64 of poker’s biggest names gathered around the felt at the Crown Casino in Melbourne for the $5,300 Heads-Up Championship at the Aussie Millions. The tournament was structured as a single-elimination best of three games tournament, where the winners moved on to play the winners of the previous rounds. Over the course of two days, players battled through sweeps and come-from-behind matches until finally Jeff ‘ActionJeff’ Garza eliminated his final opponent to claim the trophy and the $100,000 first prize.
The field was stacked with live and online superstars from around the world, as internet stars like Garza, Sorel ‘Imper1um’ Mizzi and Josh ‘JJProdigy’ Field squared off against live stars like Rafe Furst, Lee Nelson and Phil Laak. The women’s contingent of the heads-up championship was also strong, with top names like Jennifer Tilly, Clonie Gowen and WSOP Europe Main Event Champion Annette ‘Annette_15’ Obrestad taking the field.
Two separate Day 1 fields of 32 saw the competitors winnow down to 4 Quarter-final matches. Many top names went out in the early rounds of Day 1a as Jeff Madsen, Sarah Bilney, Obrestad and Paul Wasicka all missed the quarterfinals. Lee Nelson and Roy Winston went on a tear on Day 1a, sweeping all of their opponents to make the quarterfinals with 6-0 records. Team PokerStars member Masaaki Kagawa took out Tiltboy Rafe Furst to secure his Day 2 slot, and Michael ‘Timex’ McDonald bested his roommate Michael Watson 2-0 to make his way to the quarterfinals.
The second half of the quarter-final field was set on Day 1b, as superstars like Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow, Jennifer Tilly, Phil Laak, Terrence Chan, Garza and Clonie Gowen took the field. Matusow led the charge to the rail when he lost a coin flip against Sol Bergren for his elimination. Other early bustouts included Laak, Roland deWolfe, Brad Booth, and Andy Bloch.
Jeff ‘ActionJeff’ Garza and Sorel ‘Imper1um’ Mizzi was a marquee matchup on Day 1b, as the two online superstars squared off for a slot in the quarterfinals. Garza defeated Mizzi 2-0 to claim his spot in the money round, as Xuan Nguyen and David Sonelin took out their opponents to join Garza and Alexey Popov in the quarterfinals from Day 1b.
With the field set at eight, the four quarterfinal matches looked like this -
Lee Nelson vs Roy Winston
Masaaki Kagawa vs Mike "Timex" McDonald
Jeff Garza vs David Sonelin
Alexey Popov vs Xuan Nguyen
Xuan Nguyen made short work of Alexey Popov when Popov picked a bad time to bluff into the nuts. Popov pushed all in on a flop of with , but Nguyen quickly called with for the flopped straight. David Sonelin didn’t last much longer against Jeff Garza as he was dispatched 2-1 to secure Garza’s spot in the semi-finals.
Masaaki Kagawa’s first match with Michael ‘Timex’ McDonald was an exercise in patience and skill, but their second match was a whirlwind, ending in the fist blind level! McDonald fired a bet out at the flop of , and Kagawa made the call. Kagawa checked when the turn brought the , then check-raised McDonald all in. McDonald called with for trips, and Kagawa was drawing with for a pair with a flush draw. The on the river gave Kagawa the pot and a spot in the semi-finals. Roy Winston took out Lee Nelson to secure the fourth spot in the semi-finals.
Jeff Garza and Xuan Nguyen were even at 1-1 going into their rubber match, but Garza flopped gin on a board of when he was holding . Garza bet out, Nguyen raised, Garza shoved, and Nguyen called with . No miracle came down for Nguyen, and Garza claimed the spot in the finals.
Masaaki Kagawa took the first match over Roy Winston when his pocket 10s held up against Winston’s on a flop of , but Winston came back to even the match when he flopped a set of Queens against Kagawa’s pocket Jacks to tie the match at 1-1. In the final game, Winston got all in with on a board of , but he was drawing dead to Kagawa’s . Kagawa moved on to face Garza in the finals, with $100,000 on the line.
The early match was a see-saw battle that saw each player get their money in bad and catch to win a game, tying the match 1-1. The final game hinged on a hand where each player hit their draw, and it proved very costly to Kagawa. On a board of , Garza moved all in, and Kagawa called with for the wheel. Garza table for the flush, and Kagawa was left crippled. A few hands later the last of Kagawa’s chips went in with , and Garza called with . A Jack on the river sealed the deal for Garza, and he was the Aussie Millions Heads-Up Champion and $100,000 richer!
Here are the official finishes and payouts for the eight finalists –
1) 100,000 - Jeff Garza
2) 60,000 - Masaaki Kagawa
3) 40,000 - Roy "The Oracle" Winston
4) 40,000 - Xuan Nguyen
5) 20,000 - Lee "Final Table" Nelson
6) 20,000 - Mike "Timex" McDonald
7) 20,000 - David Sonelin
8) 20,000 - Alexey Popov