2016 Aussie Millions: Tony Dunst Seizes Lead in Main Event, Ben Tollerene Holds Lead in $100K Challenge with Final Table Suspended

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After a flurry of activity on Day 3 in Melbourne, Australia, Tony ‘Bond_18’ Dunst is at the helm of the Aussie Millions Main Event. As Dunst holds a sizeable lead in one of poker’s unofficial “majors,” Ben Tollerene will have a couple of days to ponder his position as the chip leader of the $100,000 Challenge, which reached its final table on Thursday and will be suspended until Saturday.

Aussie Millions Main Event

150 players stepped back to the tables “Down Under” on Thursday, looking to pop the money bubble at 80 players left and send some people home with the first cashes from the $7.32 million (Australian) prize pool. Jean-Pascal Savard used a late night surge to sit atop the leaderboard with his 455,200 in chips, but Dunst himself was also the beneficiary of a little late night “magic” on Day 2. On Wednesday, Dunst had taken down both Julius Colman and Richard Ashby when his pocket Kings stood strong over Ashby’s pocket Queens and Colman’s pocket Jacks; the 229,700 in chips Dunst picked up in the hand put him in prime condition in the middle of the pack to be a strong threat during Thursday’s play.

Dunst was rather quiet in the early going, but he would surge to the lead five hours into the day’s play when he clashed with Savard. After an early position raise, Savard three bet the action and Dunst, in the big blind, pushed out a four bet of 55K. That was enough to get the original raiser out of the way, but Savard called to see a 5 Q♠ 7 flop and all hell broke loose. Dunst would lead out from the big blind for 48K and, after Savard moved all in, called immediately.

Once the cards were on their backs, the hand played itself. Dunst’s pocket Queens had found top set on the flop, but Savard’s A 4 had flopped a nut flush draw. An Ace paired up Savard on the turn, but that wasn’t what he was looking for. Down to any diamond other than the Queen, Savard instead saw the 2♠ complete the board, shipping a 327K chip pot and the chip lead to Dunst.

Along the way, some prominent names came up short of the money. Manig Loeser, defending World Series of Poker Asia/Pacific champion Scott Davies, former World Champion Martin Jacobson, Dzmitry Urbanovich, Ami Barer, Erik Seidel and Fabian Quoss all were long gone by the time that Mark Bevan’s Big Slick fell to Artur Koren’s pocket Kings, sending Bevan to the rail in 81st position ($0) and guaranteeing the remaining 80 players a minimum $ 15,000 payday. Liv Boeree, former World Champion Joe Hachem and his brother Tony, Max Silver and Savard all were recipients of the early money from the Aussie Millions prize pool.

Dunst was in the mix on the top of the leaderboard when another massive hand solidified his position. After a raise from Philipp Gruissem, Pascal Hartmann decided to make a stand with an all-in. Dunst, this time in the small blind, simply called and Gruissem, sensing weakness, moved all in over Dunst. Dunst made the call and faced a challenge against his opposition:

Hartmann:  9♣ 9
Gruissem:  Q♠ Q♣
Dunst:  A J♠

When the A♣ K♣ 8♣ flop came, Dunst was in a tenuous lead as Gruissem picked up a flush draw and Hartmann was still alive with his set potential. A seven on the turn was black, but it was a spade and not a club. Once another eight came on the river, Dunst had survived the sweat for his second double knockout of the tournament and retaken the lead, which he would not relinquish for the remainder of the evening:

1. Tony Dunst, 1.627 million
2. James Obst, 1.196 million
3. Samantha Abernathy, 1.195 million
4. Alexander Lynskey, 1.073 million
5. Artur Koren, 1.009 million
6. Ari Engel, 834,000
7. Bobby Zhang, 809,000
8. Kitty Kuo, 783,000
9. Martin Rowe, 729,000
10. Dylan Honeyman, 726,000

The final 40 players will return for Day 4 on Friday at 12:30 local time (8:30PM Eastern Time Friday evening), where the field will be whittled down to the final table. Everyone coming back on Sunday will earn at least $25,000, but the eyes of all are on the $1.6 million that will go to the champion of the Aussie Millions.

Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge

Of the 37 players who came into the $100,000 Challenge, only 18 came back on Friday’s Day 2 for action. By the end of the day, Ben Tollerene emerged as the man to beat, the only one who was sitting over a million chips as the final table took a break until Saturday.

The 41-entry field generated a bit more than a $4 million prize pool but, due to the lack of players actually stepping to the event, only the final table – six players – will actually receive any of the largesse from the tournament. Thus, the battles were frequent through the day on Thursday, with names such as Igor Kurganov (in for a whopping FIVE buy-ins), Steve O’Dwyer, Erik Seidel and Pratyush Buddiga falling to the wayside as the day rolled along. Former World Champion Martin Jacobson was looking as if he would be a shoo-in for the final table, but he would run into Fedor Holz to devastate his stack; he would depart before the final nine were determined.

The plan had been to stop at that point, but they played it on down to the money. David Peters was the next to go and former $100K champion David Steicke hit the rail in eighth to bring the field to the money bubble. No one wanted to be the one to leave with nothing – especially so close to the final table – but eventually Jason Koon ran Big Slick in Connor Drinan’s pocket Aces to close the evening’s action.

1. Ben Tollerene, 1.522 million
2. Connor Drinan, 943,000
3. Jason Mercier, 508,000
4. Fabian Quoss, 478,000
5. Sam Greenwood, 458,000
6. Fedor Holz, 192,000

The $100,000 Challenge appears to be Tollerene’s to lose with his big chip lead. If Drinan is able to get ahold of some more chips, however, he could present a threat. There is also some danger lurking with Mercier should he get a double.

The champion of the $100,000 will be determined on Saturday (taking Friday off), as the Aussie Millions Main Event final table takes a day off for preparation. Everyone is already guaranteed the minimum payday of $281,260, but the $1,446,480 for first place would be a much needed shot in the bankroll for any poker player.

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