Many woman poker players around the world are packed and ready months in advance to jet-set across the planet to the Land Down Under – Australia. In January they will be sweating it out from both the change of temperature and from the hands of poker they will play in the Aussie Millions Poker Championship.
Until a few years back there were only a few woman players away from the Australian shores who headed to the wide brown land to take a shot at the world-class action and the millions of dollars in prize money. This all changed when woman poker players such as Annette Obrestad started venturing across and Aussie women alike started cashing in the thousands.
The increase in players is not limited to women obviously. Many male players from Europe, Asia, USA and Canada are also seen migrating to Crown Casino in Melbourne. Not only they have a fabulous time on the felt playing in up to 40 major events, but also enjoy the attractions and the parties.
Crown Casino spares no expense. The player parties are fabulously catered and the entertainment is fantastic; there is usually an Aussie theme to make everyone feel right at home whilst at the same time giving them a good taste of the Australian culture. It is more than expected that on return to your home turf you have likely learnt the words of The Land Down Under by Men at Work, eaten a Vegemite sandwich and possibly held a snake, crocodile or other Australian fauna icon.
During the championship series it isn’t just poker that is on the agenda for many of the lady players. Many take short breaks from poker and make their way to the Australian Open to watch their favourite tennis players take to the court. The Australian Open is just a short stroll from the casino. Other players go to the Melbourne Zoo to have lunch in picnic areas with kangaroos hopping about and koalas in the gum trees. If the mammals are not their cup of tea, they have the Melbourne aquarium to visit, where they can see a spectacular amount of ocean life, including massive stingrays, which sadly led to the death of Aussie icon Steve Irwin, better known as the crocodile hunter!
Those lucky enough to take down an Aussie Millions event receive more than just the money. These players are given an exclusive Aussie Millions ring to proudly wear on their hand for eternity such as Annette Obrestad who was the first woman to solely win an Aussie Millions gold ring in the large and difficult field of players in Omaha in January 2010.
The calibre of player can get no better and if you are a poker fan, you will see just about every poker celeb. You will come across Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Chris Ferguson and of course local favourite Joe Hachem, the 2005 WSOP main event winner. They are always shown on feature tables for the crowd to enjoy and cheer on, although they are not always victorious of course.
Since June 1997 when the main event was a $1,000 buy in limit hold’em tournament that attracted only 74 entries with a $74,000 prize pool, the Aussie Millions has grown beyond belief. The 2008 championship, as an example, concluded with a record 780 players, which generated a prize pool of $7,800,000 with each entrant paying $10,500AUD each. The top 80 players were in the money and received between $15,000 and $1,650,000. The numbers have not stopped growing with 2009 and 2010 bigger again.
Since 1997, the structure of the tournament has also changed and is no longer a limit hold’em event. While most major hold’em tournaments, including the World Series of Poker, play at nine-handed tables throughout, the Aussie Millions main event begins with eight-handed tables. Play continues eight-handed until the field is reduced to 36 players, at which point all tables are six-handed. Day 1 is usually split into three flights.
All in all the Aussie Millions is not something that a female professional poker player usually misses and the casual female players around the world have also started joining in. From an Australian point of view, I cannot wait to shuffle up and deal.