OZ POKER REPORT: Demand surges nationwide post-COVID

In the midst of recent news that all major casino series, including the Aussie Millions at Crown Melbourne, are on hold for the foreseeable future, there has been a flurry of tournament action among national and regional operators as COVID-19 restrictions ease, with this “grassroots” movement keeping the game alive.

Here’s a nationwide snapshot of what’s been happening in recent weeks.

QUEENSLAND

After the successful return of the Australian Poker Tour (APT) in Brisbane in October, many of the Sunshine state’s finest migrated north for the Australian Poker League (APL) Ville 600 in Townsville, including APL Ambassador and WSOP Europe bracelet winner Jackie Glazier.

Fresh from his breakthrough victory in the APT Brisbane Main Event, Jordan Bromley went wire-to-wire at the final table of the $1,200 buy-in Super High Roller Event, pocketing a cool $24,600 in prize money.

Bromley then turned his hand to commentating the Main Event final table stream as poker’s newest power couple – Aroha Ngata and Will Wong– annihilated the competition to go heads-up for the title, which was over in a flash after Wong’s A8 held against Ngata’s KJ.

This capped off an epic weekend for the duo, who earned a combined total of $62,210 after they both cashed in the Super High Roller with Wong finishing fifth and Ngata in third.

Oz poker power couple Will Wong and Aroha Ngata

Other major winners throughout the series included Asti Savagein the $200 Deep Stack, Brenton Buttigieg in the $60 PLO and Michelle Webb in the $115 Ladies Invitational.

APL Ville 600 Main Event final table placings:
($600 buy-in, 243 entries, 24 players paid)*

PositionNamePrize
1stWill Wong$24,880
2ndAroha Ngata $17,830
3rdTaylor Grube $14,330
4thSean Dunwoodie$11,330
5thNathan Cramb$8,830
6thWoo Jin Do$6,330
7thSpencer White$4,330
8thJan Broomhead$3,330

*Final table payouts shown; prize pool dividends shown include a seat into the NQ Classic valued at $330.

November also saw the Check Raise Poker Queensland 6-Max Super Series proving why it has fast become the most popular new addition to the Aussie poker calendar, crushing its $150,000 total prize pool estimate after it was initially launched more than two months ago.

Having been the only player to bag up a million in chips after Day 1, Josh Norvock could not be caught, besting the $150 buy-in Main Event field of 322 to pocket $10,500, while Michael Henderson earned not only the Super High Roller trophy and a $20,000 payday, but also the 6-Max Super Series Player of the Series title – his second for the year after scoring the WPT League QPC edition prior to lockdown.

Check Raise Poker 6-Max Super Series final table placings:

PositionNamePrize
1stJosh Norvock $10,500
2ndDean K$6,500
3rdGraham Davis$4,800
4thSam Adams$3,400
5thFlavio X$2,500
6thMatt Bevin$1,800
7thManhiem Miethke$1,230

Josh Norvock

2021 Queensland Diary Dates

DateEventLocation
19-24 JanAPT Brisbane Season 4Eatons Hill Hotel
24-28 FebWPT League QPCGold Coast Turf Club
17-21 MarAPT Gold Coast Season 4 Southport Sharks
23 Apr to 03 MayWPT DeepStacks The Star Gold Coast
19-23 MayWPT League QPC TBC
11-15 AugWPT League QPC TBC

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Despite a last-minute venue change to the Barmera Club, the Southern Poker Tour Riverland Rumble was a huge success, with prize pool estimates smashed across the series.

Steve Spear took home $1,270 for his win in the $50 buy-in Lakes Resort Motel Opener, while Des Scheidl held off a late charge from heads-up opponent Susan Waller to claim the $330 Barmera Club High Roller title.

However, it was Rob Keszler who stole the show, capping off his final table finish in the Opener with victory in the $175 buy-in Main Event, which was enough to also take out the Player of the Series race, good for a $2,000 APT Main Event package including flights and accommodation.

Southern Poker Tour Main Event final table placings:
($175 buy-in, 145 entries, 14 players paid)

PositionNamePrize
1stRob Keszler $4,600*
2ndGeoff Solonsch $4,600*
3rdDale Fox$4,600*
4thCassie Murchison$1,400
5thBahri Ozbiricik$1,000
6thYurek Jamevic$850
7thMatt Harvey$750
8thMartin Pink$650
9thStephen Hunter$550

*Denotes three-handed deal.  

Rob Keszler

The Matchroom Poker Big Stack Festival was also run and won; Australian Poker Hall of Famer Jonathan Karamalikis returned from hiatus to play in the $2,000 buy-in Main Event, but although he went into the heads-up battle with 80% of the chips in play, Royal Poker Club head honcho Ivan “Iron Man” Zhang fought back to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Matchroom Poker Big Stack Festival Main Event final table placings:
($2,000 buy-in, 131 entries, 17 players paid)

PositionNamePrize
1stIvan Zhang$60,000
2ndJonathan Karamalikis$37,100
3rdJerry Zhang$29,100
4thKit M$23,500
5thBok B$18,500
6thFrank S$15,000
7thAdam C$12,000
8thHuey L$9,500
9thRoy P$7,000
Ivan Zhang

2021 South Australia Diary Dates

DateEventLocation
06-11 JanRoyal High Roller SeriesRoyal Poker Club, Adelaide
05-07 FebSPT Tanunda ThunderPeter Lehmann, Barossa Valley
22-28 MarAdelaide Poker SeriesMatchroom Poker
11-13 JunMount Gambier ClassicJens Hotel

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Even with the tight border restrictions in place against the eastern seaboard, if the numbers from most recent Shark Poker Spring Championship are anything to go by, expect even bigger and better things from Australia’s largest state.

It also gave us a glimpse into WA’s somewhat unique poker legislation, which saw the 15-game schedule split across several venues, as well as the cancellation of the fifth and final Day 1 flight of the Main Event to ensure that the prize pool cap was not exceeded (though the mind boggles as to why that would be such a bad thing).

And although full names of players may not be published without permission, a little digging around social media revealed one James Newberry as the Main Event victor, taking home $10,500 in prize money after chopping heads-up with Blake Phillips, while Perth poker veteran Vesko Zmukic finished third.

Blake Phillips and James Newberry went heads-up in Perth

Shark Poker Spring Championship Main Event:
($200 buy-in, 333 entries, 35 players paid)

PositionNamePrize
1stJames Newberry$10,500*
2ndBlake Phillips$9,500*
3rdVesko Zmukic$5,500*
4thDave I$3,500
5thAsh W$2,500
6thTony D$2,000
7thDean C$1,500
8thMike C$1,200
9thEstevan R$1,000

*Denotes heads-up deal. Not all full names available due to WA privacy laws.

NEW SOUTH WALES & ACT

With poker quickly reinstated in NSW venues after a major push from the major operators in August, the Sydney scene is rapidly returning to a COVID normal, but there was until recently yet to be any major tournament event confirmed in lieu of the WSOP International Circuit Series at The Star Sydney.

Then last Thursday announced the return of the MCC – the Marconi Christmas Cup, that is – from 6 to 21 December.

The festivities include a $550 Warm-Up and the $2,500 High Roller, as well as an $1,150 buy-in Main Event with an expected $400,000 to be won across the entire series.

Not to be outdone, the team at WPT League Sydney are also launching a $200,000 guaranteed Xmas Cash Series from 1 December at the St Johns Park Bowling Club.

Although price points are comparatively smaller than the MCC, with buy-ins ranging from $30 to $350, there’s a whopping 27 events on the schedule, wrapping up with an end-of-year player awards dinner on 30 December. For more information, log onto the WPT League website

And just outside of the Australian capital, the National Poker League (NPL) is gearing up for its next $50,000 Super Series Event at The Roos Club Queanbeyan from 4 to 6 December. Although several Main Event satellites have already been run and won, there’s nothing stopping you from buying in directly at just $220 a pop.

VICTORIA & TASMANIA

Last, but certainly not least, are our southern-most states, with players in Tasmania flocking back to regular tournaments throughout the week through operators such as Bullets Poker League and the APL.

Similarly in Victoria, APL has also restarted with select games running in the Bendigo and Dandenong regions (with more on the way), but on the Bellarine Peninsula, Poker Geelong House of Cards has set up shop in the hope of becoming the state’s most successful standalone card room.

PokerMedia Australia was invited to join in one of their weekly tournaments and meet with the team behind the project, which will be featured in a special story to be published later this week.

Through all of this, one thing is certain – the Australian poker landscape is set to be reshaped over the next 12 months.  As the country’s leading industry news source, PMA will be first with the latest headlines directly from the felt.

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