APPT9 Aussie Millions Day 4: The rarity of the back-to-back

It's bloody tough to win a poker tournament. So imagine how hard it is to win two of them. Or the statistical improbably of somehow winning two in a row?

We've crunched the numbers and discovered that the odds of going back-to-back are so small that it's officially defined by statisticians as "mission impossible". But poker is a game of variance, so over the years we have managed to see some remarkable feats of statistical improbabilities in the game of poker.

The first thing that springs to mind when we talk about back-to-back wins is Doyle Brunson winning the WSOP Main Event in 1976 and 1977, and Johnny Chan doing likewise in 1987 and 1988. However those victories were in a different era where the game was largely undiscovered and the fields much smaller than today.

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Lack Flack earned the nickname of "Back-to-Back" Flack after winning consecutive events at the WSOP in 2002, while "Action" Dan Harrington sold plenty of books on the back of reaching the WSOP Main Event final table in 2003 and again in 2004.

The fields were starting to grow around that time, so Harrington's efforts were widely applauded but they fail to compare to the back-to-back feats of modern times.

Jose "Nacho" Barbero made a name for himself in Latin America when he won back-to-back LAPT titles in 2010, and then Darren Elias shot to stardom after winning back-to-back World Poker Tour titles within a seven-week stretch in 2014. One of Elias' wins came from a field of over one thousand entrants.

Then most recently Mark Newhouse arguably achieved the toughest back-to-back of them all by reaching the final table in the WSOP Main Event in 2014 and then again in 2015. To survive the massive minefields of the WSOP Main Event to reach the final table of the biggest tournament in the world two years in a row is a feat we're probably not going to see again this lifetime.

So why are we even reflecting on these accomplishments?

Well, we could have a back-to-back feat here in the 2015 Aussie Millions Main Event that would rival any of those achievements.


Ami Barer won the 2014 Aussie Millions Event over a field of 668 players to win the top prize of $1.6 million. What are the odds that he could do that again this year?

At the start of the tournament it was mission impossible. But right now, his chances are better than a 1 in 18 shot.

It looked like Barer's dream might be over last last night when he was all in for his tournament life, but his pocket eights won a coin flip with a flopped set to stay alive. More recently Barer was responsible for the elimination of Jesse McKenzie, with Barer's queens proving too strong for McKenzie's ace-jack.


Just reaching Day 4 of the Aussie Millions Main Event in the defence of his title is impressive in itself, but if Barer can survive today and make the final table then that's a story. And if he wins the whole thing, well, his story will become folklore for years to come.

Are we seeing history in the making in Melbourne?

Quite possibly.

Heath "TassieDevil" Chick is a Freelance Contributor for the PokerStars Blog.