Wollongong poker player snares $265,000 after winning APL Million tournament

Wollongong poker player Branko Usljebrka claims the APL Millions tournament and $265,000  first prize. Picture: Tim Manners.
Wollongong poker player Branko Usljebrka claims the APL Millions tournament and $265,000 first prize. Picture: Tim Manners.

The reality of winning more than $250,000 had still not sunk in for Wollongong poker player Branko Usljebrka on Tuesday.

The day before Usljebrka recorded his biggest ever poker win when he beat a field of 1164 players to claim the prestigious APL Million tournament at the Star Poker Festival in Sydney.

It’s believed the $265,000 first prize pool is the most Star City has ever given away for a poker tournament.

It is definitely one of the biggest single cash wins for an Illawarra-based poker player.

This fact is not lost on publicity-shy Usljebrka.

‘’It’s a lot of money. Certainly the most that I’ve ever won,’’ he said. ‘’To play and win an event with such a big entry fee and so many great players is amazing. The biggest live tournament I had played before this was probably a $100 buy in.

‘’I’m happy I won but all the attention has been overwhelming. I just want to enjoy this win and get back to playing poker in Wollongong.’’

Usljebrka also just wants to catch up on some much-needed sleep after outlasting a quality field of professional and amateur poker players in the week-long tournament.

‘’It’s a gruelling tournament. It's hard. If you don’t have endurance, you can’t play this tournament,’’ he said.

‘’It is 12 hours a day for the first two days and the third day was eight hours. The final table took about six hours.’’

Usljebrka was one of four APL players on the final table, with the other three spots filled by pros.

He had the fourth highest chip-stack ($3.390,000) when final table play started on Monday. Play was fast and furious but Usljebrka kept his cool beating home pros Martin Rowe and Adrian Attenborough, who placed second and third respectively.

He had a sweat though on the final hand. Holding AcJs, Usljebrka opened for 600k and then called the 1.5m Rowe (As4c) raised to.

All the money went in after the flop of three spades. Usljebrka turned a straight and then faded a spade on the river to claim the title.

Usljebrka didn’t have to pay the $1500 buy-in, securing his berth after winning an APL Illawarra regional final.

APL Illawarra franchise owner Donna Gregory said the ‘’humble’’ Usljebrka had done the region proud. ‘’I’m so happy for him,’’ she said.