Toby Lewis sits in front of a big arse mirror framed with big arse lightbulbs, a beautiful woman preens him like a peacock, two dozen red roses sit in a vase of crystal clear water, Craig McCorkell sits on the chaise lounge cracking open a can of beer.
We’re inside the changing room at the Crown Casino, Melbourne. The one with the word ‘Star’ hanging from a nail.
And then I wake up.
Toby Lewis, the 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event Champion, is back in his old haunt, munching through High Rolling Challenge events like Sirens on shipwrecked sailors.
The AUD 25,000 Challenge attracted 151-entrants, a 37% climb on the 114-entrants that Ben Lamb turned to woolly jumpers on his way to winning the title 12-months ago – a record for an Aussie Millions AUD 25,000 event, beating the 133-entrant mark from 2017.
29-players made it through to Day 2, with Lewis settled in second place, and the man who would eventually face him in the final scene of this particular manuscript, Rainer Kempe, sitting pretty five spaces behind him.
Three people stood out by the time the final table came into full view – Lewis and Kempe, and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event Champion, Chino Rheem, and it was these three who were the last players’ seated.
Kempe was the man who disposed of Rheem’s body when his AQ outflopped and outturned pocket nines, and it proved to be the last hand after Kempe and Lewis sized each other up, and decided to save their energy for another fight, in another casino, in another city.
The pair struck a deal, moved all-in blind, and Kempe’s trash beat Lewis’s garbage to place the German in the photographers’ crosshairs.
Lewis may be in tip-top form, but so is Kempe. The 2018 Global Poker Index (GPI) German Player of the Year, flew into Melbourne after a PCA that saw him finish fourth in a $25k and win a $50k and a $10k, collecting more than a million beans in the process.
$25k Challenge Final Table Results
1. Rainer Kempe – $595,055*
2. Toby Lewis – $566,074*
3. Chino Rheem – $300,067
4. Guillaume Nolet – $221,789
5. Gautam Dhingra – $156,557
6. Luke Marsh – $110,894
7. Jack Salter – $84,802
*Denotes a heads-up deal
When Sam Greenwood won the 2018 AUD 50,000 Challenge, it felt like poker had stepped out of a time machine during the Great Depression with only four people turning up to squeeze green baize beneath their fingernails.
Fast forward, 12-months, and you had an entirely different picture with 62-entrants forcing the organisers to put on an impromptu third day of action.
By that time Lewis was leading the final five players that included Bjorn Lin from Hong Kong, the Austrian Thomas Muehloecker, and the German pair: Dominik Nitsche and Manig Loeser.
Lewis was in majestic form and ripped the field apart like an ill-fitted coil – waltzing into a heads-up encounter with Loeser holding a 2.7m v 362k chip lead.
Loeser needed to get lucky, and lucky he got.
The pair got it in with Loeser light-years behind holding pocket jacks against the superior pocket queens, only to river a flush. Then a second cooler when Loeser’s pocket nines beat the pocket eights of Lewis.
By this time the stacks were even, so they agreed on a deal, moved all-in blind, and this time, Lewis would stare down the barrel of the lens.
$50k Challenge Final Table Results
1. Toby Lewis – $588,999*
2. Manig Loeser – $556,017*
3. Thomas Muehloecker – $296,856
4. Dominik Nitsche – $233,244
5. Bjorn Li – $169,632
6. Tobias Ziegler – $148,428
7. Michael Zhang – $127,224
*Denotes a heads-up deal
So far Lewis has cashed in four events at the Aussie Millions, making three final tables, and banking more than $1.1m. His new influx of cash sees him leapfrog Roland de Wolfe, Chris Moorman and Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliot into the sixth position in the England All Time Live Tournament Money List with $6.3m.
The AUD 100,000 Challenge takes place February 1 & 2.
If he enters, back him.