World Series of Poker Sydney Circuit Review

The WSOP Sydney Circuit was recently hosted by the Star Sydney in Australia’s largest city. Lots of young talent came out to do battle with the old hands in what was a well-supported event.


Featuring 13 events over 21 days, and offering 14 of the much yearned for Gold Circuit Rings, players would be fighting it out for a share of what was a guaranteed $3.8 million for the whole series - $2 million of that for the main event itself.

Gregory Chochon, World Series of Poker Director, was beaming with pride at being able to take the WSOP brand to Australia for the second year running.

“The World Series of Poker is the biggest and the best tournament series in the world, and we couldn’t be happier to be bringing the Australian leg of the international circuit back to The Star for the second year running. Last year’s circuit event at The Star Poker Room was the biggest international circuit event we’ve ever held and we’re thrilled to be doing it all again.”

Let’s take a look at who took down the big ones.


Main Event

Local boy Michael Kanaan was the victor in the main event, besting 1,066 other players to collect a $394,837 prize. All of the top five placings would be going home with a $100,000+ pay day too.

With the tournament being so heavily subscribed, it was no surprise that it took four separate Day One starting flights to weed out the chaff. By the time Day Two was ready to start the field had been reduced to only 289 players. By the end of that day only 30 participants remained, and five hours into Day Three it was final table time.

Michael Kanaan must have been a huge betting favourite if you were only looking at career live tournament earnings, with $944,096 compared to Michael Fraser’s $123,198 in second place. Nobody else had even racked up six figures from the final nine.

It took an hour for the first casualty to be sent to the rail, as life changing sums of money were at risk here, and nobody wanted to be the first to go. When it got down to three-handed play, Kanaan doubled up John Pachos and shipped a load more to Fraser putting himself at real risk of being the next one out. But the status quo remained for another three hours until Pachos ended up all in with second pair against Fraser’s top pair giving Kanaan real hope that he could take it down.

It was only half an hour later after a steady, solid grind that Kanaan was back in the chip lead. Fraser was obviously frustrated at this point, but thought that ATo was good enough for a jam; unfortunately, Kanaan was sitting ready to snap him off with AKs, which held to give him the title.

Talking to the media after his win, Kanaan spoke about how dealing with Sam Alhassan was a turning point in his victory.

"The biggest hand of the tournament to me would have been when I got pocket King all in against pocket Queens. That was the big double up that made me chip leader. He had been running so good that I needed to take his chips from him. He had been unstoppable for three days, and after this hand, he was eliminated a few hands later."


Andy Lee Wins the High Roller

Sydney professional Andy Lee was the last man standing in the High Roller event, after what he said was the longest heads-up battle ever played in his life.

We saw 36 entries and several rebuys build a prize pool of more than $600,000. That though didn’t tell the whole story, as only the top four would be walking away with any money. Talk about a top heavy pay out structure, with serious ICM at work too. Fourth place would only walk away with $60,800 so a lot of nitty play was to be expected.

Come final table time German hotshot Martin Finger was sat in second place, behind eventual winner Andy Lee. That can’t have made for a comfortable finish to the tournament for the local lad. Finger has more than $7.5 million in live tournament winnings, and is one of the most highly rated players on the planet. An EPT main event plus Super High Rollers and a WSOP bracelet make him just about the last person you want chasing you down.

Once the money was reached the speed of play went up dramatically. David Wang, Tolly Sakellariou, Martin Finger, and Andy Lee were all that remained to fight it out for the lion’s share of the booty. Wang was soon eager to make some headway from his current third place and jammed A5o over Finger’s open raise with K6o, with a turned king sending him home.

Sakellariou was next to leave after open shoving Q8s and Lee calling him off with A7o. No help for either player saw him scoop $91,200 for his two day’s work.

Now the stage was set for what would turn out to be an immense heads up battle played out over more than five hours. Lee held what was almost a 2-1 chip advantage, but as we’ve already seen, Finger is an incredible player and not to ever be underestimated.

The climax came after Finger had repeatedly fought his way back into contention, but was once again short stacked. His Q6s was now all in against Lee’s 87s hoping for a dry board, and 7 7 9 was definitely not what he was looking for, but there it was. Even when the heart turn came to apparently give him a whisker of a chance it was the 8h giving Lee a boat.

Afterwards Lee told the media

"That was the longest heads-up battle I have ever played in my life. Martin is a very good player, so it was very tough."

"I seem to be doing really well in Star Poker Tournaments lately. I guess I am just lucky in my home state!"