Melbourne, if not the whole of Australia, has poker fever, thanks to casino king James Packer's brainchild, "Aussie Millions".
Media Man long time friend, associate and eyes and ears of the industry, Keith "Bendigo" Sloan, tipped us off that it would be huge and he was right on the money.
Let's start with some big picture stuff.... poker has been widely acknowledged in a court of law as primarily a game of skill. Sure, there's some luck involved, but over time on measured tests, the skill factor comes through. This is a key point in some of the arguments put forward by the Poker Players Alliance. Folks, professional poker is big business and is also a form of sports tourism, something that's been picked up on by the Victorian government, but something Australia's Labor government is still trying to grasp. Maybe it will be covered in the Aussie version of "Casino Jack"!
Let it be said from the get-go that Crown's Aussie Millions gives some much needed balance into the news media coverage of Australia's casino sector, which has been copping a bit of a battering of late. Crown's connection with tourism, sports tourism and high rollers is undisputed, and the powers that be at Crown do give back to society in a number of capacities, some of which is reported and other elements that are done on the quite. It was impossible to miss Warnie and Joe Hachem on Network Ten's 7PM project last month.
It's a given that when so many whales, high rollers and the like are in town, there's vast financial resources not far from felt.
The Salvation Army and Unicef are just a couple of worthy causes that Crown and the powers that be have assisted over the years.
This year sees a reported 1,143 entrants have a punt at Aussie Millions...a record for major poker tournaments in Australia.
A $1,143,000 prize pool will be split amongst the top 108 players, with first place set to collect the first Aussie Millions Gold Championship Ring over $200,000 in cash.
Numerous big names were in attendance for day one including Tony G, Clonie Gowen, Sorel Mizzi, David Saab, Jason Gray, Paul Khoury, Kenneth Damm and 2005 WSOP Champ Joe Hachem. Players who returned to the felt for a second chance included Tony Dunst , Emad Tahtouh, Billy Argyros, Lee Nelson, Josh Field, Ben Delaney, Andrew Jeffreys, Leo Boxell, Amanda De Cesare, Tino Lechich, James Akenhead and 2009 Aussie Millions Champion (and PartyPoker sponsored) Stewart Scott.
Nick Haidaris has emerged with the chip lead of 165,300. Eighty-three players remained from Day 1's starting field. Those back for Day 2 include David Saab, JP Kelly, Antonis Kambouroglou, Brendan Edmonds, Con Tsapkounis, and Jim Sachinidis.
Players not back for day 2 include Tony Dunst, 2009 Aussie Millions Main Event Champ Stewart Scott, Emad Tahtouh, Barny Boatman, Matthew Pearson, Rayan Nathan, Joe Hachem, Tony G, Lee Nelson, Billy Argyros, Jonathan Karamalikis, Michael Guzzardi, James Akenhead, Ben Delaney, and Sorel Mizzi.
Day 2 at Crown Casino kicks off at 12:30 p.m where approximately 200 players will be giving it all they have in their quest for the championship.
Media Man encourages players (and management) on a winning streak to continue to give back to society, and of course the world is aware of those less fortunate including in Haiti which was recently rocked by an earthquake. Casinos and big gaming companies have much bigger resources than most, so let's see if they can even come close to helping to the extent that they did when the Aussie Victorian bushfires hit last March.
*The writer holds shares in Crown Limited
*The writer is the founder and director of Media Man
*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911