Side events continued at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, but people began to gather for the main event. While the plethora of preliminary and specialty events keep players in action, the Aussie Millions AU$10,500 is the center of it all. And with a preset AU$2 million first prize already established, there was no question that the poker players who had traveled many miles and days to get to Australia were there for the main event.
The first of three starting days was on January 18th, and it brought 191 players to the tables with a kickoff ceremony filled with music, dancers, and a welcome message from Joe Hachem. Finally, everyone got down to business, and notable poker pros in the crowd included Tony G, Patrik Antonius, John Hennigan, Julian Powell, James Potter, Sorel Mizzi, Noah Schwartz, and Barny Boatman. Christopher Chronis ended the day with 175,375 in chips and the overall lead, with Patrik Antonius in second with 139,750 and Noah Schwartz in a close third with 138,275. Derek Cheung and James Obst rounded out the top five.
Day 1b brought another 202 players to the felt, along with recognizable faces like Erik Seidel, Chris Ferguson, Ivan Demidov, Jeff Madsen, Annette Obrestad, Grant Levy, Marty Smyth, Harry Demetriou, Tony Dunst, Mike McDonald, and reigning 2008 champion Alexander Kostritsyn.The latter of the bunch wouldn’t be able to repeat, though, as he was eliminated early in the day by Josh Malone. When all was said and done, it was Brett Daphne at the head of the pack with 120,250, Malone with 112,400, and Sam Vakili, Michael Toreniec, and Ali Ghezelbash in the top five spots, all of whom sat behind the leaders of the previous day in chip counts.
It was Day 1C that brought the most entrants into play, as 288 joined the festivities, bringing the total number of players to 681. Among them on the third starting day were Scotty Nguyen, Joe and Tony Hachem, Clonie Gowen, Phil Laak, Lee Nelson, David Rheem, Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen, Jennifer Tilly, John Juanda, Nam Le, J.C. Tran, Michael Binger, cricket star Shane Warne, and actor Michael Vartan. At the end of the day’s action, Ben Charlton came out on top with 161,000 in chips, followed by Luis Pampliega, Jani Mikkola, John Paul Kelly, and Tom Rafferty.
Less than half of the starting players, 320 to be exact, lived to see Day 2 of the main event, and many of those would be leaving soon after play began. Names of some of them were Mark Vos, Phil Laak, Billy Argyro, and Neil Channing, and many more joined them as the day progressed. The final tallies for the day put two female Betfair representatives - Annette Obrestad, sponsored pro; and Annica Ivert, online qualifier - at the top of the leaderboard. Ivert had a whopping 555,900 and Obrestad an equally impressive 454,800. Rajkumar Ramakrishnan, David Docherty, and Stewart Scott completed the top five, and notable Patrik Antonius was in seventh out of the top ten.
Day 3 was the day to hit the money, and 81 players came into it hoping to do so. But players like Joe Hachem were not so lucky, as he was eliminated very early in the day. It then came to bubble play, and the player at risk was Will Zemljaric, who got all of his chips into the pot after the board showed . Zemljaric turned over , but Ashby was the caller with pocket eights for the set. Zemljaric was the 65th place finisher on the bubble.
That made way for Ali Ghezelbash to finish in 64th place with AU$15,000, and other notables in the money that day were Anthony Kambouris in 62nd, Nali Kaselias in 58th, Sam Khouiss in 53rd, and Scotty Nguyen in 50th place. Noah Schwartz was gone in 42nd place with AU$20,000, Patrik Antonius in 40th place, Mike McDonald in 39th, Raymond Rhame in 36th, and Clonie Gowen in 32nd with AU$30,000. Finally, the elimination of Leonid Cai in 29th place ended the day, and Michael Tureniec sat in first chip position as the only player with over one million chips. The rest of the top five were Christian Heich, Christopher Chronis, Rajkumar Ramakrishnan, and Annette Obrestad.
The fourth full day of the tournament would determine the final table players, and it didn’t take an extraordinary amount of time to do so. Early exits included Kelly Kim in 22nd place, Annette Obrestad in 21st, Joe Cassidy in 20th, and starting chip leader Tureniec out in 19th. Sorel Mizzi fell in 16th place, followed by Chris Chronis, Christian Heich, and Grant Levy. Annica Ivert finally gave up the fight to finish in 11th place, and Tino Lechich in tenth. Zach Fellows was then eliminated in ninth place as the final table bubble player, but he received a sizable AU$100,000 payday for getting so close.
The final table was then set for the following day as follows:
Seat 1: Zach Gruneberg 1,355,000
Seat 2: Barny Boatman 349,000
Seat 3: Elliot Smith 1,120,000
Seat 4: Richard Ashby 658,000
Seat 5: Stewart Scott 4,520,000
Seat 6: Peter Rho 2,420,000
Seat 7: Rajkumar Ramakrishnan 2,050,000
Seat 8: Sam Capra 1,161,000
Action began at the final table on January 24th with little action, frankly. The eight players were fairly cautious on the whole, and it wasn’t until the tenth hand that serious betting occurred, resulting in Gruneberg all-in, but he and Smith ended up chopping the pot.
Bigger pots came later, more than twenty hands later, when Ramakrishnan won a major hand against Scott to close in on the latter’s chip lead. But Ramakrishnan soon lost a 1.85 million-chip pot when Smith doubled through him. But it was Scott who continued to chip up and eventually crossed the 5 million-chip mark.
Barny Boatman finally pushed his short stack all-in preflop with , but found himself up against the of Gruneberg. The board came a fairly uneventful , and Boatman was the first elimination of the evening, and he left with AU$100,000 for the eighth place finish.
A few hands later, after an initial raise by Ramakrishnan and call from Smith, Richard Ashby moved all-in from the big blind. Both players called to see the flop of . Smith and Ramakrishnan checked to see the , and again to see the on the river. Ramakrishnan took the side pot with over the A-Q of Smith, and Ashby showed another A-Q to lose the main pot. Ashby was ousted in seventh place with AU$150,000.
A short time later, Gruneberg gambled with Ramakrishnan to see a flop of . Gruneberg was the bettor, and Ramakrishnan check-called. After the on the turn, it was Gruneberg who moved all-in, and Ramakrishnan who check-called. Gruneberg had , but Ramakrishnan was happy to show pocket fours for quads. The did nothing but solidify Zach Gruneberg’s sixth place elimination, for which he received AU$210,000.
Two fairly quiet players thus far finally got involved in a hand when Sam Capra pushed all-in preflop. Rho called with pocket aces, and Capra showed pocket tens. The board came , and Capra took fifth place in the event, which was worth AU$300,000.
Four-handed, Stewart Scott still dominated the chip counts with over 6 million, and Elliot Smith had little more than half that amount. The other two players would be forced to make some moves to stay in contention.
The hand that thinned the field by one began with much action, as Ramakrishnan and Smith tried to limp in. Scott did the same, but Rho raised it up from the big blind. Ramakrishnan reraised 300K more, which got Smith and Scott out of the way and prompted an all-in raise from Rho and call from Ramakrishnan with pocket aces. Rho showed the pocket kings and didn’t feel better until help came on the flop. The turn and river were and , and Ramakrishnan’s aces were cracked to send him out in fourth place with AU$400,000.
Scott then took his lead to another level. He took a significant pot from Rho and another from Smith to soar to over 8 million chips. Smith came back to double through Scott, but the latter maintained a stack of 8.135 million. However, another Smith double-up through Scott left Scott a bit less confident than he was before.
And 205 hands into the tournament, Smith and Scott tangled again, with Smith all-in holding and Scott facing another loss with . The flop of was innocent enough, but the on the turn gave Scott the chance he sought to win the hand and get to heads-up play. The on the river was good for that goal, and Elliot Smith was the third place finisher, for which he was awarded AU$700,000.
Heads-up action began after a break with the following counts:
Stewart Scott 10,700,000
Peter Rho 2,900,000
With Scott dominating and Rho fighting to make a stand, it took less than fifteen hands to determine the outcome of the match. On the 218th hand of the night, Scott made an initial raise from the button, and Rho took some time to think before he reraised all-in for 2.175 million. Scott called immediately with pocket aces, and Rho turned over a dominated . The dealer slowly turned over , and Peter Rho was forced to accept a second place finish and the incredible AU$1 million that went with it.
Stewart Scott, an Australian native, became the 2009 Aussie Millions main event champion and was awarded the trophy, bracelet, and grand prize of AU$2,000,000. “It’s nice to bring one home for the team,” he said as he reveled in the victory.