Aussie (Millions) hospitality
by Alison Lightman.
"Wannabeearmite?" is a traditional Australian greeting, and Dennis Huntly, the 49 year old Australian player who busted out ninth in today's Main Event, has spent a chunk of his $155,000 already, shouting free beers for the evening for anyone in the poker room bar of Crown Casino.
"I'm stoked!" he told me as I thanked him for my drink, "It's the least I could do." (for non Australian speakers, stoked means happy).
Dennis paid his own way into the Main Event, but I am going to claim him for PokerStars as he plays online only at our site, as "smutmut". When his girlfriend of five years, Jennifer, complained about the cost of his satellite entries, "I told her I was practising for this!" he laughed. Bet she's not complaining now.
Generous Aussie hospitality is something the 49 year old father of three knows a lot about. He and his partners ,Justin and Julie, own one of the two remaining traditional bush pubs left in Australia, at Tilpa in far north New South Wales. Dennis recently moved to Bacchus Marsh, around 60 kilometres from the casino, and the pub is run by his friends Tony and Jill.
Until today, the pub's biggest attraction was a pair of autographed boxing gloves once used by Mohammed Ali, when he was still Cassius Clay, and presented as a gift by a city slicker who used to bring his sales team out to stay with Dennis for some bush style team bonding. Now one suspects that in Tilpa, population 5, (yes, five) the main attraction will be Dennis.
Not much happens there, apart from the odd country music shindig or car rally. "It's quiet" he said, "and we've had a rough year with the drought, the dams are dry ya know?"
Lots of Aussie farmers are in the same boat, especially those running sheep like Dennis. And ten minutes with him will show you his worry for the farmers is typical, he's much more concerned for others than for himself. "Our place is historic" he said. "We've got a wall in our pub where, for two bucks, you can sign your name and all the money goes to the Flying Doctors." The Royal Flying Doctor Service is the only access to medical treatment for residents of the outback, where farms can be the size of small countries. Dennis's partners muster their sheep by motorbike but on some stations that's done by helicopter.
So how does a sheep-running bush pub owner even arrive amidst the glitz and whizz-bangery of the Aussie Millions 2007?
"My grandmother taught me to play cards" he said, "as a little tacker. You know, 4 or 5? I always won. Do you think she let me win?"
Apart from a few home games, usually Manila, Dennis didn't really think about poker until he caught the Hold'Em bug just over a year ago. He bought his way in to the Main Event in 2006, and busted, but really wanted to try again this year.
"I played all the satellites at Crown Casino and couldn't win" he told me.
So Dennis decided to buy in and his newness to the game may have given him an edge. He drew a starting table for Day 1 that would have given me and most players I know a fit of the vapours. Not Dennis 'smutmut' Huntly.
He sat down with Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey and Kathy Liebert as cool as a cucumber because he didn't recognise one of them. " I knocked the lady out, the blonde, Kathy somoneone?" he said tonight, still not realising until I explained that he'd taken the scalp of of one of the the most successful female players in the world.
On Day 2, Dennis ended as second chip leader to the feared young Fin Patrik Antonius, who went out before him in 13th place. Until we had that beer tonight, Dennis didn't know who he was either.
He was touched to the point of tears about the support he has received from local players. He says g'day to Jennifer, Jill, Tony Justin Julie and the kids. We asked Dennis what he would do with his winnings. "Oh. some to my partner" he said "some to the mother of my children." And "some to Mum".