It’s the 10th birthday of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship, but the nation’s premier poker series is also celebrating another anniversary when play kicks-off at Crown Casino this Thursday (January 12).
For the past five years, the first tournament on the Aussie Millions schedule is the ultra popular $1000 +$100 No Limit Hold’em Opening Event. Such is the size of the field and prizepool in this event that it would merit main event status on most tournament schedules.
The decision was taken for the 2007 Aussie Millions to double the Opening Event buy-in from $550 to $1100, and players voted with their feet and wallets. It was South Australia’s Gabriel Xiourouppa who bested the massive field of 515 players to pocket a career high $139,873 for his victory over Sydney’s Zhi Hong Ma.
The international appeal of the Aussie Millions was underlined 12 months later with many players jetting into Melbourne to contest the entire schedule. Then-emerging superstar Yevgeniy Timoshenko placed sixth in the Opening Event while local Vincent Wan defeated Canada’s Mike timex McDonald to pocket more than AUD $140,000.
The overseas contingent broke through in 2009 with Christian Heich conquering a field of 731 players, winning AUD $150,000. The German dominated the final table but trailled Melbourne’s own Steve “The Big Show” Topakas when the pair went heads-up for the title. However, Heich wouldn’t be denied and defeated Topakas for the title.
In 2010, Crown elected to lend its ultra-popular repechage format to the Opening Event, which helped the prizepool bust through the $1 million mark with players eliminated in early flights allowed to re-enter on one of the other day one flights.
The major beneficiary of this innovation, which ensured a staggering field of 1143 players, was Matthew Ephraums, who overcame the largest-ever Australian casino poker tournament field and a final table dominated by locals to defeat Brendan Edmonds in a short heads-up battle to claim the first prize of $200,000.
It was a similar story in 2011 with an even 1000 buy-ins generating another AUD $1 million prizepool for the top local and international pros to chase. It was unsung 19-year-old Martin Drewe (pictured above) from Newcastle who carried his day one chip lead all the way to victory after a 19-hour final day.
The final table line-up also featured former NBL basketballer Nik Lackovic, Gabriel Xiorouppa (who cashed for the third time in this event after winning it in 2007) and 2008 November Niner Scott Montgomery of Canada.
This year’s edition of the Opening Event starts with Flight 1 on Thursday, January 12; Flight 2 is on Friday, January 13 and Flight 3 will be played on Saturday, January 14. The format for Flights 2 and 3 is a Repechage. Players eliminated from either Flights 1 or 2 are able to re-enter the event in subsequent Day 1 Flights.
Players who make it through the Day 1 will reconvene on Sunday, January 16 and play until the first Aussie Millions Championship Ring for 2012 is awarded. With a 10,000 start bank, 40-minute levels on Day 1 and 60 minutes on Day 2, the 2012 Opening Event has to be the best value tournament on the 2012 Aussie Millions Poker Championship schedule.