This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2016 issue of WGM.
The Aussie Millions has long been the most prestigious annual poker tournament in Asia-Pacific and this year’s event proved no exception with the biggest field in six years heading to Melbourne’s Crown Casino for a shot at the AU$1.6 million first prize.
An impressive 732 players represented the fourth largest field in Aussie Millions history and included some of the biggest names in poker such as Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Antonio Esfandiari, Australia’s WSOP champ Joe Hachem, 2014 WSOP Main Event champion Martin Jacobson, Jack Salter, Eugene Katchalov, Tom Hall, Brian Rast and a who’s who of the local and Asian poker scenes.
Also taking the opportunity to try his luck was German tennis great Boris Becker, who didn’t make it past Day 1 but enjoyed victory nevertheless as he coached Novak Djokovic to another Australian Open title a few days later.
A total of 80 players made the money, among them both Joe and Tony Hachem, Liv Boeree, Phillip Gruissem and James Obst. However, it was none other than WPT expert commentator Tony Dunst heading the field by the time the six player final table was set.
Ironically, Dunst – who spent a number of years living and studying in Melbourne during the late 2000s – almost didn’t play the Main Event after losing an AU$5,000 chip while waiting in line to register. It was none other than Mike “Timex” McDonald who convinced him otherwise late on Day 1 and it proved a wise decision with Dunst enjoying an AU$1 million pay day.
In the end, he was pipped to the post by Canada’s Ari Engel following an epic heads-up battle that lasted well into the night. Engel became the 19th Aussie Millions champion since the tournament’s inception in 1998 and the second Canadian to prevail following Ami Barer’s win two years ago, while Samantha Abernathy enjoyed the best ever Aussie Millions result by a woman with her third-place finish.
Also attracting attention at the Aussie Millions, as always, were the two Super High Roller events. Kicking off proceedings was the AU$100,000 Challenge which saw 41 entries create a prize pool of around AU$4 million. High stakes specialist Fabian Quoss proved victorious to take home the AU$1.45 million top prize.
A few days later it was the LK Boutique AU$250,000 event taking centre stage with America’s Stephen O’Dwyer continuing his incredible recent run in Super High Roller events to take the win. His live career earnings are now at an incredible US$15 million.
The other event of note to kick off 2016 in Asia was WPT National Philippines which returned to Solaire in Manila for the first time since Poker King Club took over poker operations at the glitzy resort.
A field of 268 starters proved to be a significant drop on the 385 entries that formed the inaugural WPT National Philippines Main Event in late 2014, with Malaysia’s Ying Ling Chua emerging victorious this time around.
But it was the brand new US$200,000 WPT Triton Super High Roller Cali Cup – the biggest buy-in tournament ever held at a WPT event – that was the real star of the show.
A total of 52 players answered the call of PKC President Winfred Yu to create a prize pool of US$10 million and a first prize of US$3.46 million. Not surprisingly, the final table was an all-star affair with Phil Ivey, Dan Colman, Steve O’Dwyer and Paul Phua among those to cash, however it was 22-year-old German Fedor Holz celebrating hardest with the biggest win of his burgeoning career.