If there were any thoughts that poker is in a slump in Australia, the 2016 Aussie Millions Main Event has put them to rest. The Southern Hemisphere's most prestigious tournament attracted 732 players, up 84 players from the year before, and the largest turnout since 2010.
The increased turnout, which also made it the fourth-largest Aussie Millions Main Event in history, created a juicy $7.32 million prize pool that will be distributed to the top 80 players with AU$1.6 million reserved for the winner. After five one-hour levels of play on Wednesday, 150 players remained in contention with Dylan Honeyman and his stack of 517,200 leading the way.
Jean-Pascal Savard is close after getting most of his chips in Level 11 with aces versus Shai Liu's kings and Benjamin Pollak's jacks. By the time the dust settled, Pollak was crippled and Liu eliminated.
Among the others who will return on Day 3 Thursday are Bobby Zhang (425,900), Daniel Engels (421,300), Jason Brown (401,600), and James Obst (378,500), who all bagged big stacks. Also still alive are Samantha Abernathy (269,500), Mustapha Kanit (269,000), Philipp Gruissem (260,100), Kitty Kuo (233,800), Ari Engel (228,600), Stephen Chidwick (222,900), and Joe Hachem (139,700).
Of course not everyone was so fortunate. Among those to fall on Day 2 were 2015 European Poker Media Person of the Year Marc Convey, EPT12 Malta champ Niall Farrell, Australian Poker Hall of Fame member Gary Benson, Team PokerStars Pro members Celina Lin, Yaxi Zhu, Bryan Huang, Randy Lew, and Jason Mercier, as well as former Aussie Millions champs Manny Stavropoulos and Tyron Krost, who were both eliminated by the same man — the aforementioned Pollak.
Stavropoulos, the defending champ, fell early on when he ran pocket nines into Pollak's tens and Krost followed him out the door a short time later. If you recall, Krost won the Tournament of Champions back in 2012 — which invited all former Aussie Millions winners to an invite-only freeroll. As a result, he won free buy-ins to the Aussie Millions Main Event for life. Krost was freerolling, but his hope of cashing in came to an end when he ran jacks into Pollak's pocket kings.
That left Ami Barer as the only former champ still in contention. Barer, who topped a field of 668 two years ago, is in good shape to make another deep run bagging a stack of 260,000.
Day 3 will kick off at 12:30 p.m. local time on Thursday and the money bubble will burst as players look to make it through seven levels of play.
Mohammed Afiouni Wins the $1,150 No-Limit Hold'em/Pot-Limit Omaha
Mohammed Afiouni took down the 2016 Aussie Millions Event #15: $1,150 No-Limit Hold'em/Pot-Limit Omaha title inside the Crown Poker Room Wednesday evening.
Afiouni collected $35,985 in prize money for the win, along with an exclusive LK Boutique Aussie Millions championship ring.
The second day of this two-day event started with 15 players remaining from a field of 135 and 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Joe Hachem's son Daniel Hachem holding the chip lead.
Within the first hour they were down to a final table of nine and it wasn't long before Michael Seymour busted to Afiouni to place ninth. Gavin Eke lost a classic race to Doug Corning to bow out eighth and Dominik Nitsche got his queens cracked by Linh Tran's jacks to end his run seventh.
Tran had the lead after he busted last woman standing Pallas Aidinian in sixth, but Afiouni soon took over with a series of aggressive plays that left the rest of the table on their heels. Five-handed play last for some time before Frank Pezzaniti shipped his stack over to Corning and Tran busted fourth a few hands after losing a massive pot-limit Omaha pot in set-over-set fashion to Afiouni.
Afiouni had a big lead when three-handed play began and despite the fact Hachem took care of Corning third, he still managed to take a 2-1 lead into heads-up play.
With news that Hachem's son had made it to heads-up spreading around the Crown Poker Room fast, the rail filled up with supporters, including the face of Australian poker himself: Joe Hachem.
The younger Hachem managed to grind his way into the lead, but when his big slick fell to Afiouni's nines in a massive confrontation, he was left with little more than a chip and a chair.
In the end, the deficit proved too much and local grinder Mohammed Afiouni beat Hachem to win his first Aussie Millions title.
Final Table Results
The $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em Draws 190
Event #16: $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em drew a total of 190 entries Wednesday. Plans were to play down to a final table or 2 a.m. and return Thursday to play down to a champion.
After 12 Levels of play, 34 players remained and will return Thursday with Ferenc Riech leading. The top 21 players will get paid with $106,920 reserved for the winner.
The 2016 Aussie Millions Poker Championship Continues
The 2016 Aussie Millions Poker Championship continues Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, with Day 3 of the $10,600 No-Limit Holdem Main Event kicking off at 12:30 p.m.
Thursday will also see the final day of Event #16: $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em begin at 1 p.m. and the start of two new events: Event #17: $1,150 Tournament of Champions at 2:10 p.m. and Event #18: $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha at 6:10 p.m.