A poker tournament is looking to trump the Melbourne Cup as Australia's biggest-paying major event.
Crown casino has raised the first-prize purse for its annual "Aussie Millions" poker championships to $2.5 million, putting its main event just $800,000 short of last year's Melbourne Cup winner's cheque of $3.3 million.
And the poker prize pool will soar again in 2010 on the back of a TV series tipped to reach more than 100 million lounge rooms across the globe.
The Australian Open, offering $2 million for both men's and women's championships, now sits in third place ahead of the AFL Grand Final ($1 million) and the Australian Masters Golf ($270,000).
Podium prizes for the Albert Park Formula One Grand Prix and the Phillip Island MotoGP are minimal.
"A first prize of $2.5 million gives the Aussie Millions a status it deserves on Melbourne's major events program," Crown CEO David Courtney said yesterday.
"Crown is now sharing the limelight with some of Victoria's other major events, including the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open, and the AFL Grand Final."
The Aussie Millions, running each January in conjunction with the Australian Open, is now the world's fifth largest poker tournament and the biggest outside the US.
"Huge growth in the number of overall participants reflects the increasing popularity of the game locally and internationally," Mr Courtney said.
He said the tournament generated more than 8000 hotel-room nights across Melbourne, rivalling all other Victorian major events.
This week, Melbourne poker champ Joe Hachem and cricket legend Shane Warne are heading a band of Aussie hopefuls in Las Vegas vying for the World Championship of poker and a bumper first prize of more than $9 million. (Credit: Herald Sun).
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