Wollongong Amateur Champion takes out Inaugural APL Millions

By William Brown Updated
APL Million poker event returns for the first time in two years

The Australian Poker League’s recently concluded APL Millions tournament has been billed as the largest league poker event in the nation’s history, after attracting 1,164 players to The Star casino in Sydney last week.

That massive field, which consisted largely of recreational players who won their AUD$1,250 tickets through league-style pub poker events, generated a total prize pool of AUD$1,455,000.

After four grueling days on the felt, the lion’s share – UAD$265,000 in first-place prize money to be precise – was claimed by Branko Usljebrka.

A native of Wollongong along the NSW coast, about 90 minutes south of Sydney, Usljebrka was playing in by far the largest tournament of his poker life, as he told The Star Poker Live Reporting Team shortly after the last hand was dealt:

“Mate, I am shocked! I can’t believe it. I never thought that this would happen. I normally play low buy-in tournaments. To come here and play in an event with such a big entry fee and so many great players and be able to win is amazing.

The biggest live tournament I had played before this had a $100 buy in. I have played some other stuff online but nothing like this live.”

Boasting a AUD$1 million guaranteed prize pool, which was shattered by nearly 50 percent, the APL Million was hosted by The Star Sydney, along with Full House Group products the APL and the 888 Poker League (888PL). Using a nationwide system of league play to seat satellite qualifiers, the AUD$1,500 buy-in event attracted qualifiers from all over Australia.

In a press release announcing the final results, APL officials stated that 667 players earned their way into the field via league qualification, including “over 60 representatives from Western Australia, 200 from Victoria, 70 from Queensland, 20 from South Australia, and of course, a lot more from New South Wales, who had the home ground advantage.”

The other 497 players were seated by The Star Sydney via satellite or direct buy-in.

Asked about the path he took from Wollongong to The Star Sydney for such a prestigious tournament, Usljebrka raved about the APL’s satellite format:

“My main tournament that I like to play is the APL event at the Master Builders Club in Wollongong. I am a Wollongong boy through and through. I love it there and will keep playing there.

And that’s the best part. I didn’t even have to pay the $1,500 buy in. I won my way here by making a final table at an APL event and then winning a regional final. I am basically here on a freeroll.”

The action kicked off on Tuesday, March 7 at The Star Sydney, with the first of four Day 1 starting flights winnowing the field down from 1,164 to just under 300 contenders.

From there, the field consolidated into one for Day 2 on Saturday, March 11, with everyone left holding chips gunning for at least 117th place – and the minimum cash of AUD$2,350.

The following day saw fewer than 40 runners remaining, and by day’s end, only Usljebrka and six opponents were left standing to claim seats at the seven-handed final table.

There, four of the seven represented APL or 888PL qualifiers, while the other three were Star poker regulars. That group included poker pros Martin Rowe, best known for winning AUD$1 million for first-place at the Asia-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Main Event back in 2008.

Rowe nearly pulled off another win at The Star, but he ultimately fell in second-place at the hands of Usljebrka.

Full results from the APL Millions seven-handed final table can be seen below:

Place Player Prize (AUD)
1st Branko Usljebrka $265,000
2nd Martin Rowe $165,000
3rd Adrian Attenborough $120,000
4th Renay Murray $91,000
5th Sheldon Mayer $70,000
6th Emmanuel Derecho $54,000
7th John Thomson $42,000


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