The gaming history of Australia is intrinsically linked with the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
A stroll through the centre of Port Vila in the 1980s and 1990s revealed numerous Australian-facing betting shops, none bigger than the Number One Betting Shop, which was said to have an annual turnover of up to AUD $600 million via its 25,000 Australian customers.
Australia’s poker history also includes a noted Vanuatu chapter when a troupe including Mike and Martin Comer, Billy “The Croc” Argyros, Jason Gray, Tony Joseph, Graeme "Kiwi G" Putt, Keith Marshall, Maurie Pears, Joe Meissner, famed Vegas cardroom manager Eric Drache and several other well-known Aussie poker personalities trekked to the island paradise in 2000.
As one of the players who made the trip remembered, some of the highlights of the trip included, “the all night cash games with Eric Drache, Bendigo’s Calcutta sweep, the beach full of discharge from the local sewerage outlet, the golf course with more coconut crab holes than Swiss cheese and French restaurants that served up those same crabs.”
Almost two decades after that infamous trip, a new generation of Aussie players are heading back to Vanuatu in pursuit of poker glory at the Grand Hotel and Casino.
Poker is regularly played at this venue, with the annual calendar culminating in the VUV 95,000 (approximately AUD $1000) Grand Ultimate Poker Tournament, where a contingent of up to 45 Aussies (including qualifiers from Poker Down Under and other Ultimate Poker Tour venues) will battle a field of players from across the south Pacific region starting on Thursday.
All the best to the Aussies heading to the idyllic island nation this week!