After four grueling days (there were two Day Ones) of action, the final 38 players have been determined in the 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. Veteran poker pro Mike Del Vecchio is at the helm of the ship following today’s play, but former champions Ari Engel and Ami Barer are lurking back in the pack with the hopes of becoming the event’s first-ever two-time champion.
158 players returned to the Crown Casino’s tournament arena on Thursday (late Wednesday night in the States of America), each with the dream of capturing Aussie gold. Two Australian players, Najeem Ajez and Frank Pezzaniti, were in the lead at the start of the day with a host of top pros in hot pursuit. Sam Grafton, Jonathan Karamalikis, Fedor Holz, Martin Finger, Harry Demetriou, Jesse Sylvia, and former World Champion Martin Jacobsen were arranged around the tournament room as the call of “shuffle up and deal” rung out.
The start of the day was good for Jacobson as, without having to show down his hand, he was able to pick up a decent stack of chips after calling a river bet from Jack Brown and then watching Brown pitch his hand into the muck. The news wasn’t as good for Sylvia, however. Responding to Duy Ho’s three-bet of his open, Sylvia answered with an all-in move and, after Ho called, it was off to the races. Ho’s pocket tens held the edge against Sylvia’s A-K off suit, and the Queen-high board added a ten on the river to give Ho an unnecessary set. Sylvia headed to the rail, one of the many on Thursday who fell short of the money.
In a change from current protocols, officials at the Crown Casino decided to pay the final 88 players in the tournament. That is slightly more than 10% of the field, a departure from other tournaments which pay anywhere from 15% to 20% of those in the competition. Holding to the usual 10%, however, has allowed this year’s Aussie Millions Main Event to pay the top two slots a million-plus payday, however.
Another player who wouldn’t be around to take part in cutting up the prize pool was Holz. The German wunderkind tried to run an A-9 that flopped a nine against Con Krousoratis, but Krousoratis had the goods. His pocket Queens were still good even after Holz flopped the nine and, after the turn brought another lady to the show, Holz was drawing dead and heading to the exits, albeit temporarily; Holz has already committed to the $100,000 Challenge that begins on Sunday.
The tournament could be said to be sedate until a stunner of a hand before the dinner break. In a hand between he and Jan Pettersson, Del Vecchio made the call of a 63K bet on a 5♣ 3♣ 10♥ to see the turn. A 7♣ on the turn brought the fireworks as Pettersson put out a 140K bet and Del Vecchio moved all in over it. Pettersson made the call and showed only an A♠ K♠ for Ace high, while Del Vecchio had Pettersson drawing dead with his J♣ 8♣. After the meaningless river was dealt (a 10♣, only improving Del Vecchio), Del Vecchio rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with nearly a million in chips.
The pace of eliminations was such that there was no need for the tournament to go to hand-for-hand play. After Matthew Wakeman was unceremoniously dumped from the tournament by Toby Lewis in 89th place, the remaining players were all guaranteed a $15,000 (Australian) payday for their efforts. That knockout opened the floodgates as players picked up an official cash at the Aussie Millions and a new flag for their Hendon Mob resume.
Pettersson, Jacobson, and Finger would all leave on each side of the dinner break, but the consistent over the post-bubble action was Del Vecchio’s charge to the top of the leaderboard. He powered his way over the million-chip mark right after dinner and motored over a million and a half only a couple hours later. In one of the final hands of the evening, Del Vecchio eliminated one of Australia’s favorite poker sons, Tony Hachem (the brother of former World Champion Joe), to break the two million mark and set himself up well for the Day 4 battles on Friday.
1. Mike Del Vecchio, 2.33 million
2. Aaron Lim, 1.358 million
3. Tu Lan, 1.22 million
4. Vincent Chua, 1.089 million
5. Ari Engel, 1.075 million
6. Kahle Burns, 973,000
7. Ben Richardson, 967,000
8. Najeem Ajez, 958,000
9. Espen Solaas, 862,000
10. Saijes Mundadan, 835,000
Engel, the 2016 champion of this event, is in good shape to make that run at a second Aussie Millions Main Event champion. Barer, who took down the title in 2014, is in 25th place with his 428,000 in chips and has a good deal of work to do to get into the mix for his second title.
The Aussie Millions Main Event Day 4 will begin at 12:30PM on Friday in Melbourne (8:30 Thursday night in the States of America) with the plans of working the final 38 players down to a more manageable two tables. The action is being streamed by Jason Somerfield over his Twitch account for the world to see, with the stream going all the way through the crowning of the next champion of the Aussie Millions.