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Guide to the Aussie Millions Poker Championship

The Aussie Millions Poker Championship is the biggest poker tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. It takes place annually at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia.

Officially the Crown Australian Poker Championship, it’s known as the Aussie Millions because the winner typically takes home at least A$1 million in prize money.

You know that there has to be something pretty exciting happening when this tournament convinces major US poker stars like Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu to travel all the way to Australia.

In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about the Aussie Millions poker tournament, including details about the winners and events.

Aussie Millions Tournament Structure

The format of the Aussie Millions is similar to the World Series of Poker. It consists of a number of poker tournaments as part of a series.

There are several preliminary/qualifying events, followed by an intense Main Event.

Every January, hundreds of international poker players descend on Melbourne, Australia, to try their luck.

The Crown Casino is the home of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship.

The preliminary events include dozens of poker variations and game formats. The Main Event is always no-limit Texas hold‘em, though.

For the first two years of the tournament it was pot limit, and the buy-in was only $1,000.

The organizers changed the game format and raised the buy-in to accommodate all of the international players interested in the tournament. Today, the buy-in is $10,000 (+ $500).

A key difference between the Aussie Millions Main Event and many other major poker tournaments is that it starts with eight players at the table instead of nine. When the player pool gets down to the top thirty-six, they shift to a six-handed format.

The smaller number of competitors impacts players’ strategies. Each round goes faster because there are not as many players.

Poker pros know that short-handed games require more aggressive action. You don’t have as many players involved, so you typically raise and call more often.

Because the Aussie Millions tournament includes both eight-handed and six-handed tables, players have to be able to adapt to different strategies and structures.

Professional poker players appreciate the varied structure in the Crown Australian Poker Championship because it makes it easier for them to pick off inexperienced players and shows their adaptability.

They recognize the players who do not adjust their strategy and target them. Amateur players can be intimidated by this, so they end up making mistakes.

The Aussie Millions seems similar to other poker tournaments on the surface, but the unique structure forces players to use multiple skills and adapt. That makes it a different kind of poker tournament.

Past Winners of the Aussie Millions Main Event

Here is a look at all of the winners, prize pools, and the number of entrants for the Crown Australian Poker Championships since the tournament began.

Year Winner 1st Place Prize Number of Buy-ins Total Prize Pool
2020 Vincent Wan (Australia) $1,318,000 820 $8,200,000
2019 Bryn Kenney (United States) $1,272,598 822 $8,220,000
2018 Toby Lewis (England) $1,458,198 800 $8,000,000
2017 Shurane Vijayaram (Australia) $1,600,000 725 $7,685,000
2016 Ari Engel (Canada) $1,600,000 732 $7,320,000
2015 Manny Stavropoulos (Australia) $1,385,500 648 $6,480,000
2014 Ami Barer (Canada) $1,600,000 668 $6,680,000
2013 Mervin Chan (Malaysia) $1,600,000 629 $6,290,000
2012 Oliver Speidel (Australia) $1,600,000 659 $6,590,000
2011 David Gorr (Australia) $2,000,000 721 $7,210,000
2010 Tyron Krost (Australia) $2,000,000 746 $7,460,000
2009 Stewart Scott (Australia) $2,000,000 681 $6,810,000
2008 Alexander Kostritsyn (Russia) $1,650,000 780 $7,758,500
2007 Gus Hansen (Denmark) $1,500,000 747 $7,470,000
2006 Lee Nelson (New Zealand) $1,295,800 418 $4,180,000
2005 Jamil Dia (New Zealand) $1,000,000 263 $2,630,000
2004 Tony Bloom (England) $426,500 133 $1,330,000
2003 Peter Costa (England) $394,870 122 $1,220,000
2002 John Maver (Australia) $150,000 66 $330,000
2001 Sam Korman (Australia) $53,025 101 $151,500
2000 Leo Boxell (Australia) $65,225 109 $173,500
1999 Milo Nadalin (Australia) $38,150 109 $109,000
1998 Alex Horowitz (Australia) $25,900 74 $74,000

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As with other big poker tournaments, it’s not uncommon for the remaining few players to agree to a “chop.”

This is where the players make a deal to split at least some of the prize money equally, regardless of finishing position. They then play through to a climax for the title and any remaining proze money.

High Roller Events at the Aussie Millions

The Aussie Millions features two high-roller tournaments.

If you happen to have an extra quarter-million dollars laying around, you can enjoy the Super High Roller Aussie Millions Challenge. The “standard” High Roller Challenge is available for A$100,000.

Because of the massive size of these buy-ins, the prize pools for the high roller tournaments are incredibly high even though they have don’t attract large numbers of entrants.

All of the past high roller tournaments have generated prize pools of several millions of dollars. The highest prize pool for the Super High Roller tournament happened in 2014. It was more than A$11.2 million.

But, only a handful of players are willing to risk such large the buy-ins.

  • The highest ever number of entrants to the Super High Roller Challenge is 30.
  • The highest ever number of entrants to the High Roller Challenge is 47.

The Aussie Millions high roller events often include some of the best poker players in the world. Phil Ivey has won the Aussie Millions Super High Roller tournament three times, representing the three largest single event wins of his career.

Some additional rules affect the gameplay during these high roller tournaments.

Pre-flop betting has a pot limit, but after the flop, there are no limits. Players also have a thirty-second-time limit to make their moves.

Each player receives three extensions that they can use at any point during the tournament. The extensions only give them an extra thirty seconds each.

Watching these high roller events is an excellent way to learn how some of the biggest names in poker act under the pressure of a time limit. You can view the tournaments on Twitch or Poker Go.

Previous Winners of the High Roller $100,000 Challenge

Year Winner Prize Entries Total Prize Pool
2020 Kahle Burns A$1,746,360 54 A$5,292,000
2019 Cary Katz A$1,481,760 42 A$4,116,000
2018 Michael Lim A$931,000 19 A$1,862,000
2017 Nick Petrangelo A$882,000 18 A$1,764,000
2016 Fabian Quoss A$1,446,480 41 A$4,018,000
2015 Richard Yong A$1,870,000 70 A$6,860,000
2014 Yevgeniy Timoshenko A$2,000,000 47 A$7,486,000
2013 Andrew Robl A$1,000,000 22 A$2,200,000
2012 Dan Smith A$1,012,000 22 A$2,200,000
2011 Sam Trickett A$1,525,000 38 A$3,800,000
2010 Daniel Shak A$1,200,000 24 A$2,400,000
2009 David Steicke A$1,200,000 23 A$2,300,000
2008 Howard Lederer A$1,250,000 25 A$2,500,000
2007 Erick Lindgren A$1,000,000 18 A$1,800,000
2006 John Juanda A$1,000,000 10 A$1,000,000

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Previous Winners of the Super High Roller $250,000 Challenge

Year Winner Prize Entries Total Prize Pool
2016 Steve O’Dwyer A$951,960 16 A$3,920,000
2015 Phil Ivey A$2,205,000 25 A$6,105,000
2014 Phil Ivey A$4,000,000 30 A$11,270,000
2013 Sam Trickett A$2,000,000 18 A$4,500,000
2012 Phil Ivey A$2,000,000 16 A$4,000,000
2011 Erik Seidel A$2,500,000 20 A$5,000,000

Shaz Vijayaram and Other Noteworthy Players

Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and poker tournaments are full of them.

Most poker tournaments are open to everyone, and they often offer satellite entries. This gives amateurs the opportunity to play against the professionals.

In some rare cases the amateurs come out on top. The most famous example is the appropriately-named Chris Moneymaker.

He paid $86 to enter a satellite tournament and went on to win the 2003 World Series of Poker for $2.5 million. Moneymaker’s story inspired amateur poker players the world over.

The Crown Australian Poker Championships has its own example of an amateur player beating out the pros. His name is Shurane (Shaz) Vijayaram.

How Vijayaram Won the Aussie Millions

In 2017, Shaz visited the Crown Casino in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, one week before the Aussie Millions tournament began.

He entered a satellite tournament with a buy-in of A$130. Instead of winning a cash prize, he won a seat at the Aussie Millions Main Event.

For the next eight days, Shaz played poker against some of the greatest names in poker. It was his first high-stakes tournament ever.

After beating 723 other players, Shaz went head to head with professional poker player Ben Heath.

On the last hand, Heath went all-in, and Shaz called him. Shaz’s decision was surprising because he had a pair of fives. It was an okay hand, but not something that most players would risk it all for.

Fortunately, Shaz was right to call. Heath was bluffing. All he had in his hand was a king-eight. The flop, turn, and river cards didn’t benefit either player. Shaz won with an “unreal” call on a pair of fives.

Shaz Vijaryaram winning the 2017 Aussie Millions

His final prize was A$1.6 million, which is impressive considering that he only spent A$130 to enter the tournament and it was the first time he had ever played a high-stakes game.

In an interview after the match, Shaz had this to say.

“I’ve always just tried to play cards and relax; it’s only a game. I just try to play my best game and not think about people that are really good players. It doesn’t matter who you are; you just have to get the cards.”

Other Noteworthy Players in the Aussie Millions

Here are some other Aussie Millions players who stand out for a few different reasons.

  • Alexander Kostritsyn won the Main Event in 2008, beating professional Erik Siedel. He was only 22 years old, making him the youngest winner in tournament history. The following year, he came back to win the $10,500 H.O.R.S.E. tournament. 
  • Stewart Scott, Tyron Krost, and David Gorr are tied for the largest prizes. They won $2 million each, in consecutive years from 2009-2011. It just so happens that they are all Australians.
  • Mike Del Vecchio has yet to win a bracelet from the Aussie Millions, but he is a noteworthy player anyway. He competed in the tournament for the first time in 2018, and he has placed in the money every year since then.
  • Phil Ivey has won the Aussie Millions Super High Roller $250,000 Challenge three times, winning more than A$8 million combined.  
  • Vincent “Wonky” Wan won the Main Event in 2020. He is a regular player at Crown Casino Melbourne and has won a six-figure Royal Flush prize twice, before his Main Event seven-figure win.
  • Bryn Kenney was the first American player to win the Aussie Millions Main Event in 2019. However, American players have dominated both of the high roller tournaments for several years.
  • Peter Costa was the first foreign player to win the Aussie Millions in 2003.

How To Play in the Aussie Millions

Shaz is right. In the end, poker is all about playing the cards that you get dealt. You can follow his example and play the Aussie Millions for yourself.

The Crown Australia Poker Championship is open to everyone that is over 18 (the legal gambling age in Australia.)

You could pay for the buy-in directly, but that will cost you at least A$10,000. Following in the footsteps of Shurane Vijayaram is probably a better idea.

There are dozens of satellite tournaments available. Some of them only pay for the buy-in, but some satellites also pay for travel expenses.

Even if you do not go on to win the first-place prize, winning an opportunity to participate in the Aussie Millions is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Satellites for the tournament are available at many of the top online poker sites.