It's time for the 2016 Aussie Millions!
January is a magnificent time to be in Melbourne. Sure, I'm a little biased in my home town, but just ask any of the visitors around the floors of the Crown Casino this week and I'm confident they'll agree. They might be here for a holiday to enjoy the heat of the Australian summer. Or perhaps they're in town for the Australian Open - one of the biggest international tennis events in the world. Maybe they've come to enjoy international cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - a stadium which seats 100,000 people. Or maybe they're just enjoying the amazing food, shows, entertainment or culture that Melbourne brings.
Or just maybe they are here to participate in one of the world's richest poker tournaments - the 2016 Aussie Millions Poker Championship.
It's an event with a deep history with prize money that rivals even a tennis Grand Slam. Since 2003, the Aussie Millions Main Event has awarded in excess of AU$20,000,000 in first-place prize money alone, with the entire prize pool of the 2015 edition hitting a whopping AU$32,000,000!
While the internationals love heading "Down Under", the locals have performed very admirably in this event. Last year, one of the Australia's favourites - poker veteran Manny Stavropoulos - defeated a field of 648 players to capture the top prize of $1,385,500. Other locals to claim the title in recent years include David Gorr, Oliver Spiedel, Tyron Krost and Stewart Scott.
With its partnership with the Asia Pacific Poker Tour now into his third year, tournament organisers are extremely confident of an increase in numbers this year. APPT President Danny McDonagh has claimed that a number over 700 is a very likely for a number of reasons.
Firstly, PokerStars have satellited in a record number of online qualifiers. Previously the record was 133, but this year the number is up over 150 at the time of writing. Crown Poker have also satellited in a huge number of players with a mega-satellite earlier in the week giving away a record 30 Main Event seats!
There's no WSOP APAC to clash with this year so that should mean deeper pockets for local players, but overseas players will also be able to take advantage of the falling Aussie dollar. In previous years the Aussie dollar was at parity to the US dollar, but now international players are getting much more bang for their buck.
That also means we should see some amazing fields for the incredible array of High Roller Events on the schedule. The AU$25,000 NLHE Event attracted a record 122 entrants just a few days ago, and with both AU$100,000 and AU$250,000 events on the schedule, many of the world's biggest and best players will be in town.
When you throw in the tennis, the food, the beaches and everything else we love about Melbourne, it means we're in for a massive week ahead of us at the Aussie Millions Poker Championship.
The AU$10,600 Main Event will kick off at 12:30pm local time on Sunday with the first of three opening day flights.
We'll have all of the live updates of the 2016 Aussie Millions Main Event, as well as the two big High Roller events, right here on the PokerStars blog. Stay tuned!
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Heath Chick is Freelance Contributor for the PokerStars Blog.