Australia has become one of top spots for tournament poker thanks to the Aussie Millions. Held yearly at Crown Casino in Melbourne every January, this big buy-in event continues to draw players from around the world thanks to its multimillion-dollar prize pools and the tournament's prestigious fields. Players continue to travel a long way to get in on what many consider to be the hottest action in the Southern Hemisphere.
Originally introduced at Crown in 1997, poker quickly found a foothold within the Aussie gaming community. The following year, Crown hosted the Australasian Poker Championship, which featured a AUD $1,000 buy-in. As the championship event continued to develop over the following years, it became known as the "Aussie Millions." By January 2001, the tournament's prize pool had grown to $200,000 thanks to the increased buy-in of $5,000.
Australia found itself in the middle of a poker boom in 2003 that was similar to what was experienced in the U.S. By then, the tournament blossomed to 122 runners and a $1.2 million prize pool.
The tournament's arrival on the international poker scene really became noticed in 2005 when 263 players, half of whom were international players, put up $10,000 to take aim at the largest prize pool in Southern Hemisphere history — $2,630,000. New Zealand's Jamil Dia booked the win, collecting $1,000,000 for his solid play.
After the tournament's success in 2005, the next year crushed the previous year's numbers when 418 players turned out to try for the $4,180,000 prize pool.
Many of poker's biggest names made the trip down under for the televised action including Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Kathy Leibert, Scott Fischman, Chip Jett, David Williams, Antonio Esfandiari and recent Poker Hall of Fame inductee Mike Sexton.
Once again, however, a Kiwi took the top prize when pro Lee Nelson defeated the field to collect $1,295,800.
2007 proved to be another banner year as the field jumped to 747 players, generating a $7,470,000 prize pool. Denmark high-stakes maven and Team Full Tilt pro Gus Hansen took this one, decimating the star-studded field to earn $1,500,000.
Next, 2008 marked the tournament's largest field to date when 780 runners took to the felt for some of the the $7,800,000 prize pool. Twenty-one-year-old Alexander Kostritsyn, from Russia, defeated the toughest field in Aussie Millions history after taking down Team Full Tilt pro Erik Seidel heads-up. Kostritsyn took home $1.65 million and Seidel pocketed $1 million for finishing second.
Although 2009 saw the field drop slightly to 681 players, they still included top-flight grinders looking to take home a guaranteed $2 million first-place prize.
This time, Australian Stewart Scott logged the victory, giving the host country its first win since the event's inception.
This same year also marked the debut of a million-dollar buy-in cash game that featured some of the game's best high-stakes players including Tom "Durrr" Dwan and Patrik Antonius.
Early word around the campfire is that over 800 players are expected for January's $10,500 main event and roughly 2,000 players are expected to grace the Crown tournament floor over the course of this 20-event tournament series. The Aussie Millions runs from January 14-31, 2010.