In 2014, as Joel Williams took on his first solo year as tournament director for Crown Melbourne, a local player qualified in a $65 satellite for the Opening Event and eventually took sixth for $63K.
He had previously played in tournaments in the $50 to $100 range, so this was a huge score. Thus, when it came time to collect, the player requested his entire sum in $50 notes – simply because he’d never felt so much cash before in his life.
This is Williams’ favorite memory of the Aussie Millions. So far. It stands next to the Manny Stavropoulos Main Event win a year later because a local triumphed over a star-studded field with very little experience.
The Aussie Millions, as one of players’ favorite tournaments of the year, will have more offerings this year and up the turnout, despite PokerStars’ absence.
“I think we’ve stamped ourselves as a ‘must attend’ stop on the global poker calendar,” Williams said. “From the high roller events to the Opening Event that offers a $1 million prize pool guarantee through to a full complement of poker disciplines right across the board, we absolutely endeavor to offer something for everyone.”
This year is no different. Last year’s satellites generated a record of 312 entries to the Main Event. The local satellite program for the Aussie Millions is up over 100 percent year-on-year and two Aussie Millions Warm-Up Weeks enabled 25 players to already lock in their seats.
This year’s Main Event will exceed last year’s total of 732, due to the success of these warm-up weeks, in-room satellites and the upcoming 10 Seat Guarantee. The number of email inquiries, hotel bookings and wire transfer requests already received make Williams think the 2017 field will be even stronger.
Williams looks at the numbers and the events already slotted and said this year promises to be even bigger than the previously-eclipsed $1 million guarantee of yesteryear. A four-flight Opening Event starts the series off with a bang and crowd pleasers like the $1,150 Six-Max, $1,650 Bounty and $1,500 Deep Freeze will make a reappearance.
Events will recognize past Aussie Millions winners and current Australian Hall of Famers in addition to the range of high roller and super high roller events that will already attract players, given Aussie Millions’ reputation of hosting world-class tournaments with some of the world’s best staff.
“Both Aussie Millions and the city of Melbourne serve to attract players from all across the globe each and every year,” Williams said. “We believe our tournament structures and cash-game offerings are world class and remain confident that the Crown Melbourne complex ranks among the most luxurious in the world.”
Even so, growth and constant evolution are a focus and the tournament will continue with its preference of having players dictate its next direction, Williams said.
New events on the schedule include the $1,150 PLO Hi-Lo, due to overwhelming public demand, and Aussie Millions’ own Hyper Turbo 10/10/10. The tournament’s additional location in the exhibition hall grows the tournament’s table count by 35 tables, placing the total at almost 100 tables.
Crown Poker has always prided itself on both embracing change as well as remaining up-to-date with current player preferences and trends.
“Hi-Lo has been in the Aussie Millions ‘wilderness’ for far too long and I’m delighted to offer it as a championship event again,” Williams said. “The Hyper Turbo has attracted gone from almost a ‘cult’ following at Crown Melbourne to steadily growing in popularity with players of all types and sizes. To now see it slotted on the official championship schedule is (personally) extremely satisfying.”
Williams’ favorite event is the Hyper Turbo 10/10/10 because the action speeds up while retaining enough integrity to be called a championship event. He says he’s excited to see how it turns out on an international stage in the Aussie Millions.
Other favorites are the Main Event – because of the most attention and backstories developed out of it – and the $25 and $100K Challenges, as their growth continues to rise.
These changes are in an effort to meet the needs of today’s players, consistently changing since the Aussie Millions’ launch in 2001.
“Crown Poker has always prided itself on both embracing change as well as remaining up-to-date with current player preferences and trends,” Williams said. “We are constantly evolving and remain committed to seek out and embrace player feedback and suggestions.”
This year, unlike last, will have a noticeable absence: PokerStars. Going it alone, Williams said, is something that may impact the tournament but brings up the tournament’s history prior to PokerStars as well.
“All good things come to an end!" he said. "We were really grateful for the time with PokerStars and feel that both benefited from the experience. It’s important to remember however that Aussie Millions has grown organically over a number of years prior to the Stars deal and as such we’re excited to begin a new journey starting in 2017.”
Jason Somerville was the exclusive broadcast partner of Aussie Millions last year on Twitch. Williams said that medium was amazing for people seeking content and completely new and foreign to the tournament.
“To work so closely with Jason was fantastic and the live stream viewer numbers reinforced the fact that this is definitely the right direction for poker streaming in future,” he said.
Somerville will commentate on the Aussie Millions live stream, which is currently scheduled for Jan. 27 (Main Event Day 4), Jan. 28 ($100K Challenge Final Table) and Jan. 29 (Main Event Final Table).
For players just tuning into the Aussie Millions for the first time in Australia, Williams had these recommendations.
“Ensure that you eat, drink and experience all that Melbourne has to offer in January,” he said. “From the amazing cafes, restaurants and bars, through to the Australian Open Tennis and International Cricket just five minutes down to the road, Melbourne is such a vibrant and exciting city that we always urge players to take some time away from the felt to explore the world’s ‘most livable city.’”
Reporting contributed by Frank Op de Woerd