The 2017 Aussie Millions Poker Championships at Crown Melbourne has concluded after crowning 25 different champions in 26 different events. The poker festival was successful for recreational players, professional players and tournament organizers alike with more events on the schedule and more players participating.
The highlight of the poker festival was the eight-day 2017 Aussie Millions Main Event. Australia’s Shurane Vijayaram, who qualified into the event through a last-minute $130 rebuy tournament at the casino, made a fairy tale dream come true by shipping the tournament for AUD$1,600,000 to collect his first cash in a live poker tournament.
Taiwan’s James Chen also made waves in the tournament. He not only won the first ANTON ring of the series, taking down Event #2: $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. for AUD$39,700, but later in the series also won Event #9: $25,000 No Limit Hold’em Challenge for AUD$861,840.
Crown Melbourne Tournament Director Joel Williams said he believes that the Aussie Millions is now a target event for all types of poker players.
“The Aussie Millions is now known around the world as a ‘bucket list’ event for recreational and professional poker players alike,” explained Williams in an exclusive interview with PokerNews.
The casino is proud that the festival has a strong reputation and credits this to smoothly run tournaments and a wide variety of cash games available to players on all types of budgets.
“The reputation for running smooth, quality tournaments, providing high variety of strong cash game activity and creating an all-around Aussie experience for our customers brings overseas players back time and time again,” Williams boasted. “This realization makes Crown very proud and we really concentrated on selling that opportunity of an amazing experience to players on all budgets.”
2017 Aussie Millions Produces Record Turnout
The 2017 Aussie Millions was the most successful in history with 7,049 entrants generating a huge total of AUD$20,595,525 in combined prizes. This represents an 11 percent increase from the 6,370 entrants in 2016, a 28 percent increase from 2015 and a 36 percent increase from 2014.
Just about every event on the schedule set a new record for the number of entrants with one of the few exceptions being the Aussie Millions Main Event which held steady with 725 entrants this year versus 732 last year.
The growth was not without some challenges. Since 2014, the Aussie Millions was part of the PokerStars-sponsored Asia Pacific Poker Tour. However, that all ended with an announcement made in late August that PokerStars it would be discontinuing its regional tours with future events either falling into the PokerStars Championship or PokerStars Festival categories.
This resulted in the Aussie Millions, whose history dates back to 1998, returning to its old status as a stand-alone event unaffiliated with any established poker tour.
For the first time in years, players were unable to qualify into Aussie Millions events through online qualifiers. One might expect that this would result in an overall decline in entrants, however, the Crown Melbourne planned ahead by adding a plethora of live qualifiers and were not surprised by the growth.
“Crown put a lot of steps in place to attract new players, given the absence of our online partner,” Williams said. “In late January every year, we have many disappointed local players who were not able to win their way into the Main Event.
“The entire Aussie Millions working group has excellent relations with almost every single top poker player in the world.”
“So we added in two highly successful warm-up weeks as early as June last year, and this ensured that the awareness and excitement of the 2017 Aussie Millions was building within the poker community both locally and internationally, and gave everyone as much opportunity as possible to be part of this great event.”
In addition to the many new satellite tournaments, Williams also credits communication with its players as one of the reasons for the festival’s growth and success.
“The entire Aussie Millions working group has excellent relations with almost every single top poker player in the world, and communications start as early as May to ensure the Aussie Millions is again on everyone’s schedules,” Williams explained. “It’s very important for players to have a ‘go-to person’ they can contact anytime and every single person in the Aussie Millions working group contributes to that, and as an added bonus Crown Melbourne has the best Hosting Team in the world. Led by Hayley Breen, she is invaluable. Hayley and her team are held in the highest regard in the poker industry and continually surpass expectations, to constantly assist, and solve all problems that came their way.”
Williams also felt the Aussie Millions was unsurprised by the festival’s success due to its timing and the world-class experience provided.
“The Aussie Millions began earlier than ever before,” stated Williams. “The side event results were very pleasing. The timing was excellent too, as it coincided with the Australian Open and Lunar New Year, plus January in Australia is pretty special. We are confident that if we provide a world-class experience people will continue to make the trip.”
Changes in 2017 and Looking Ahead
The Aussie Millions continues to adapt and look ahead with the help of input from its players. This year’s festival included new events and more space for tables.
“The key was, and always has been, that we listen to player feedback,” Williams said. “We also act on player feedback to the best of our ability. New events were added to the schedule including Event #16: $1,150 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo and Event #26: $1,150 Hyper Turbo No Limit Holdem 10/10/10. We also added eight extra tables in Exhibition Hall, which added flexibility around rostering and had far less impact on patrons.”
The reduction in entrants in super high roller events was apparent in this year’s Aussie Million. The Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge, an event won by American Nick Petrangelo for AUD$882,000, declined for its third straight year to 18 entrants.
Meanwhile, the Aussie Millions $250,000 Challenge did not take place this year after experiencing two years of reduced entrants.
This trend is what Williams described as one of the industry’s biggest challenges.
“The biggest challenge worldwide, not just the Aussie Millions, is the changing landscape of the high roller market,” Williams said. “It’s more than widely known that there is a lack of ‘recreational’ players and that the days of the super high roller unlimited re-entries may well be over.”
That being said, the Aussie Millions $25,000 Challenge was the most successful in the festival’s history with 133 entrants or nine percent more than the 122 entered the year before. The growth in this event has been remarkable with it more than doubling from the 65 entrants attracted in 2014 and a more than six-fold increase from the 20 that entered in 2012.
Williams recognizes that AUD$25,000 to AUD$50,000 might be a more attractive price point than the much higher buy-ins in the super high roller. This combined with even more tables will be explored for future Aussie Millions festivals.
“The Aussie Millions will continue to grow, as we build on our reputation as the world’s best.”
“The introduction of the $50,000 Challenge is something we will definitely look at again, along with the extra tables at Exhibition Hall,” shared Williams.
Williams also said the Aussie Millions isn’t just about the month of January as excitement to the festival can be generated many months in advance.
“Crown hosted warm-up weeks which were highly successful and took place almost six months prior the event commencing and we will no doubt do that again for 2018,” said Williams. “We will continue the publicity program and work towards generating as much awareness and excitement of the 2018 event within the poker community as possible.”
The growth in 2017 was not an anomaly according to Williams. He said the festival will continue to build its reputation and grow even without the help of online poker, which is something in turmoil at the moment in Australia.
“The Aussie Millions will continue to grow, as we build on our reputation as the world’s best, with further growth expected regardless of online support or not,” said Williams.
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