The 2008 Aussie Millions has offered some interesting structures so far, including a mixed Stud event, but the most intriguing to date had to be Event #6 – the $1,650 Bounty Tournament. The tournament started on 32 tables, with one player at each table having a $1,000 bounty on their head. Bust the bounty player, get the $1,000 cash. Sounds easy, right? It sounds a little less simple when you hear that some of the bounty players included APPT Grand Final winner Grant Levy, WSOP Europe HORSE Champ Thomas Bihl, Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak, and WSOP bracelet winners’ Jennifer Tilly, Jeffrey Lisandro, and Jeff Madsen.
The bounties weren’t the only thing different about Event #6, however. Once the field narrowed to 32, players were reseated at tables seeded by chip counts. The tables were seeded to create as balanced a field as possible, so no one table had a preponderance of big stacks. From that point, the tournament was played as a shootout, with the last two players standing at each of the final four tables, moving on to the final table.
A star-studded field settled in for the two-day event, but even with the star power of Oscar nominee and WSOP bracelet winner Tilly, multiple bracelet winner Madsen and former EPT champ Brandon Schaefer, it was local, cash game player, Marlon Goonawardne, who walked away from the final table with the trophy and the $155,400 first place money.
The field was stacked with pros, and by the time the money bubble had burst, most of them were on the rail. Actor Michael Vartan was offered the “opportunity” to be one of the bounty players, but he declined, saying that he had plenty to worry about in the tournament without any added pressure. Vartan busted in Round 1, along with Emad Tahtouh, Anna Wroblewski, Shaun Deeb, Jon ‘PearlJammer’ Turner, and John ‘Schecky’ Caldwell.
The shootout format lasted from the money bubble to the final eight, and it was Michael Binger who finished off the last opponents when he picked off a steal attempt from Greg Tomas to bust him in 9th place. Other notable players who cashed, but busted in the shootout round, included former chip leader Michaela Johansson and Josh ‘JJProdigy’ Field, who pulled down his first live tournament cash with his 15th-place finish. The final table looked like this, as the remaining eight players bagged up their chips, on Day 1.
Seat 1: Ramy Tadros - 162,500
Seat 2: Steve Leonard - 145,000
Seat 3: Jeppe Nielsen - 56,000
Seat 4: Michael Binger - 393,000
Seat 5: Marlon Goonawardne - 322,000
Seat 6: Kim Pearl - 311,000
Seat 7: David Kruger - 236,000
Seat 8: Josh Egan - 225,000
Michael Binger started the final table as one of three big stacks, but when Marlon Goonawardne took out Kim Pearl, on the second hand of the day, he leapt to a dominating lead that he never relinquished. Goonawardne raised preflop, and called Pearl’s reraise. The flop came down , and Pearl moved all in after Goonawardne checked. Goonawardne thought briefly before calling with . Pearl was ahead with , but the on the turn gave Goonawardne the flush. Pearl missed her four outs on the river, and she was eliminated in 8th ($11,936). Jeppe Nielsen went to the rail just three hands later when he ran into David Kruger’s pocket Queens. No ace on the board for Nielsen, and he was eliminated in 7th ($17,094).
Marlon Goonawardne was a bulldozer for the rest of the final table, taking out all of his remaining opponents on the way to victory. First up for elimination was Josh Egan, who called Goonawardne’s preflop raise. Egan called again on the flop of . Goonawardne check-raised Egan when the turn brought the , and quickly called when Egan pushed all in. Goonawardne was in good shape with pocket threes for bottom set against Egan’s , and his set held up to send Egan home in 6th ($23,310). Goonawardne claimed his next scalp on the very next hand when he busted Ramy Tadros with top pair on a board of . Tadros’ was no good to Goonawardne’s and he was eliminated in 5th place ($31,080).
David Kruger was Goonawardne’s next victim, when he called Goonawardne’s preflop raise with . Both players checked the flop, and Kruger called Goonawardne’s turn bet when the hit. Kruger fired out when the came on the river, and Goonawardne raised all in. Kruger called with two pair, only to see Goonawardne turn over for runner-runner straight. Kruger’s 4th place finish was worth $41,400. Steve Leonard finished in 3rd ($51,800) when he went all in over the top of Goonawardne’s preflop raise with . Goonawardne was dominating with , and hit a King on the flop to bust Leonard.
It took nearly an hour of heads-up play before Goonawardne was able to bludgeon Michael Binger into submission with his big stack. Binger finally put all his chips in with and Goonawardne called with . No help on the board of , and Binger was done in 2nd ($88,060). Goonawardne dedicated his win to “all the $2-5 donks out there,” as he is a regular feature in the $2-5 NLHE games at the Crown Casino.