Inevitably the WSOP Main Event has dominated news coverage in the poker media for the last few weeks, but out in the rest of the world live poker action carries on as normal.
Or not quite as normal. The Star Sydney Championships at The Star in Sydney are attracting record fields for the early events. Perhaps the news surrounding the government’s proposals to shut down online poker is driving Aussies to live poker in increasing numbers.
Either way, the first few events of the series have already produced one remarkable poker story and the potential emergence of a new poker star. Read on to find out who could be moving from down under to be a big name at next year’s WSOP.
Now in their ninth year, the Star Sydney Championships are the longest running home grown poker tournament series in Sydney. This year the schedule has been extended by a full week, with events running until Monday, August 7.
Event #1 AU$400k Guaranteed
The series kicked off with a AU$400,000 guaranteed Repechage tournament at an attractive AU$440 buy-in.
The event began with four starting flights leading into Days 2 and 3, with a total of six days of play. Nurlan Boobekov came into the final table as the chip leader, and in an echo of the WSOP Main Event, managed to keep his position until finally dispatching his last opponent to the rail.
Not that the outcome was in any way certain, even in Boobekov’s own mind.
"The structure of the tournament means that there is a lot of luck involved," said Boobekov. "I wasn't thinking I would definitely win, I just wanted to play my best game and be happy with the way I played. To win is just an additional bonus.”
With AU$84,735 in winnings tucked away in his back pocket, Boobekov is already planning which of the next events he will play. "Of course I will be playing the Main Event. I think I will play the $5k as well and am looking at a few other things on the schedule.”
One of those “other things” on the schedule is a AU$20,000 buy-in High Roller. Maybe Boobekov’s eyes are on the even bigger money on offer there; re-entries are allowed, so even an $80k budget may not be quite sufficient bankroll to take on the real high rollers.
Event #2 The Ladies Event – A Remarkable Triple Crown
Re-entries were also a feature of the Ladies Event, but the buy-in was a much more manageable AU$330.
Suzy Khoueis was talked about as a potential winner even before play started. She took down the 2016 WSOP Sydney Ladies Event and followed that up with a win in the 2017 Star Poker Festival.
Amazingly, the talk turned into reality as Suzy played some great poker to get through one of the toughest final tables she has faced. By the time action got down to heads-up play, Suzy found herself facing off against Hannah Lee.
Hannah Lee won the 2016 Sydney Championships Ladies Event and so was going for back to back wins, while Suzy was going for a Sydney triple crown.
Suzy’s post-victory comments were characterized by self-evident honesty:
“This was the toughest final table I have been at though. These girls were really good players.”
Suzy’s Hendon Mob profile shows consistent results and a record of solid growth as a poker player, but they have all been in tournaments played in Australia. Suzy, at PokerNews we think you should give serious thought to a trip to Vegas for the next WSOP!
Event #3 The Turbo
Short 6,000 chip starting stacks and 20 minute levels created a fast action turbo structure for Event #3, which came with a AU$440 buy-in plus re-entry opportunities.
And whose name was well up the leader board to create more buzz? Yes, Suzy Khoueis, who came close to putting in back to back wins as she bust out just shy of the final table.
This year’s event attracted a field of 243 players, over 100 more than last year, a testament to the growth in the popularity of live poker at the Star Casino.
Online pro from Estonia, Kristjan Rausberg, emerged as the winner, which was no surprise to him. He’s currently on a working holiday in Australia, but back home he plays turbo format events as his main occupation.
“I love turbo tournaments,” Rausberg told The Star Poker Live Reporting Team. “These are what I play the most online. Turbos, Hyper Turbos, Spin N Gos. That is what I do for a living. This is my biggest live cash though.”
Rausberg’s winnings of AU$23,824 will make his working holiday even more special.
The full schedule of the remaining events at The Star Sydney Championships can be found on their website.
Highlights include a Monster Stack two-day event, a Seniors event for the over 50s, the High Roller and of course the Main Event (Repechage) which comes with an eye-watering AU$1 million guarantee.
Buy-in for the Main is set at a respectable AU$3,000. Deep 30,000 starting stacks and 60 minute levels should ensure that everyone who enters will get plenty of play for their money and if the worst happens, players can fire a second bullet and get back into the action.
The Main Event runs from Friday, August 4, with a winner expected to be announced at the end of play on Monday.
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