Based on the headline you’re probably guessing that this column is going to recap the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event won by Australian Joe Hachem.
Well, you’re wrong. It’s not.
Hachem’s run to the 2005 WSOP title brought the chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Hoy, Hoy, Hoy” to the Las Vegas desert and ushered in the era of the boisterous rail at the WSOP, but it’s an Australian chant, with roots dating back well before 2005, just like Australian poker.
This column is about the Aussie Millions, one of the longest running tournaments in poker, and a tournament that has evolved from humble roots (a Limit Holdem tournament played almost exclusively by Australians) into one of the game’s “must play” tournaments.
The origins of the Aussie Millions
The Crown Australian Poker Championship (that’s the actual name of the Aussie Millions) was first held at the Crown Casino in 1998, just a year after the popular casino started offering poker. The first Aussie Millions was a rather innocuous $1,000 buy-in Limit Holdem tournament that attracted a total of 74 entries, mostly locals.
The following year the tournament switched to a Pot Limit Holdem format., with 109 players registering for the Main Event. In 2000 the Main Event switched formats once again, this time to a $1,500 buy-in No Limit Holdem.
By 2003 the tournament’s buy-in had ballooned to $10,000, and started attracting players from outside of Australia.
Unlike many other tournaments on the poker calendar, including the World Series of Poker, the Aussie Millions has stayed at the same home, kept the same name, and has been held at the same time of year since 2001 – The tournament was originally held in July before being moved to January in 2001.
The tournament has run continuously since its inception, and has somehow managed to avoid being sucked into one of the numerous poker tours – The Aussie Million remains an independent tournament to this day.
To my knowledge, only the World Series of Poker and the Irish Poker Open have longer continuous histories than the Aussie Millions.
The Australian poker boom
They may have been early to the major poker tournament scene, but the Aussies were a bit slow to catch the poker bug.
From 1998 through 2004 the tournament attracted no more than 133 entries, and not even Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP win, which kicked off the American poker boom, had much of an impact on attendance.
But that all changed in 2005, when attendance nearly doubled, jumping from 133 in 2004 to 263 in 2005. And then the unthinkable happened. Joe Hachem, an Australian, won the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Attendance shot up again from 2005 to 2006, with 418 entrants participating in the Aussie Millions following Hachem’s victory. And by 2007 well over 700 players were signing up to play in the Aussie Millions Main Event.
The Aussie Millions today
While the tournament is not as popular as it was during the height of the poker boom, the Aussie Millions is still one of poker’s “Majors” in many players’ minds.
Furthermore, the Aussie Millions essentially created the Super High Roller events that have taken over tournament poker in recent years. The Crown Casino first held a $100,000 buy-in event in 2006 – no other tournament series would host a $100k event until 2011 – and when competitors started holding $100k events the Aussie Millions added a $250,000 buy-in tournament to their schedule in 2011.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Phil Ivey has won the $250k Challenge at the Aussie Millions three out of the five years it’s been held.
These additions kept the world’s greatest poker players coming to Australia (despite the extremely long travel times) over the years, and has helped the Aussie Millions maintain its allure as one of poker’s top destination events.
Aussie Millions champions
- Alex Horowitz – 1998
- Milo Nadalin – 1999
- Lee Boxell – 2000
- Sam Korman – 2001
- John Maver – 2002
- Peter Costa – 2003
- Tony Bloom – 2004
- Jamil Dia – 2005
- Lee Nelson – 2006
- Gus Hansen – 2007
- Alexander Kostritsyn – 2008
- Stewart Scott – 2009
- Tyron Krost – 2010
- David Gorr – 2011
- Oliver Speidel – 2012
- Mervin Chan – 2013
- Ami Barer – 2014
- Manny Stavropoulos – 2015