Toby Lewis Wins the Largest Ever Aussie Millions Main Event
He came in as the chip leader, and the player with by far the most live cashes, so Toby Lewis looked like the clear favorite heading into the final table of the 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event at Crown Melbourne.
Lewis: "I've been working really hard on my game lately, more than ever. I just felt really comfortable."
The former EPT champion and an accomplished online player had his mind locked in on the biggest chance of his life for a career-defining score, but the 28-year-old British pro said he felt no pressure heading into the final day.
"It's probably the least amount I've ever felt heading into a major final table," Lewis said. "I've been working really hard on my game lately, more than ever. I just felt really comfortable. I had an understanding of the players I was playing against.
"I tried to stay off social media as much as possible and tried not to hype myself up too much."
It must have worked. Lewis put on an absolutely dominant display of poker Sunday night on the big stage at Crown, moving into a huge chip lead and using it to roll over most of his opponents en route to an A$1,458,198 payday for topping a field of 800 — a record for the 21-year-old event. That adjusted amount came after a three-way deal between Lewis, Stefan Huber, and Espen Solaas, with Lewis locking up more than second-place prize money and proceeding to win the A$75,000 and commemorative bracelet set aside for the winner.
Official Final Table Results
|Place||Player||Home Country||Prize in AU$||Prize in US$|
|1||Toby Lewis||United Kingdom||AU$1,458,198||$1,156,653*|
|5||Mike Del Vecchio||United States||AU$370,000||$293,486|
In perhaps an indicator of what was in store for the day, Lewis began making hands more or less immediately when the final day of play got underway and began broadcasting with Jason Somerville and Co. on the Run It Up stream.
The player with the least to lose, Johan Schumacher, experienced just the opposite fortune. He got his stack in the middle twice, both in dominating spots and got one chop and an elimination for his efforts, the latter coming when Solaas binked a flush with seven-five suited all in against Schumacher's pocket fives.
PARK: "It was the most stressful thing that I've ever done in my entire life."
Continuing something of a theme for the event, Lewis made a big laydown with tens on a seven-high board when local player Chul-Hyon Park turned a set of sevens on him. Avoiding that potential mine enabled Lewis to stay afloat in the top two spots despite a strong challenge from Solaas.
The Norwegian certainly got dealt all of the hands one could hope for at the final table, but things didn't always work out as he hoped after that. He held with kings against home crowd favorite Ben Richardson's ace-queen but dropped two other big pots when kings got cracked by Huber's ace-four and he ran ace-king ran into Park's aces.
After coming in with one of the bigger stacks, Richardson got nothing going on the final day.
"It was a pretty bad start," he said. "I lost every hand I played, mostly."
Lewis, on the other hand, got a dream board with ace-king against Park's jacks when he flopped top pair, turned trips and hit a full house on the river. Park paid off a huge river bet and that pot cemented Lewis as the clear leader.
Mike Del Vecchio, the lone American at the final table, held that lofty position for awhile on earlier days. He came into the event hot after a third-place finish at WPT Five Diamond in December that netted him a career-best payout of $750,000 but that would remain his biggest score as he gambled with a flush draw against Lewis' two pair and didn't get there to go down in fifth.
That prompted a four-handed battle with Lewis way out in front and the short stacks eyeing each other, all trying to ladder. Nobody wanted to miss out on a big money jump, and that benefited Lewis, who began hauling in every blind and ante in sight. Park was a little ahead of Huber and Solaas and clearly was looking to outlast them, folding hands such as pocket fives in position to Lewis' opens.
"He knew he had to be very tight," Lewis said. "[Huber and Solaas] both understood ICM very well. It's an absolute disaster for either of them to get it in against me. It was one of those spots where eventually something had to give but nobody wanted it to give."
What gave was Park's luck. No Aussie Millions final table is quite complete without a local satellite player making a Cinderella run, and Park was the man for 2018, just a year after Shane Vijayaram took the whole thing down in 2017. However, he would lose with queens all in preflop against Solaas' sevens to go out fourth.
"It was the most stressful thing that I've ever done in my entire life," Park said afterward. "It was tough playing against all the pros. I was the underdog definitely with the least experience. But, I enjoyed it and hopefully, I can do it again."
The three pros remaining began talking deal, and eventually they came to an agreement based on chip stacks with A$75,000 set aside for the winner. They locked up A$1,383,198 (Lewis), A$1,177,103 (Solaas) and $A909,699 (Huber).
Lewis was already guaranteed his biggest cash.
"Obviously, I was over the moon," he said. "I have a lot of respect for both of those guys. These spots don't come around very often, so I wanted to make sure I realized a good amount of equity.
Lewis: "I would have liked to have taken a little bit more. But, Espen played a very hard deal."
"I would have liked to have taken a little bit more. But, Espen played a very hard deal."
Things got very aggressive after that, with players beginning to reraise each other more often and jam lighter than before. Solaas was first to bust when he ran into Lewis' kings and bricked with ace-nine.
Despite running poor in a number of huge spots during the last two days — Solaas lost a particularly monstrous Day 4 flip to Lewis that could have seen the Norwegian lock up 40 percent of the chips with two tables left — he maintained that he ran well throughout the tournament. He credited the staff for running a great event with a great structure.
Lewis had a big lead on Huber and didn't take long to finish him off, much to the disappointment of a jovial, beer-swigging German contingent of supporters. Still, Huber's charity, Raising for Effective Giving, is likely to get a handsome chunk of change.
Fellow British pros Sam Grafton and Ludovic Geilich were among those enfolding Lewis in big hugs after the final card hit the felt. Lewis credited Grafton in particular with helping him on the day off before the final table, as the two did a few hours worth of preparation work on Saturday.
It's a continuation of the past few months overall, which Lewis said have been filled with hours of study and less play than usual. It all paid off with an Aussie Millions title, and Lewis joined his brethren for celebratory drinks in what's sure to be a special day in his career no matter what heights he reaches in the years ahead.
The Aussie Millions Main Event may be over, but there's more poker to be played in Melbourne. The $100,000 Challenge is on to Day 2, and PokerNews remains in the Crown Melbourne to bring you live updates till a winner is crowned. Head over to the Aussie Millions live updates page for the latest news.
Toby Lewis Stats
|England All Time Money List||22nd|
|All Time Money List||376th|
|Global Poker Index Ranking||711th|
|Total Live Earnings||$4,379,236|
Toby Lewis' Biggest Scores
|2018||AU$10,000||Aussie Millions Main Event||1st||$1,156,653|
|2013||€25,500||EPT Grand Final High Roller||5th||$304,735|
|2016||$5,300||PCA Main Event||4th||$267,340|
|2013||$10,000||LAPC Main Event||6th||$193,560|
|2012||$5,250||EPT Grand Final 6-max||2nd||$170,469|
|2015||$10,000||WSOP Main Event||53rd||$137,300|
|2017||$1,675||WSOP Circuit LA||2nd||$134,145|
|2014||$4,400||WPT Merit North Cyprus||4th||$102,820|