History of the Aussie Millions

Although poker was introduced at the Crown Casino in 1997, it was well over a year before the first head to head poker tournament was held in Melbourne – the Australasian Poker Championship.

In the initial years the tournament was really only contested by the local boys in and around Australia and the buy-in for the first event was AUS$1000. The game was Limit Hold ‘Em and over 74 prospective poker champions took to the tables and engendered a prize pool of AUS$74 000.

Alex Horowitz won the first event and pocketed AUS25 900 – it is really remarkable to think that 10 years on the winner of the competition, Russian, Alexander Kostritsyn, took home AUS1 650 000!!

Up until 2001 the event had always been held in June, but it was decided to shift the date of the tournament, now known as the Crown Australian Poker Championship, or more colloquially, the Aussie Millions, to January. Perhaps the city fathers of Melbourne wanted to attract more visitors to their city in the height of the summer season, or perhaps it coincided with other major events on the World Poker Tour (WPT), European Poker tour (EPT) or World Series of Poker (WSOP) schedules.

Although the 2001 tournament did not attract as many entrants as was hoped – only 40 players paid the AUS$5000 buy-in for the main event – the prize pool was still a rather competitive AUS$200 000. A jubilant Sam Korman triumphed over Eric Sclavos and walked away with a tidy prize of AUS$53 025.

By 2003 the competition was attracting the attention of the international poker maestros and many made the long trip to Australia to take on the best in the antipodes. The number of entrants burgeoned to 122 and the prize pool was soon a very attractive AUS$1.2 million – surely enough to get the best in their field onto those aeroplanes!

Peter ‘The Poet’ Costa, a Brit based in Las Vegas, took the main event and held the record for winning the Limit Hold Em tournament with the most entrants – a record which has since been broken several times as the popularity of the Aussie Millions has grown.

Costa is one of the foremost players on the EPT and was twice nominated for EPT Poker Player of the Year Award. His success motivated even more of the big international names to travel to Melbourne, and by 2005 over 50 percent of the field was from overseas.

In 2006 the Aussie Millions came of age. It had become so popular internationally that it was televised by Fox Sports Net and by 2007 it was beamed to over 81 million homes!