The 2020 Aussie Millions has kicked off in fine style as the opening event has been joined in the Crown Casino in Melbourne by other side events as the famous yearly festival builds up to the Main Event.
Williams welcomes the world
With the tragic Australian bushfires still raging, air quality has been in question not only at the Australian Open tennis festival, but by players taking on the Aussie Million. Former WSOP Main Event champion Martin Jacobsen posted this evocative picture of just how the air quality has changed from a different year to this January’s event:
The air quality in Melbourne has reached hazardous levels. Contrasting view from my apt. pic.twitter.com/bKwALPcYYD
— Martin Jacobson (@Martin_Jacobson) January 6, 2020
Despite the concerns outside, inside the Crown Casino, Aussie Million tournament director Joel Williams took to the lectern and dropped the mic on a memorable opening speech:
“It’s an early start and a packed tournament schedule. We remain committed to providing one of the world’s top poker offerings, and we’re confident that we’ll deliver a world-class series that all Australians can be particularly proud of,” said Williams. “Your continued support is vital to Australian poker, and of course greatly appreciated by all of us here at Crown Melbourne. From locals, who started playing satellites as early as March last year, to international players that arrive earlier and earlier each year. To the staff, who help execute the Aussie Millions each and every day, from the back of house staff to dealers, I wish you all a successful and enjoyable Aussie Millions championship.”
Urbanovich off to a flyer
The first player to win one of this year’s Aussie Millions Championship rings was a well-known poker pro, Poland’s Dzmitry Urbanovich claiming the second event to start but the first to finish, the $2,500-entry H.O.R.S.E. tournament for AUS$34,020 (USD$23,581) after a grueling four-hour heads-up battle.
With only six players of the eight that made the final table making the money, play on the last day of the tournament got off to a flying start. With players such as current WSOP Player of the Year Robert Campbell, Phil Hui, Bryce Yockey, Benny Glaser and former WSOP Main Event winner Joe Hachem all failing to make profit, Ari Engel was the first of two to make the final day but not the money when he busted in 8th place.
Next to go was Simon Chahine, which meant that he bubbled the event, but it also meant that Alan Wilson had managed to grind his short-stack into the cash places. He would bust in 6th place, however and was shortly followed by Rainer Quel, which left Vasco Zapantzis as the sole remaining home country player.
Jan Suchanek started the day as chip leader, but had been eclipsed by both Zapantzis and Urbanovich by the time he busted, and play showed no signs of slowing down when Zapantzis left the party in third.
Heads-up, however, was to be a long, drawn-out kill for the Polish player. Julien Sitbon went into the heads-up duel with five times the chips of Urbanovich, but could not hold onto his lead. With Sitbon constantly rivering pots only to be reined in by his opponent, he couldn’t end the battle, and Urbanovich seemed to get stronger the longer the game went on.
Sitbon came into heads-up with five times Urbanovich’s chips, but the Polish player battled to stay in the tournament. Finally, the young star had his chance, and leapt into the lead. While that may have seen the pendulum of power swing towards a reversal in fortunes and a quick end in his favour, nothing could have been further from the truth. All it did was to prolong the duel, leaving both men down to their elemental selves by the time midnight produced a winner.
The final hand saw Sitbon move all-in in Seven Card Stud with jacks but Urbanovich had made kings, and Sitbon couldn’t find the miraculous stay of execution his final draw could have Urbanovich it was who took down the second Aussie Millions event and first into the history books.
Players will hope that the bushfires can be quelled and the play can go on in a country that has suffered so much in recent days, but continues to welcome the world with kindness and grace, which, as ever, has been shown in spades at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.
Aussie Millions Event #2: $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. results: