2013 Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge Day 1: Kagawa Leads Final 7; Selbst & Shak Still Alive

Masa Kagawa

Year in and year out, the Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge proves to be one of the most competitive and prestigious tournaments of the new year. That was the case at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday as 21 players took to the felt for nearly 10 levels of play. During that time there was one re-entry and the field whittled itself down to the final seven. Leading the way is Masa Kagawa, who ran hot throughout Day 1 and bagged up 695,000.

Here's a look at the final table:

1Dan Shak435,000
2Vanessa Selbst136,000
3Igor Kurganov563,000
4Masa Kagawa695,000
5Tobias Reinkemeier160,000
6Andrew Robl129,000
7Niklas Heinecker85,000

Things began going well for Kagawa in Level 5 (1,000/2,000/200) when he doubled through Dan Shak, who was the early chip leader. From there, he never looked back.

In a big hand in Level 7 (2,000/4,000/400), around 60,000 was in the pot and a flop of {8-Clubs}{7-Diamonds}{J-Diamonds} when Kagawa checked from under the gun. Martin Finger, winner of the 2011 European Poker Tour Prague, bet 16,000 from the button and Kagawa made the call before checking the {Q-Spades} turn. Martin then moved all in for 80,000 and Kagawa snap-called. Finger sheepishly turned over {A-Spades}{K-Clubs} and he was in big trouble against Kagawa's {A-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}; in fact, Kagawa needed either a nonheart ten or king on the river to keep his tournament hopes alive. The dealer burned one more time and put out the {2-Diamonds}. Kagawa improved to a flush to send Finger to the rail, which also vaulted him up to 600,000.

On the flip side, Andrew Robl was the first player to bust from the tournament and became the only player to fire a second bullet. Apparently he came back with a vengeance, because he quickly chipped up upon his return. It happened in Level 6 (1,500/3,000/300) when Igor Kurganov opened for 6,500 from the hijack and Robl three-bet to 17,000 from the button. Mike “SirWatts” Watson then four-bet to 37,000 from the big blind, Kurganov folded, and Robl five-bet the pot. Watson announced that he was all-in for 177,000, and Robl, who barely had him covered, made the call.

Robl: {K-Clubs}{K-Hearts}
Watson: {A-Hearts}{K-Diamonds}

Robl was a huge favorite and looking to dodge an ace. According to the PokerNews Odds Calculator, Watson had just a 29.74 percent chance of winning the hand, though that jumped a bit to 30.30 percent as he picked up a gutshot straight draw. The {q-Diamonds} turn was no help, and Watson watched his chances of survival be cut in half to 15.91 percent. Unfortunately for him, that hit zero when the {3-Spades} blanked on the river. The stack were verified, and then Watson made a hasty exit from the tournament floor.

Others who joined Watson and Finger on the rail throughout the day were (click on their name to read their elimination) Fabian Quoss, Jason Pritchard, John Juanda, Jason Mercier, Tony Bloom, Eric Liu, Sam Trickett, Gus Hansen, Philipp Gruissem and Patrik Antonius.

It was actually a short and not-so-sweet stay for Antonius, who entered the tournament in Level 4 (500/1,000/100) and exited 20 minutes later. The action was picked up with 13,000 in the pot and a flop reading {J-Hearts}{4-Clubs}{6-Clubs}. Antonius had bet 7,200 from the under-the-gun position, only to have Shak raise to 20,000 from the hijack. Antonius thought for a moment before moving all in for about 70,000 more, and Shak made the call with {Q-Clubs}{10-Clubs} for a flush draw, which he needed to hit to overcome the Finn's {6-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}.

And overcome he did when the {7-Clubs} rolled off on the turn, though Antonius still had a chance to win if the board were to pair on the river. The dealer burned one last time and put out the {9-Clubs}. "I'll see you in a few minutes," someone at the table said to Antonius, referencing the fact that he was likely to re-enter.

"No, no, no," Antonius responded. "That's enough for me."

Igor Kurganov
Igor Kurganov

It was, no doubt, a demoralizing exit for the Finn, but perhaps less heartbreaking than the double elimination in the final hand of the night that sent two players home as the final-table bubble boys. It happen in Level 10 (4,000/8,000/1,000) when Winfred Yu opened for 20,000 from middle position and Kurganov three-bet to 40,000 right behind. When action reach Chris "Genius28" Lee in the small blind, he four-bet to 130,000, leaving just 36,000 behind, and Yu called off for around 53,000. Kurganov hit the tank for nearly five minutes before announcing that he was all-in, and Lee called off.

Kurganov: {J-Spades}{J-Clubs}
Yu: {6-Spades}{6-Hearts}
Lee: {A-Hearts}{K-Spades}

Kurganov got it in good but had to dodge a lot of outs. He did so on the {8-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds} flop as no player held a diamond, and the {Q-Hearts} was safe enough. The dealer burned one more time and put out the {5-Hearts}, giving Kurganov the double elimination to end Day 1.

Seven players are still in contention, but only four will earn a payday as follows: 1st-A$1,000,000; 2nd-A$610,000; 3rd-A$320,000; and 4th-A$237,000. Who will add their name to this prestigious list of champions (click name to learn more about their victory):

YearWinnerPrizeNo. of EntriesPrize Pool
2012Dan SmithA$1,012,00022A$2,200,000
2011Sam TrickettA$1,525,00038A$3,800,000
2010Dan ShakA$1,200,00024A$2,400,000
2009David SteickeA$1,200,00023A$2,300,000
2008Howard LedererA$1,250,00025A$2,500,000
2007Erick LindgrenA$1,000,00018A$1,800,000

Day 2 of the 2013 Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge will kick off at 14:00 EDT (22:00 EST), and of course the PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be on hand to bring you all the action and elimination from that event, as well as Day 1b of the A$10,000 Main Event.

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