Somewhat overshadowed in the early stages of the 2019 tournament poker season has been action “Down Under.” The 2019 Aussie Millions schedule has been being played over the past week with several preliminary events already in the books. One of the bigger tournaments of the early schedule, the $25,000 Challenge, wrapped up yesterday as players look forward to the Main Event and other high-dollar tournaments.
Rainer Kempe Rules $25,000 Challenge, Off to Good 2019 Start
In the $25,000 challenge, a record 151 entry field came to the fore to battle for the championship. While some of the usual suspects were there among the final 29 players on Day 2, including 2019 Global Poker Index Player of the Year Alex Foxen, Koray Aldemir, and Sorel Mizzi, they would quickly depart and not earn anything for their efforts. The field continued to whittle itself down, looking to get to the final 17 who would be paid the minimum $63,420 (Australian dollars).
When the money bubble popped, it did it not once but twice. As hand for hand play was in action, Najeem Ajez fell to Jack Salter as Salter rivered trips against him, while Kempe took out Jack O’Neil when his pocket Kings stood tall over O’Neil’s Big Slick. Since they were eliminated on the same hand, both Ajez and O’Neil split the 17th place payday and walked out of the Crown Casino in Melbourne with $31,710.
Once those players who would earn a cash were determined, things began to move a bit more freely. Short stacks such as Kitty Kuo, who survived with only two big blinds the bubble pop, was one of the first to go, just before 2018 World Series of Poker Europe champion Jack Sinclair’s tournament came to an end. Once Martijn Gerrits was eliminated in tenth place right before the dinner break, the unofficial final table was set.
Kempe was in charge at this point and he wouldn’t falter. Although 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event champion David ‘Chino’ Rheem would charge up the ladder and seize the lead at one point, Kempe would shoot him down in a race situation, his Big Chick (A-Q) catching Rheem’s pocket nines to eliminate Rheem in third. With only Toby Lewis standing in his way, Kempe was able to discuss a deal that saw Kempe earn about $5000 more than he would have if it played out to the end and the championship of the $25,000 Challenge.
1. Rainer Kempe, $831,465*
2. Toby Lewis, $781,214*
3. David ‘Chino’ Rheem, $416,760
4. Guillaume Nolet, $308,040
5. Gautam Dhingra, $217,440
6. Luke Marsh, $154,020
7. Jack Salter, $117,780
(* – denotes heads-up deal)
Aussie Millions Main Event in Action, $50K, $100K Challenges Yet to Come
The jewel of the Aussie Millions, the $10,000 Main Event, is in action as we speak. Lewis, fresh off his runner up finish in the $25,000 Challenge, will be looking to defend his title in this event but it won’t be on Sunday (the Main Event has three Day Ones). In 2018, the Main Event set a record by racking up 800 entries and it is expected that record may be challenged this year.
The Main Event is certainly not the only tournament drawing the attention of the players. The $50,000 Challenge is running concurrently with the Main Event and it has drawn a strong field despite some scheduling difficulties. There is also the $100,000 Challenge on the horizon, set to begin on Friday (February 1) and close out the Aussie Millions alongside the crowning of the Main Event champion.
For the next week, the Crown Casino in Melbourne will have the attention of the poker world with the 2019 Aussie Millions. Will its next Main Event champion be a noted poker professional? Or will an unknown emerge from the Outback to become the next poker legend? Whichever occurs it promises to be intriguing.