My take on the 2014 Aussie Millions Schedule - Part 1

By: Jonno Pittock

The 2014 Aussie Millions schedule was released yesterday, so I thought I would sit down, take a detailed look at it, and analyse it for our Poker Asia Pacific readers. This year’s schedule is the first one since 2006 that I have not been involved with writing, so it’s with a touch of nostalgia that I review it.

There are two things that jump off the page immediately when you look at the 2014 Aussie Millions schedule - the timing and the number of events.  This will be the first time ever that the Championship has been run so late in January, starting Thursday 23rd January and finishing on Monday 10th February.  Getting the timing right is always difficult, and there are both pros and cons to this date range. 

The pros are that it moves the Aussie Millions away from its biggest competitor in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.  The 2014 PCA runs from 4th – 13th January, and with the Aussie Millions Main Event not starting until the 2nd February, it means players can take a couple weeks off at home in-between events, rather than having to jump on a plane and make the 30hr trek straight from the Bahamas to Melbourne.  It also positions the majority of the bigger buy-in events on the schedule after Chinese New Year, making it more likely that the contingent of Asian businessmen that travel to Crown each year will still come (the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year are traditionally spent staying close to home with family).  Both are definite ticks in the plus column. 

The downside to starting so late is that the Aussie Millions now misses the Australian Open Tennis tournament which runs from 13th – 26th January in 2014.  It is a frequent comment from players who travel from Europe and the US, that they love coming to the Aussie Millions for the great weather and a chance to watch the tennis.  They also like that they can stay in the Crown Towers and eat breakfast alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The other major downside is the proximity that it puts the Aussie Millions to the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific event.  The WSOP APAC dates have been out for the past couple of months and were advertised heavily inside the Rio during this year’s WSOP.  Given that the dates are almost identical to this year’s event (4-15th April), it leaves only seven weeks between the Aussie Millions and the WSOP APAC.  This is not alot of time to satellite a huge amount of players into the WSOP APAC, particularly after such a huge drain on the local poker economy at the Aussie Millions. It’s so close that it may force players to choose to attend either one or the other.  Where the Aussie Millions was previously a whole package that included the tennis, it now has to stand alone against winning a bracelet, and may be a factor in determining which event players will attend.

The other thing that jumped of the page is the total number of Championship events.  As a purely numbers game, the Aussie Millions is shrinking - going from 26 events in 2013 to 20 events in 2014.  Six events have been removed completely from the schedule, mostly of the specialty game variety, but it is more of a consolidation than a reduction.  The 2014 Aussie Millions schedule will not please everybody, but for the most part I think Crown have got it right, moving away from the events that attract smaller fields, in preference for those that will fill the Crown Poker Room.

There is a lot to like about the 2014 Aussie Millions Championship schedule.  Firstly, the bigger buy-in televised events are perfectly positioned.  For the past two years, the schedule for the high roller events, and even the Main Event was somewhat fluid; modifying levels played, or even moving scheduled days around completely to accommodate both the players and the production, depending on who was still in each event.  It was an ad-hoc approach to solve a scheduling issue that has been all but completely removed from the 2014 schedule.  There are three events being filmed this year, and absolutely no need to modify the published schedule, all the while still keeping to a tight production schedule.  The $100k Challenge starts on Friday 7th Feb at 2:15pm. The Main Event should be down to less than 24 players by then, making the potential field size for the $100k bigger.  It is a two day event, and plays its final table on Saturday 8th Feb.  The Main Event final table would previously be run on this day, however this year has a scheduled rest day in between Day 4 and the final fable - a first for the Aussie Millions and one of the highlights of the Championship schedule in my opinion.  It means that the film set will be free to film the $100k Challenge on the Saturday, and Main Event Final Table on the Sunday.  Furthermore, the $250k Challenge starts on Sunday the 9th and concludes on Monday 10th Feb, allowing for the maximum number of entries for that event as it only conflicts with the final Table of the Main Event.  That means the film schedule will be as follows:

* Saturday 8th February - $100k Challenge Final Table
* Sunday 9th February – Main Event Final Table
* Monday 10th February - $250k Challenge Final Table   

This ensures that all the bigger buy-in events are condensed to the same four-day period, with extremely minimal risk of conflict between the events.  It makes it more likely that the higher profile and bigger bankrolled players will play all of them, and helps keep the production to a three-day shoot, therefore saving costs.

In Part 2, Jonno takes a closer look at each of the side events on the schedule as well as those which were removed from last year's schedule.

Follow Jonno on Twitter @JonnoPittock