho’s dreams of an Aussie Millions title down in a hail of bullets.

2008 Runner-up – Erik Seidel

2nd place prize: AU$1,000,000

While he emerged victorious in the 2011 AU$250,000 Super High Roller and may be one of the best no limit hold’em tournament players in the world, Seidel couldn’t get the job done against Alexander Kostritsyn after the latter’s J♥ 9♥ outflopped Seidel’s A♠ Q♣ to give the Russian the title.

2007 Runner-up – Jimmy Fricke

2nd place prize: AU$1,000,000

Fricke battled his way through the 747-strong field to find himself heads-up with Gus Hansen. Unfortunately, the man former Full Tilt director Howard Lederer referred to as “a freak and a very weird dude” came up short when he moved all-in with an open-ended straight draw and ran into Hansen’s pocket Aces, which held to give the “Great Dane” the title.

 

World-class poker

The Crown 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 26 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 been running their poker room for 15 years and they know what players expect. They are in their element when running a world-class tournament like this.

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 is not the case at the Aussie Millions. There are some excellent lead-up events and 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 most well structured and well run anywhere in the world. You get a 30,000 chip starting stack, long levels and hours of play, particularly early on in the tournament, which is very appealing to the poker tourist who wants to enjoy their holiday as much as the on-the-felt action. The tournament starts nine-handed and becomes eight-handed at the close of day 1, dropping to six-handed when it gets down to the last 36 players. With an AU$10,000 buy-in and the Aussie dollar now on par with the US there is even more appeal to make the trip “down under”.

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. Check out www.aussiemillions.com for everything you need to know about planning your trip.

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