New year, new outlook as APT Brisbane kicks 2021 off with a bang

APT Brisbane Main Event champion Kris Ilnicki.

The Australian Poker Tour (APT) Brisbane Season 4 series exceeded all expectations and obliterated all previous entry and prize pool records, generating more than $1.5 million in total across the series.

Held at the Eatons Hill Hotel from 19 to 24 January – a time of year usually associated with the Aussie Millions in Melbourne – the six-day schedule attracted thousands of players from across the country, with the exception of those from New South Wales and Western Australia due to COVID-19 border restrictions.

The combined star power at the Jeff Horn Celebrity KO Event, won by Brisbane poker veteran Milton Trickey and headlined by the former boxing champ himself, brought in an unprecedented 280 entries and set the tone for what was a very busy week for APT staff, with numbers further bolstered after mandatory mask rules were lifted as of 1am on 22 January.

In other major results, the relentless aggression of Jade Mitchell earned her both the $100 buy-in Opening Event and Ladies Event titles. Josh Norvock then produced a dominant performance en route to victory in the Drackakis Players Championship.

($1,000 buy-in, 159 entries, 16 players paid)

1stJosh Norvock $35,600
2ndMitch Bognar$22,000
3rdJordan Bromley$15,000
4thMichael Henderson$11,000
5thJohn Iskra$9,000
6thJason Berdugo$7,190
7thCourt Kanters$5,800
Josh Norvock won the Dracakis Players Championship

Canadian ex-pat Michael Maddocks also scored big, taking out the Andrew’s Airport Parking PLO High Roller and finishing second in the APT Grind to Luke Stewart, while Norway’s Kris Ilnicki clinched the $200 buy-in APT FreshStart Education Main Event. Co-incidentally, it was FreshStart’s kingpin George Frilingos that bowled over long-time friend Dinesh Singham to pick up the Hartshorn Distillery High Roller Event.

($200 buy-in, 971 entries, 99 players paid)

1stKris Ilnicki $37,500
2ndAndrew Samoa $22,000
3rdBrendan Carey$15,030
4thFlavio Benedetti$11,400
5thJustin Jensen$8,900
6thJeremy Bryce$6,500
7thJosh De Angelis$4,400
8thToka Temu-Repoama$3,400
9thKenzo Maruyama$2,400

The inaugural $2,500 buy-in APT Goliath – the largest buy-in tournament for any APT series to date –  ended in a heads-up battle of biblical proportions, with 28-year-old Toowoomban Jai Pillar holding off 2005 WSOP Main Event Champion Joe Hachem to take it down.

For Pillar, it was a both a career and life-changing moment, not only for himself but for others as well.

“It was incredible … my whole family was crammed around the iPad at home watching the stream cheering me on, and a couple of friends of mine came down just to rail the final table,” he said. “One sent me a big message afterwards to say that I’d inspired him to work on his game, and Dad’s now given me his blessing, saying that ‘If poker’s what you wanna do son, then I’ll hold down the [painting] business and you go for it’.”

“I also rang Brendon Rubie who introduced me to some meditation and mindset techniques, and I’m going to be getting more coaching from him in the future.  To me, having a positive mindset is one of the most important aspects of poker and life in general. If you think you’re going to get beat all the time, then you probably will, you know?”

($2,500 buy-in, 149 entries, 14 players paid)

1stJai Pillar $85,000
2ndJoe Sachem$53,500
3rdZac Duce$35,000
4thEoin Starr$27,000
5thPeter Peeters$22,500
6thChristopher Costanzo$17,500
7thSam Adams$14,500
8thJacob Fulop$11,500
9thIvan Zhang$9,000
Jai Pillar and Joe Hachem went heads-up in the APT Goliath.

It was also a dream run for 32-year-old youth worker Johnnie Kururangi, who took out the APT Brisbane Season 4 Player of the Series title, highlighted by four final table appearances including victory in the Short Deck Hold’em Event and ITM results in almost every event he played.


1stJohnnie Kururangi (2130 points) $12,500
2ndMichael Maddocks (1830 points)$6,000
3rdJosh Norvock (1820 points)$4,000
4thMichael Henderson (1440 points)$3,000
=5thDaniel Gabriel (1360 points)$1,575
=5thJai Pillar (1360 points)$1,575
Johnnie Kururangi was named Player of the Series.

The APT returns to Southport Sharks for the Season 4 Gold Coast leg from 17 to 24 March. In the meantime, full replays of all the marquee events of the Brisbane series are now available to view on the APTLive Facebook page, or on  

For more information, follow APT on social media or visit their website:

Images courtesy of Gigi Fab/APT.

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