The poker boom has swept the world in recent years and Australia, while late to catch on, has gone with it. Poker made initial inroads into the mainstream Down Under when cable television channel Fox8 started screening episodes of the World Poker Tour in 2004. Casinos around the country reported an increase in poker activity and player numbers from Australia also increased online.
The event that catapulted poker into the general public's eye though was in mid-2005, when Australia Joe Hachem took first place in the World Series of Poker Main Event. It made the front page of the newspapers and everyone was suddenly hailing this 'family man' who had made the journey to Vegas and taken down poker's top honor. Poker was suddenly the latest trend, poker chips were on the shelves of every store, free pub poker took off and celebrities began to play poker on free-to-air television.
In each of the major capital cities of Australia there is a casino, all of which now have a poker room. The biggest poker room in the country is at Melbourne's Crown Casino. Crown Casino is host to the 'Aussie Millions' tournament each January, which attracts the biggest names in poker each year.
Online poker in Australia is legal, but it is illegal for gaming companies to advertise real money gaming. Gambling earnings are taxed only if you are considered a professional; therefore many recreational and semi-professional players are not taxed on their poker income.
The Stars of Australian Poker
Everybody in poker knows about Joe Hachem, and the 2005 world champion has proven he was no one hit wonder. He has made multiple final tables of big $10,000 events and taken down a World Poker Tour title since.
Before Hachem came along, the most famous Australian poker player was 'Tong G'. A Lithuanian born Australian famous for his trash talking at the table, but he is also an excellent card player. He has multiple World Poker Tour final table appearances and a title, as well as good results all over the world.
Mel Judah, another World Poker Tour champion is a true veteran of the game and a much respected player in the poker community. He has two World Series of Poker bracelets, both in Seven Card Stud.
Jeff Lisandro has over $2,000,000 in career tournament winnings, but is known by many as a cash game specialist. He finished 17th in the 2006 WSOP Main Event, his appearance marred by an ugly incident where he was accused of not posting an ante' which on video replay was proven to be a misguided acquisition.
In 2006, young-gun Mark Vos won over $800,000 by taking down first place in the $2,000 No Limit Hold 'Em event. He is Australia most promising poker talent and one to look out for in the coming years.