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Top-10 poker tournaments on Aaron Todd's bucket list

4 October 2010

With two major poker tournaments wrapping up in London over the last week, it got a few of us in the Casino City newsroom talking about what poker tournaments we'd like to play if we had an unlimited bankroll and a ridiculous travel budget. So without further ado, here are the top-10 poker tournaments on my bucket list.

10. PokerStars Caribbean Adventure
As I write this story, it's gray, raining and cold in New England. In January, we'll be buried by snow that could be measured in feet rather than inches. So you can see why I'd like to start the New Year at the Atlantis Resort and Casino, playing in the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Not only is the weather likely to be sunny and in the 80s, the poker will be top-notch as well. Last year, the $10,000 + $300 main event drew 1,529 players for a first place prize of $2.2 million.

9. WPT Vienna
While not all of the tournaments on my bucket list are in far-flung places, many of them have been selected because of their location first. The WPT Vienna is definitely one of those selections. The WPT is visiting the capital city of Austria for the first time in March at the Montesino Wien. The historic building looks beautiful, and if bad luck forced an exit before Day 4, I would be sure to catch the Vienna Boys Choir concert on Sunday morning.

8. EPT London
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't take the opportunity to study abroad while in college. My school had an excellent program in many countries, and most English majors who studied abroad did so in London. While I can't go back in time and spend a semester traveling around the city in the Tube, I wouldn't mind spending a week there trying to win a poker tournament. This year's European Poker Tour £5,000 + £250 main event in London – which ended today – drew 848 players, with first place netting £900,000.

7. WSOP Europe Main Event
If I'm going to head to London to play in the EPT, I might as well go a little early and jump in the £10,000 + £350 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event. This relatively new addition to the WSOP lineup boasted 346 entries in a pro-laden field this year. While the first place prize is a little lower than the EPT London event, the winner gets a WSOP bracelet and becomes one of a handful of WSOP Main Event winners. And of course, with my extra time in London I'd take the opportunity to visit the reconstructed Globe Theatre.

6. NBC Heads-Up Championship
Money isn't a limiting factor keeping me out of this event; my non-existent Q rating, however, is. (Okay, let's be honest, I don't have the $20,000 it takes to play, either). Sixty-two of the most famous poker players (note I said famous and not best) join two online qualifiers in this made-for-TV event in Las Vegas every year. Previous champions include Annie Duke, Huck Seed, Chris Ferguson, Paul Wasicka, and Ted Forrest. Duke, last year's winner, took home a $500,000 prize.

5. WPT World Championship
Yes, the World Poker Tour has seen declining numbers in its tournaments for several years. But the $25,000 + $500 WPT World Championship at the Bellagio still attracts all the top pros. Last year's event drew 195 players, with David Williams claiming the $1.53 million first-place prize. I wouldn't mind getting a piece of that. And winning a tournament at the Bellagio would be a thrill. I think I'd celebrate with a swim in the famous fountain in the front of the building, and happily pay the fine that would result.

4. Aussie Millions
This event is the only tournament on my bucket list that is not affiliated with a tour or a series of some kind. It's hard for a solitary poker tournament to get enough traction to build a large player base, but the Aussie Millions at the Crown Casino in Melbourne has managed to do it. I've never been to Australia, so I'd definitely take some extra time to check out Melbourne, Sydney, and some Australian wildlife, too. Of course, I'd have plenty of spending money after taking down the AUD $10,000 + $600 tournament. Tyron Krost, last year's winner, took home a AUD $2 million first-place prize.

3. The Poker Player's Championship at the WSOP
I've said it before and I'll say it again — too much No-limit Texas Hold'em makes me bored. The $50,000 mixed game event at the WSOP (changed from H.O.R.S.E. to eight games this year) may just have the toughest field in all of tournament poker. This year, only 116 players were brave enough to sign up, with Michael Mizrachi taking home $1.56 million for first place.

2. EPT Monte Carlo
Located in the tiny country of Monaco and sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and France, Monte Carlo is home to beautiful palaces, gardens, and views of the Mediterranean. It's also traditionally been home to the last event on the European Poker Tour. Last year's EPT Monte Carlo €25,000 + €500 main event drew a small crowd of 113 players, with Tobias Reinkemeier taking home the €956,000 first-place prize.

1. WSOP Main Event
No big surprise here. The $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event is the world's biggest live poker tournament, and the winner is set for life thanks to nearly an eight-figure payday, plus plenty more in endorsements. But it's not just about the money. The Main Event is an experience that every home game wannabe and Internet whiz-kid wants a part of. The emotions are higher than they are in any other tournament, and having a tournament win (or bad beat) captured on ESPN's cameras increases the drama. Someday I'll find a way to get into the Main Event. But until I fall on a pile of 10,000 one-dollar bills, I'll have to think of something creative to get it done.

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