The 2014 Aussie Millions featured two-and-a-half weeks packed tightly with tournament after tournament, including four signature events to cap it all off. Mustapha Kanit dominated in the preliminary events, taking down two of the first four tournaments of the series for AU$300,000.
With the strongest fields in years (and, in some cases, ever), 2014 was a milestone year for the Crown Casino’s premier poker attraction. When the dust had settled — and the money was won — five stories stood out among the rest.
Max Altergott Wins $25K Challenge, But Germans “Struggle” Down Under
Over the last several years, a small contingent of young, talented German players have taken the poker world — and, specifically, high rollers — by storm. Philipp Gruissem, Tobias Reinkemeier, Fabian Quoss, Niklas Heinecker, Marvin Rettenmaier, Ole Schemion, and a seemingly endless list of other German pros almost monopolized the High Roller format — it’s become customary to see them filling out the vast majority of the payout lists in these tournaments.
Max Altergott won the first of the four major events at the 2014 Aussie Millions for $211,586, after making a deal five-handed with Jason Mercier, Dan Smith, Scott Seiver and Martin Jacobson. Rettenmaier and Reinkemeier also cashed in this event, but the rest of the series wouldn’t go very well for the German contingent.
No German players cashed in the $100,000 Challenge, and none made the final table of the Main Event. Quoss was the only German to cash in the LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge, and that was only after firing two bullets. There’s no questioning the dominance they’ve displayed in massive buy-in events, but for at least one series they proved that they were just as susceptible to variance as the rest of us.
Players Go Crazy with High Roller Re-Entries, Spark Debate
For the first time at the Aussie Millions, players were allowed to re-enter the $100,000 Challenge and $250,000 Challenge as many times as they wanted, until the start of Day 2 — and they took advantage of that right in a big, big way.
There were more than 40 unique entries in the $100,000 Challenge, which would have been a record in its own right at the Aussie Millions, but the re-entries nearly doubled the size of the field by the close of registration. Isaac Haxton fired a total of six bullets, while Daniel Negreanu entered five times. Haxton was one of nine players — including Sorel Mizzi and Seiver, who were on their day off from the Main Event — who entered at the start of Day 2 with less than 20 big blinds.
It worked out for Erik Seidel, Negreanu and Jacobson, who each cashed in that event. Things were just as crazy in the $250,000 Challenge, with Mike McDonald, Igor Kurganov, Philipp Gruissem and Negreanu firing off three quarters of a million dollars by the close of registration. Nine players — including McDonald, Negreanu and Gruissem — bought in at the start of Day 2 for 12.5 big blinds.
The first-place prize reached an astounding AU$4 million, but certain players — including High Roller regular Dan Shak, who sat out the second High Roller challenge — had serious concerns over the long-term viability of tournaments with unlimited re-entries for so many levels.
Yevginiy Timoshenko Picks Up the Pace, Wins $100K Challenge
When you think of players who could potentially win a poker tournament with a shot clock, Yevginiy Timoshenko’s name is probably near the bottom of that list. Timoshenko contemplated unregistering when he discovered that there was a shot clock, but failed to do so before the start of the tournament.
It certainly worked out for the best for Timoshenko, who topped the 75 entry field to take home the AU$2 million first-place prize. He defeated Mike McDonald heads-up for the title, though the latter received his second of three seven-figure cashes in a six-week period. Erik Seidel finished third, adding to his already prolific record at the Aussie Millions just one day after finishing 10th in the Main Event.
Daniel Negreanu managed to squeeze out a profit with a sixth-place finish, albeit a small one — after five entries in the tournament, he cashed for AU$550,000. The final table also included Martin Jacobson, Doug Polk, Patrik Antonius and David Steicke.
Phil Ivey Earns Second $250K Challenge Title in Three Years
Phil Ivey was on a bit of a cold spell heading into the 2014 Aussie Millions, even fighting off rumors that he was “broke” at one point in the last year. Since winning his ninth WSOP bracelet at WSOP APAC, Ivey had only two cashes — one each at the WSOP and WSOPE in 2013.
As has been the case at several times in his career, as the noise from those who doubted got louder, Ivey rose to the occasion. For the second time in three years, Ivey found himself the last man standing in the LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge. His first-place prize was worth twice as much this time around, though, and the AU$4 million ($3,578,874) payday is the biggest of Ivey’s career.
Isaac Haxton finished second in this event, more than wiping away the more than $1.1 million in buy-ins he put up in the $100,000 and $250,000 Challenges. Daniel Negreanu did the same, finishing fourth to leave with a profit despite three entries in the event. Mike McDonald’s third-place finish gave him his third $1 million-plus cash of 2014 and sent him shooting past Dominik Panka and into the lead in the 2014 BLUFF Player of the Year race.
Ami Barer Wins Main Event; Sorel Mizzi Continues Stellar Record
While at times it seemed as if the Main Event would be overshadowed by the madness of the High Rollers, there was plenty to get excited about. The involvement of PokerStars and the APPT helped to push the field to 668 players — the first field increase in the Aussie Millions Main Event in three years.
A few of the trends that developed over the last decade in this tournament continued to carry on through 2014. None of the previous 16 Aussie Millions champions were among the 72 players who cashed in the Main Event, but familiar names littered the payout list — especially near the top. The top 50 featured Antonio Esfandiari, Liv Boeree, Jonathan Duhamel and John Juanda and Jason Mercier, and that’s before you even get to the last two tables.
Erik Seidel narrowly missed out on his second career Aussie Millions final table — he finished second to Alex Kostritsyn in 2008 — and settled for 10th place. Eoghan O’Dea, who finished sixth in the 2011 WSOP Main Event, finished eighth in this tournament, bubbling the seven-handed final table.
Even with those notable casualties before the final table, the last seven players made up one of the most talented final tables in this event’s history. There were four Americans in the group — Scott Seiver, Jake Balsiger, Darren Rabinowitz and Vincent Rubianes — along with Canadians Ami Barer and Sorel Mizzi.
Seiver would fall in seventh place and Balsiger, an October niner in his own right, went out third to guarantee that the streak of no American Aussie Millions champions would continue for at least one more year. Mizzi already had a third-, a ninth- and a 16th-place finish on his record in the Aussie Millions Main Event, and added a runner-up finish as the Canadians went one-two.
Barer was the last man standing, adding the $1,432,545 first-place prize to a long list of online poker accomplishments in his career.