Ari Engel Rides Start of Day Chip Lead to Aussie Millions Main Event Championship; Byron Kaverman Leads $250,000 Challenge

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After riding his start of day chip lead to heads up action, Ari Engel had to endure an epic battle against Tony Dunst to emerge as the champion of the Aussie Millions Main Event. As that mano y mano war played out, guys with plenty of money to toss around were taking part in Day One of the LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge.

Aussie Millions Main Event

Coming to the final table after a day to rest and reflect, Engel and Dunst held the 1-2 positions on the leaderboard. Engel’s 8.155 million chips massively dominated Dunst’s 5.99 million and Dunst likewise dominated the remainder of the field. His closest competitor was Samantha Abernathy, who sat behind a 2.485 million stack, and Alexander Lynskey’s 2.39 million in play. Kitty Kuo (1.005 million), John Apostolidis (960K) and Dylan Honeyman (885K) would have to find a double up quick to get their names back in the championship quest.

As she had been on Day 4, Abernathy continued to be active at the final table. She was responsible for eliminating Apostolidis in seventh place when his Big Slick failed to catch up with her pocket ladies and his chips pushed her closer to Dunst. Abernathy was saved, however, when she tried to knock off Honeyman after he moved all in. That time, her Big Slick ran up against Honeyman’s pocket Aces, but the board ran out with a straight (5-8-9-7-6) to chop up the pot.

With three players – Kuo, Lynskey and Honeyman – all under a million in chips, it became apparent there was going to be some early clashes at the final table. Honeyman got his double first through Engel, his pocket sevens surviving from the small blind against Engel’s all-in move out of the cutoff pre-flop with a suited 5-2. Next was Lynskey, whose pocket Aces survived an open-ended straight and flush draw sweat against Abernathy to capture more chips. Kuo, however, was not so fortunate.

On the button, Engel would push out a bet and Kuo, in the small blind, responded with a shove of roughly 700K in chips. After Honeyman pondered in the big blind but eventually released his hand, Engel made the call and it was off to the races:  Engel’s pocket nines were in the lead against Kuo’s A-J off suit. There was paint on the flop, but it was a Queen rather than a Jack and another Queen came on the turn. When the river six failed to hit Kuo, she was done for the Aussie Millions in sixth place.

With Engel now over the 10 million mark, Dunst had to catch up. He did that by dumping Honeyman from the tournament in dramatic fashion. Under the gun, Dunst raised the betting to 125K and saw danger in Engel making the call from the button. In the small blind, however, Honeyman looked down, liked what he saw and pushed a three-bet to the center of the baize. Undaunted, Dunst fired right back with a four-bet of 800K, which was enough for Engel to release his hand. Honeyman didn’t slow down either, putting the remainder of his stack. After Dunst called off the few more chips to make up the difference, the cards came up.

Dunst’s aggression with the A-K from under the gun short-handed was expected, as was Honeyman’s aggression with pocket Jacks from the small blind. Honeyman’s Jacks got better with a Jack on the flop, but it was joined by a ten that gave Dunst a gut shot draw at Broadway. A King on the turn didn’t change anything, but the lightning bolt of a Queen on the river completely reversed the fortunes. In making his straight, Dunst knocked out Honeyman in fifth place and drew right behind Engel in the hunt for the championship.

Now down to four-handed play, no one wanted to take the long walk out of the Crown Casino. It would take almost 40 hands (the previous three eliminations had occurred within the first 35 hands of the tournament) before Engel sent Lynskey out of the tournament in fourth place and approximately another 20 before a valiant Abernathy dropped in third place at the hands of Dunst. Down to heads up, the top two at the start of the day – Engel and Dunst – were squaring off for the title, with Dunst now in the lead by almost three million chips.

Over the span of 30 hands, Engel whittled away at the lead, drawing it down to only 1.9 million and took the lead after another 20 hands. Both players made excellent laydowns – Dunst’s laydown of a top pair of Aces after Engel turned a set of Queens was especially noteworthy – but gradually Engel began to increase his lead. After 120 hands of heads-up action, the end would finally come.

Looking at an A-4 on the button, Dunst opened up with a 325K bet that was three-bet by Engel to 925K with a J-7 off suit. After making the call, the 10-4-2 kept Dunst in the lead but Engel fired again, this time for 825K. Dunst made the call with his middle pair to a turn that would spell his demise. A Jack fell, pushing Engel into the lead and he fired another bullet. Behind for the first time, Dunst called again and, after a nine fell on the river, Engel moved all in. Dunst pondered the board, Engel’s actions and his decision, eventually determining that Engel’s story didn’t make sense. Once Engel showed his J-7 for the best hand, Dunst could only muck his cards as Engel captured the Aussie Millions Main Event title.

1. Ari Engel, $1,600,000
2. Tony Dunst, $1,000,000
3. Samantha Abernathy, $625,000
4. Alexander Lynskey, $445,000
5. Dylan Honeyman, $340,000
6. Kitty Kuo, $270,000
7. John Apostolidis, $210,000

LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge

If you had an extra $250,000 burning a hole in your pocket, then the Aussie Millions had an event for you. The LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge, now in its sixth year of play, brought together some of the most well-heeled players who decided they wanted to stick around for a few more days of poker in Melbourne. Day One kicked off alongside the Aussie Millions Main Event and, as the day wore along, there was surprisingly some confusion about just how the tournament was going to be run.

As the day started, only four players were in their chairs for the battle. Igor Kurganov, Paul Newey, Ben Tollerene and Fedor Holz were passing chips around between each other, waiting for the field to grow. One player that was pretty much ensured to show up was two-time defending champion Phil Ivey, who came in a bit late but ready to defend his crown. He would be joined by Brian Rast and Jason Mercier as the end of the first level passed.

Holz would bust out to Rast but, after Erik Seidel and Byron Kaverman bought in and Holz rebought, the first problems arose. The 10 men divided themselves into two tables of five, but how eliminations would be handled was complex. If a player immediately reentered, he would be able to draw from seats at either table. However, if the player didn’t reenter immediately, the field would collapse to one table. If another new player (or a reentry) came, then there would be a redraw to go back to two tables. Furthermore, the tournament would pay three players unless there were 20 entries in the tournament, at which point a fourth payout would kick in.

The gentlemen on the felt didn’t really care about this, they simply went about the task of playing the tournament. Steve O’Dwyer, Connor Drinan, Sam Greenwood, David Peters and Fabian Quoss all came to the fray, driving the unique entries up to 14 (15 entries overall). With only Seidel and Mercier being eliminated on Day One, there are 12 players still active:

1. Byron Kaverman, 705,000
2. Fedor Holz, 440,500
3. Paul Newey, 395,500
4. Steve O’Dwyer, 388,500
5. David Peters, 365,500
6. Brian Rast, 278,000
7. Ben Tollerene, 263,000
8. Igor Kurganov, 262,500
9. Connor Drinan, 238,000
10. Fabian Quoss, 223,000
11. Sam Greenwood, 133,000
12. Phil Ivey, 52,500

Late registration for this tournament is open until the start of action on Day Two at 2:30PM in Melbourne on Monday (10:30PM Sunday night Eastern Time) and it is possible that Seidel, Mercier and a few others might jump into the game. If five more entries are received, four players will be paid. If not, then the top prize will be $1,837,500, a nice way to depart Australia after another outstanding Aussie Millions festival.

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