f the Aussie Millions, staged in Melbourne’s Crown Casino, were a cycle race it would be described as a ‘monument’.

It boasts a long history dating back to 1998 – when known as the Australian Poker Championships and the entry fee was $1,000 AUS with 74 players taking part – and it’s a title many pros would love to have on their curriculum vitae.

The centre-piece of a three-week poker festival which concluded at the weekend and featured 27 events with entry fees ranging from $1,150 AUS (€730) to $100,000 AUS (€63,500) was the ‘Aussie Millions Main Event’.

It has demanded a $10,000 entry fee since 2003.

High Roller Action

Naturally outsiders would consider it bizarre the highest entry tournament is not given headline status but few have pockets deep enough to pay a $100,000 to play a game of cards and this year this high roller event attracted 42 players.

For posterity it must be noted the 2019 winner was 49-year-old Cary Katz who is well accustomed to playing poker for high stakes. In January 2018 the American won the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller netting $1,492,340 in prize money. His lifetime ‘winnings’ are now in excess of $18 million US albeit we cannot accurately determine how much he has invested in entry fees down the years.

Three New Aussie Millionaires

Eventual main event winner, Bryn Kenney, had to overcome a substantially bigger field of 821 rivals to etch his name on the hallowed trophy. His reward was a $1,272,598 cheque which was part of a three-way deal negotiated by the final three players.

Fellow American Mike Del Vecchio, officially second, and homeboy Andrew Hinrichsen being the others; they both also cleared $1 million.

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Congratulations to the 2019 Main Event Champion, Bryn Kenney!!

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Kenney’s success, which came after five days of play, took his ‘live poker’ career earnings to $26.6 million, a remarkable sum considering he only took up poker in 2007. The 32-year-old, who formerly played Magic: The Gathering competitively, now sits in ninth position on poker’s all-time money list.

Magic: The Gathering is proving a particularly fruitful source of poker talent. In November Frenchman Julien Stropoli, another disciple of the online collectable card game, beat off 3,815 entries to claim the Battle of Malta netting €168,500 for his €550 entry/investment.

Truly International Affair

Kenny’s 2019 Aussie Millions victory gave him the distinction of being the first American winner of the fabled event. The main event tournament only truly became an international event in 2003 and by 2005 over half of that year’s entry, 263 players, were overseas visitors. Since 2004 American players have claimed 27 final table appearances – it’s noteworthy the Aussie Millions Main Event final table is restricted to seven players.

Canadians have also fared well. Providing two winners, Ami Barer in 2004 and Ari Engel in 2016, Canada’s Sorel Mizzi finished runner-up in 2014 and third in 2010 when countryman Peter Jetten also took fifth. A total of nine final table seats have been claimed by Canadians.

Continental Europeans may not embrace the Aussie Millions with the passion of other nations and consequently their final table appearances are limited. However, 2018 did see a cosmopolitan final table featuring Belgian Johan Schumacher, Norwegian Espen Solaas and Swiss player Stefan Huber.

Fascinating Winner

Possibly the most interesting of all previous Aussie Million winners is 2004 victor Tony Bloom. Bloom was a regular at high-profile poker tournaments around the world during the mid-2000’s but has become better known, in recent years, for his role as Chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion who he helped into the Premier League in 2017.

Away from poker and football Tony Bloom, who unlike most poker players prefers to keep a low profile, has become a renowned racehorse owner. His colours were carried to victory on Withhold who landed a colossal gamble in the 2017 Cesarewitch and took the following year’s Northumberland Plate. Bloom also owns 2018 Cheltenham FestivalStayer’s Hurdle winner Penhill.

 

Aussie Millions Main Event Previous Winners

Year Winner Nationality Winnings
1998 Alex Horowitz Australia $25,900
1999 Milo Nadalin Australia $38,150
2000 Leo Boxell Australia $66,225
2001 Sam Korman Australia $53,025
2002 John Maver Australia $150,000
2003 Peter Costa UK $394,870
2004 Tony Bloom UK $426,500
2005 Jamil Dia New Zealand $1,000,000
2006 Lee Nelson New Zealand $1,295,800
2007 Gus Hanson Denmark $1,500,000
2008 Alexander Kostritsyn Russia $1,650,000
2009 Stewart Scott Australia $2,000,000
2010 Tyron Krost Australia $2,000,000
2011 David Gorr Australia $2,000,000
2012 Oliver Speidel Australia $1,600,000
2013 Mervin Chan Malaysia $1,600,000
2014 Ami Barer Canada $1,600,000
2015 Manny Stavropoulos Australia $1,385,500
2016 Ari Engel Canada $1,600,000
2017 Shurane Vijayaram Australia $1,600,000
2018 Toby Lewis UK $1,458,198
2019 Bryn Kenney USA $1,272,598

 

History

In 1998 the competition was known as the Australian Poker Championship, it was $1,000 entry with a ‘limit’ Hold’em format. The following year the competition became a ‘pot limit’ discipline tournament. From 2000 onwards the event demanded $1,500 entry and became an en-vogue ‘no limit’ Hold’em format. The only notable changes since have been the entry fee which became $5,000 in 2002 and $10,000 in 2003.

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