With a limit of eight players per table, the $1,100 H.O.R.S.E. tournament became the first event of the 2009 Aussie Millions to reach its maximum possible attendance. 96 players and two alternates spread across twelve tables in the busy Crown Casino poker room to try their hands at the popular mixed-game tournament. The H.O.R.S.E. event rotated through five different games: hold'em, Omaha hi/lo, razz, seven-card stud and stud hi/lo. Each game in rotation lasted for eight hands before moving on to the next game. The field for Event #5 was full of the cream of the Australian poker crop, including Grant Levy, James Potter, Mel Judah, Michael Guzzardi, James Obst and Billy "The Croc" Argyros.
The limit format and the two split-pot games made for slow going in the early levels, but some players managed to find enough bad luck to bust early on. Grant Levy in particular had trouble getting on track, remarking at one point, "How do I keep dominating everyone and losing? Keep hitting those three-outers, boys." His opponents did just that, as Levy became one of the early bustouts, exiting at the hands of Ross Boatman. James Obst also busted early, failing in his attempt to final-table consecutive events.
Billy "The Croc" Argyros saw his streak of consecutive cashes at the 2009 Aussie Millions stop at two when he busted early on Day 1 as well. Argyros turned a straight in Omaha hi/lo but ran into Anthony McNamara's flush to make his exit. He was joined on the rail by Lee "Final Table" Nelson, Maurie "The Master" Pears, Martin Comer and Tino Lechich.
Van Marcus fared significantly better on Day 1, finishing the day with a significant chip lead to head tomorrow's final table. Marcus first took the chip lead in one of the stud rounds when he picked up a big hand, after getting stuck with the bring-in on hand after hand. Marcus once again brought it in with the in the door, and Kerry Stead completed with the up. Marcus called on fourth street when he picked up the , then raised fifth street with a board that read . Stead called with a board of , and picked up the on sixth street. Marcus caught the and led out once again. Stead called, and then called again on seventh street. Marcus tabled for his hole cards with the Kh for his seventh-street card to make aces up. Stead mucked his hole cards as Marcus surged to the top of the leader board.
As the evening wore on, the field drew closer to the final table. Anthony McNamara scooped a big pot in stud hi/lo with two tables remaining to bust Mel Judah, and then Joe Meissner sent 2004 Aussie Millions champ Tony Bloom packing in one of the hold'em rounds. Bloom got all his money in holding to Meissner's , but the flop was unkind to the former champ as he busted.
Harry Demetriou just missed the money when Kerry Stead made a wheel on seventh street in stud hi/lo to send Demetriou packing, and then Stead took care of the bubble when he bounced Elvind Syslak in ninth place. Syslak raised preflop with and led out on the flop. Stead check-raised with for the nut flush draw, and Syslak went into the tank for a long moment before calling. The landed on the turn, and Stead led out again. Syslak went back into the tank before finally raising with his last few chips. Stead called with top pair and the nut flush draw, and Syslak had only two outs left. The on the river wasn't one of them, as Stead made his flush and Syslak exited on the bubble.
With Syslak's exit, the stage was set for the final table, and the remaining eight players bagged their chips as play ended for the night. Van Marcus finished Day 1 with the chip lead, as Anthony McNamara bagged the shortest stack. The final table's chip stacks and seating assignments were set as follows:
Seat 1: Joe Meissner — 43,000
Seat 2: Jarred Solomon — 65,000
Seat 3: Van Marcus — 123,500
Seat 4: Leo Boxell — 104,500
Seat 5: David Morton — 38,500
Seat 6: Michael Guzzardi — 98,000
Seat 7: Kerry Stead — 81,000
Seat 8: Anthony MacNamara — 34,500