Kurganov steals Aussie Millions spotlight

Mervin Chan defeated the field of 629 entries to win the 2013 Aussie Millions main event Shannon Morris/Aussie Millions

One of the must-stops on the poker circuit for many players is the Aussie Millions held at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia. The venue offers a tournament series unlike any other in the region, with 26 events with buy-ins ranging from a couple hundred dollars to the massive 250,000 Australian Dollar Challenge. Every year the game's best opt to make the long trek, and this year, while some of those stars are returning with millions more in their pockets, one man's efforts stood above the rest.

Aussie Millions Main Event (AU$10,000)

Mervin Chan was far from the most-well-known player at the final table of the 629-player event, but the Malaysian was able to overcome the challenge of Patrik Antonius and Dan Shak to top the field and earn AU$1.6 million. Chan began the final table in fourth place, and after a marathon 14-hour session, he finished the first day of the final table second out of three. He returned what in reality was just hours later to eliminate Antonius in third and won the title after a short battle with Joseph Cabret. This was Chan's second cash of the series and the largest of his career.

Other notable finishers include Brandon Adams (22nd), Phil Ivey (30th) and 2010 Aussie Millions champion Tyron Krost (41st).

Here are the results of the final table:

1. Mervin Chan (AU$1.6 million)

2. Joseph Cabret (AU$1.0 million)

3. Patrik Antonius (AU$600,000)

4. Dan Shak (AU$400,000)

5. Jarrod Glennon (AU$290,000)

6. David Yan (AU$220,000)

7. Jay Tan (AU$150,000)

8. Sam Cohen (AU$120,000)

Aussie Millions 250,000 Challenge

Sam Trickett just performs in the highest buy-in events. Over the past two years, Trickett won the 2011 Aussie Millions AU$100,000 event, finished second in the 2011 Aussie Millions AU$250,000 event, earned second in the Big One For One Drop and made the final table in the $250,000 2012 Macau High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller. A few months after his latest life-changing score, Trickett won the AU$250,000 challenge to pocket AU$2 million.

The re-entry event featured only 14 players but 18 entries. Seven made the final day, and only four would make the money after the eliminations of Erik Seidel, Richard Yong and Winfred Yu. Trickett's big moment came with his elimination of Igor Kurganov in fourth. After a flop of 9d-3s-2s, Kurganov checked, Trickett bet and Kurganov called. Kurganov checked after the turn 4s, Trickett bet out and Kurganov moved all-in. Trickett flipped over 5s-6s for a straight flush, and Kurganov's bad luck of hitting the J-high flush sent him to the rail. With nearly 70 percent of the chips in play, Trickett dominated and knocked out Fabian Quoss and Tobias Reinkemeier to win the title.

Here are the results of the AU$250,000 Challenge:

1. Sam Trickett (AU$2.0 million)

2. Tobias Reinkemeier (AU$1.2 million)

3. Fabian Quoss (AU$750,000)

4. Igor Kurganov (AU$500,000)

Aussie Millions AU$100,000 Challenge

There was only one person to re-enter in the Aussie Millions AU$100,000 challenge, and it turns out that it was a very profitable decision. Andrew Robl was knocked out during early Day 1 action before opting to put in a second AU$100,000. He turned his second investment into his largest live tournament score, as he defeated the 22-entry field (21 players) to win AU$1.0 million.

Similar to the AU$250,000 challenge, four players made the money, but unlike Trickett's rolling over his table immediately, it took some time before Robl was in control. Niklas Heinecker was the unlucky bubble boy in the event, and with four left Dan Shak's stack fluctuated from last to first, and it appeared he was on his way to another big score in Melbourne. His downfall came quickly. Robl got lucky against Shak, hitting a five-outer to stay alive, then Kurganov, yes the same Igor Kurganov, doubled through Shak to take the lead. Robl busted Shak, then won a key pot against Kurganov to take the lead. He eliminated Masa Kagawa next with a straight versus his top pair, and just like in the AU$250,000, Kurganov got unlucky and ran his turned two pair into Robl's wheel.

Here are the results of the AU$100,000 Challenge:

1. Andrew Robl (AU$1.0 million)

2. Igor Kurganov (AU$610,000)

3. Masa Kagawa (AU$320,000)

4. Dan Shak (AU$237,000)

Aussie Millions AU$25,000

Getting tired of hearing about Igor Kurganov yet? After two previous cashes for AU$1.1 million, the Russian topped a field of 30 to win the title in the AU$25,000 event for AU$275,000. Kurganov overcame a significant deficit heads-up against Philipp Griussem to claim victory and his first win since June 2012.

Erik Seidel, Niklas Heinecker and Fabian Quoss finished third through fifth, respectively. Kurganov finished out the trip with $1.4 million in earnings.

Here are the results of the AU$25,000 event:

1. Igor Kurganov (AU$275,000)

2. Philipp Gruissem (AU$187,000)

3. Erik Seidel (AU$125,000)

4. Niklas Heinecker (AU$85,000)

5. Fabian Quoss (AU$51,000)

My final thought on the Aussie Millions is the challenge that lies ahead for the event. Attendance was down slightly in each of the larger events, and I think many expected it to be that way. With the newly created WSOP-APAC, which will take place in April, players now have to make a choice between traveling to Melbourne in January/February or in April. Given the distance, going back and forth is not only expensive but draining and time consuming. The Aussie Millions has always been the premier event in the region, but now the bigger name is in town and the bracelet chase will impact future attendance.

The logical solution might be for an extended Aussie Millions that includes WSOP-APAC. There would be enough events and definitely enough on the line for players to make the one trip each year. If things are going to continue with the separated event schedule as it stands today, another tour needs to step in and fill the gap, giving players a reason to hang around. It's a risky move, but if there's another major tournament series in March somewhere in the region, it could appease some and entice them to participate in both events.

Small blinds: IveyPoker has acquired LeggoPoker and will be creating the "Ivey League," an online poker-training initiative. ... Jarred Solomon won the first ring at WSOP Africa, defeating a field of 278 entries in the $365 buy-in event to win $20,018. Greg Tucker won the second event, a $580 buy-in six-handed event, for $12,920. ... Yung Hwang won the WPT's Borgata Winter Poker Open main event for $730,053. Previous WPT champion Matt Salsberg finished sixth. ... PokerStars has launched a free-to-play poker site on Facebook. ... ABC News looks at the MBA-only poker tournament. ... The EPT has moved its EPT London festival from October to March. ... Ryan Stevenson won the latest WSOP Circuit main event in Tunica for $204,795. Watch how the final table played out here.