2016 Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge Day One: Steve O’Dwyer Looks to Take Another Title, Leads Final 26 Players

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While it might not draw as much attention as it has in years past, the Aussie Millions still can draw a crowd to the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia. Perhaps because it is summertime “Down Under,” the weather and the heat of the poker tables always seem to bring the international poker community to the shores of Oz for this event, its 19th annual occurrence. Alongside its Main Event, three other tournaments – the $100,000 Challenge, its $250,000 Challenge and the tournament that started today, the $25,000 Challenge – usually feature star studded fields.

The $25,000 Challenge is being played before the Main Event starts this year, giving those with some deep pockets a chance to either warm up a bit before the Main starts or put some money in their pockets and show a profit without even entering the Main. The history of the event is an odd one as, back in 2012, only 20 players joined the fray with Dominykas Karmazinas taking down the win. Igor Kurganov was the champion in 2013 over a 30 player field and Max Altergott emerged victorious in 2014 when the field more than doubled to 65. The defending champion of the tournament, Alexander Trevallion, had to battle his way through 104 entries before taking home a $645,150 (Australian) payday and he was back in the saddle on Friday to defend his title.

With the numbers climbing each year for the event, Crown officials set aside two days for the tournament and that was a wise move. The final number of entries for the event came to 122 in the single rebuy event, of which several players took advantage. Jason Koon, Fedor Holz, Mustapha Kanit, Erik Seidel, Dan Cates, Andrew Lichtenberger and Brian Rast all would fire more than one bullet at the target, with Rast actually being sold a third from the cage. It wasn’t until he reached the floor to play that third one that he was informed that it was a single rebuy tournament (Rast was stuck on a delayed flight when the tournament started so he was unaware of the structure) and he was refunded that third chance.

Once the rebuy period was done, the players learned what they were playing for. Because of the 122 entries, Crown officials determined that 14 players would take home a payday from the tournament, with the minimum cash being $58,560 (all money amounts are in Australian dollars). The final eight players would all earn six figure paydays, with the eventual champion of the $25,000 Challenge earning a nice score of $790,560 for their efforts over two days.

With this information in their minds, the players actually settled in to eliminating the shorter stacks from the field. In the span of four hours, the field went from 72 players to the final 26 that will return on Saturday to contend for the championship. At the top of the leaderboard will be a familiar name, 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $50,000 High Roller Champion Steve O’Dwyer, who bagged up a sizeable lead over Jason Les at the close of business on Friday night:

1. Steve O’Dwyer, 519,000
2. Jason Les, 406,000
3. Eugene Katchalov, 399,000
4. Rainer Kempe, 357,500
5. Alexander Lynskey, 346,000
6. Michael Egan, 326,000
7. Oliver Price, 318,000
8. Igor Kurganov, 314,000
9. Jason Koon, 268,000
10. Ben Tollerene, 263,500

Also in the mix are Dominik Nitsche (258,000), Cates (221,000) and Chance Kornuth (204,000), while Seidel (80,000), Philipp Gruissem (98,000) and Niall Farrell (109,000) have their work cut out for them.

The $25,000 Challenge will conclude on Saturday, which will kick off a week of poker in Australia that few other tournament schedules can even begin to match (and they’ve already been at it for about a week). On Sunday, the Aussie Millions Main Event, with its $10,000 buy-in, will take to the stage alongside the $100,000 Challenge; these two tournaments will run side-by-side through the 30th, with the $100,000 Challenge ending on that day and the Main Event on the 31st. The LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge will cap off the Aussie Millions beginning on January 31 and ending the next day, where the richest players in the game toss bills around like it’s Monopoly money and at least one person will walk away winning a boatload of cash. It will be the rousing end that we’ve come to expect to the month of January…the Aussie Millions, coming to us from the Crown Casino in Melbourne.

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