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TRAVEL STORY

Melbourne bound

Poker travel agent and writer Andreas Kythreotis offers his years of wisdom and experience to poker players headed to Melbourne for this year’s Aussie Millions

It's that time of year again with glitter, lights, Christmas trees and snow. The stores are packed with the latest gadgets and toys. Children write lists to Father Christmas and adults make New Year’s resolutions. But when the holiday season has passed, the cold weather no longer feels festive. It just feels bloody cold. Poker players can at least look forward to a week or two of warm sunshine and great poker at the Crown Australian Poker Championship in Melbourne, Australia – or the ‘Aussie Millions’ as it has become known.

The enormous Crown Casino can be found on the banks of the Yarra River and is the home to this annual poker extravaganza. The Aussie Millions is one of the best poker events on the calendar and as it’s the first event of the new year, it’s just a little bit special and a hard event to top.

THE EVENT

The 2010 Aussie Millions event runs from 14 January, with a no-limit hold’em tournament for AUS $1,000+$100 (approximately £600), to the Main Event starting ten days later on 24 January, for AUS $10,000+$500 (approximately £5,800). There will be a total of 20 events during the 18 days, with Texas hold’em, Omaha, H.O.R.S.E. and seven card stud tournaments.

You will find endless satellites and regular sit-n-go games running all day and night. Many poker players will take the trip to Melbourne a week before the Main Event and play nothing but satellites, hoping to get a seat and the chance to become a poker star and take home their share of the estimated AUS $30 million prize pool. Last year there were a total of 681 runners in the Main Event, and it was Aussie native Stewart Scott who took the title to became the first Australian to be crowned champion of the Aussie Millions. Scott went home with a cool AUS $2 million.

Runners in the Main Event will start with 20,000 chips and levels on Day 1 will be 90 minutes. The tables become eight-handed as soon as possible on Day 1, and six-handed after 36 players remain from each day. Day 2 will bring together the remaining players with 120-minute levels.

GETTING THERE

Like migrating birds looking for warmer climates, professional and amateur players fly from all over the world to take part in this awesome event. Flying into Melbourne in January is easy and relatively well priced as the Australian summer attracts tourists who, like the birds, are in search of better weather. This means there are tonnes of flights available; if you book early enough you can save a packet.

From the UK you will find direct flights with Virgin and British Airways for around £800. They fly daily from London Heathrow and Manchester. Emirates also have flights to Melbourne with a short stop in Dubai, and the flights are often around £200 less than the direct flights. The short break gives you the chance to stretch your legs, shop in the vast array of stores or have a drink or meal at one of the many restaurants within the terminal. If it's the long flights that you don’t like then breaking your journey in two can be a more time consuming but less strenuous option. You can check availability and prices for flights to Melbourne using the global flight search at FullHouseTravel.com.

MELBOURNE

You will fall in love with Melbourne's vibrant energy, staggering choice of restaurants and food outlets, funky boutiques, café-filled laneways, cool bars, shopping malls and beautiful scenery.

Melburnians embrace three things in particular: good sports, good food and good entertainment. The locals here have a real passion for nightlife and in the evening you are treated to a plethora of great restaurants and watering holes (or 'pubs' for people who never watched Neighbours).

Much of the nightlife consists of live music venues and all genres of music are catered for. There are a number of clubs that are well worth a visit, but ask around to find some of the local hotspots. Or if you just want to have a few drinks and enjoy the evening, then go into the Crown Casino where you can chose from an array of great options.

There is one other scene in Melbourne, and that's the backpacker scene. There are countless hostels and backpacker bars in Melbourne that offer cheap beer and drunken ‘sheilas’. If you're on a budget or on the prowl, then this is where you want to be.

GETTING AROUND

Getting around Melbourne is simple and cheap. There is an extensive tram network that runs all day around the city and surrounding areas. The City Circle tram is free and runs around the city centre stopping at various points en route.

Melbourne is one of the most multicultural cities that you’ll ever visit and you absolutely must take time for a day trip around town. During the day you can jump on the trams and go to the beach or just take some time to walk around.

WHERE TO STAY

The Crown has three excellent and beautiful accommodation options available. The Crown Towers are the jewel of Melbourne hotels, while the Metropol and Promanade hotels are more modern and casual with excellent facilities and service, all within a reasonable price range. These two are highly recommended for anyone travelling to the Aussie Millions as they are very comfortable, well priced and within the grounds of the tournament’s base. It is important for a player to be located as close as possible to the event. When you need to get away for a few minutes of quiet, then there is only one place you can go for a quick recharge and that's your hotel room.

There are however a number of excellent alternative accommodation options available very close to the Crown. If you’re looking for a hotel near to the event and in the medium price range then look no further than the Seasons Heritage Melbourne. Just a short hop from the casino it is very well positioned for your needs. The hotel’s relaxed and comfortable atmosphere makes it my number one recommendation for the Aussie Millions. Guests at the Seasons Heritage can stay in a standard hotel-style room or plump for an apartment-style room with kitchenette and lounge areas. For the poker player, this is a great choice as the apartment will be less stressful and more homely.

If you’re away from home playing poker, you must always remember to consider your comfort level and your morale. A small hotel room with nothing but dirty clothes and a bed can get depressing for anyone, and being away from home and loved ones can make you unfocused and your game will suffer. So whenever you travel for poker consider what you will feel more relaxed with and how long you will be in town before you book accommodation.

TIPS FOR POKER TRAVEL...

Poker travel and travelling on holiday are two very different things. If you’re planning on a poker trip then consider these tips from the poker travel experts at Full House Travel

• Get there early. Arriving a day or two early will give you time to get over the jet lag and become accustomed to your new surroundings. For the Aussie Millions we would recommend 24-48 hours before you enter the event. Just the excitement of this event can catch you off guard and throw you off your game. So sit around and watch the others play for a while before jumping in

• Just like home. When you go to your hotel it's easy to just live out of the suitcase for a week or two and leave a pile of dirty clothes on the floor. If you are under pressure and need a few minutes of silence then you will want to walk into a room that is fresh and tidy. So put clothes in the wardrobe and washing in the wash bag or linen cupboard if there is one. This will give you an uncluttered area to collect your thoughts and plan your game strategy. If it's a mess then, although you may not realise, it can potentially cause more stress for you and that's the last thing you need at a poker table.

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