The Aussie Millions
If there is one poker trip that every poker player should make, it is to the Aussie Millions, held in the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia. This tournament is located in a world-class international city, is run by top-notch poker management, and has the unique Aussie atmosphere, which is friendly, fun, and eccentric.
The Australian and New Zealand poker community is filled with unique and interesting personalities. Of course, Joe Hachem, the 2005 world champion, is a household name, but you probably won't leave Melbourne without at least one encounter with Mick "The Hoon" Stanton. If you can't find him, just look for the prettiest girls on the rail and he is probably there talking his talk. You can't miss Billy "The Croc" Argyros and his crazy hat. Others include Lee "Final Table" Nelson and his colorful shirts, and the Kiwi Constantine Harach, whose shirts are even more colorful. Of course, you have your nice Aussie and Kiwi gentlemen, such as Gary Benson, Graeme Putt, and Leo Boxell. Did I forget Tony G? And the Aussie Millions now attracts many of the biggest names in poker, including Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen, Erick Lindgren, Howard Lederer, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, the Hendon Mob, and the list goes on and on. All of these personalities make playing in Melbourne a fun and exciting event, which is unlike some other tournaments.
What makes the Melbourne trip so great is the amazing things you can do when not playing poker. Tennis is the main attraction in January, with the Australian Open. You have to take at least one day to go on the Great Ocean Road drive. For movie aficionados, don't miss the Gold Class movie theater at Village Cinemas, right next to the casino, which is the ultimate moviegoing experience. This is one poker tournament and one vacation that you don't want to miss.
This was my second trip to Melbourne. I arrived early this year to play in some of the preliminary events. My year started off pretty well, as I made the final table in the first two events of the year. I finished seventh out of 515 entrants who played in the kickoff $1,000 no-limit hold'em event. I followed that up with an eighth-place finish in the $1,000 rebuy event. Unfortunately, my final-table experiences were not too memorable. At the first final table, I was second in chips when the final table started, and I failed to win one single hand in a little over an hour and a half at the table. At the second final table, I exited early, but at least was able to win a few hands before departing.
During the tournaments, two mistakes stick out in my mind that are noteworthy to discuss. The first is a perfect example of an important lesson: You should often play no-limit hold'em in such a way as to avoid difficult decisions. Unfortunately, I played a hand in the rebuy event in which I gave my opponent the chance to bluff me and I was unable to make the difficult call. I can't remember all of the details of the hand, but I held 6-5 with a board of 7-7-6-3 with two spades. I had $8,000 in chips left and bet out $3,000. My opponent put me all in and I folded, and he showed a pair of fours.
This wasn't an easy call. I raised preflop and bet the flop. I followed that up with another bet on the turn. My opponent had played with me for quite some time, and I thought he would put me on a big pair from the way I played my hand. Thinking he would think that I had a big pair, I folded, as I didn't think he would bluff me in this situation. I am not upset with the fold. Yes, it was a mistake, and in hindsight I should have called, but the real mistake was my bet on the turn. Had I bet just $1,000 more, I would not have had such a difficult decision. In fact, with a bet of just $4,000, I doubt that my opponent tries to bluff me, as I am basically pot-committed, given the size of the pot. For just $1,000, I cost myself a very large pot. Avoid having to make difficult decisions. In this case, had I simply bet a little more on the turn, I would have avoided making a difficult decision, and consequently a bad one.
Later, in the main event, I made a different type of mistake that was, coincidently, against the same opponent. The blinds were $150-$300 and I raised from early position to $750. The button called and the flop came Q-7-5; I was holding the 8 6. I bet $1,200 and my opponent raised another $1,500. Trying a reraise was too risky in this spot, so I simply called, hoping to hit my draw on the turn. The turn was the 2, also giving me a flush draw. I checked, and my opponent bet only about $3,000. This was a small bet given the number of possible draws out there. Based on my opponent's previous play, I thought he was rather weak, with a hand like Q-J or Q-10, although I still thought there was a small possibility that he was holding a set. I was getting good pot odds on the call, and decided to call rather than raise.
No one likes to go out on a draw, but this is where I believe I made a mistake. If I move all in, even if my opponent calls, I am getting about the right pot odds, since my hand is about 2-to-1 against improving. So, I am getting OK pot odds if he calls, but I would win the pot right away most of the time, as he would most likely fold. I left a $10,000 pot sitting on the table, when the average stack was about $22,000. To make things worse, I attempted a bluff on the river when an ace fell, and he called me down. So, not only did I lose the big pot on the turn, I cost myself even more chips on the river. You can't get too carried away with draws early in a tournament, but sometimes the situation absolutely demands that you take some risks with your big draws. Unfortunately, I spent the entire day trying to recover from that mistake, and was never able to do so.
Despite the mistakes, I had a great time on this trip, which has me even more excited about the latest project I am working on. I will be publishing a new book this summer titled The World Poker Travel Guide. The book is authored by Tanya Peck, and it will review the best poker rooms around the world, which definitely includes the Crown Casino in Melbourne. In fact, the Crown is the largest poker room in the world outside of North America, and should not be missed.
This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books”. The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare is available now at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com.