Joel Williams Leaves Crown Poker For Apl Poker Tour

After a 23-year affiliate with Crown Melbourne, most recently as the poker room’s tournament director, Joel Williams decided to make a change in early 2021. He left the most famous poker room in Australia to join with the Australian Poker League (APL) to oversee the impending launch of the APL Poker Tour and the APL Millions.

A Long History with Crown

Joel Williams started his work with Crown Casino in Melbourne in 1997 as a blackjack dealer. He was one of many dealers that started with the company when its casino complex first opened in 1997. He quickly decided that he wanted to train as a poker dealer, and he did that in the year 2000.

Williams was so proficient that he became part of the training team to train newcomers to the poker dealing world. He also worked to train poker room management and employees involved in poker tournament operations. He was a well-respected member of the poker family at Crown.

At the end of 2015, the Crown’s poker room needed a tournament director for the upcoming 2016 Aussie Millions series. In an interview with Pocket Fives during that series, Williams said, “When the Tournament Director position eventually became available, I jumped at it. The chance to be involved in one of the world’s most prestigious poker events was just too good to pass up, and especially at a management level.”

On February 2, 2021, Williams announced his decision on social media. He wrote on Twitter, “After 23 years at Crown, the time has come for a change! Thanks to all who made my time at Crown memorable & enjoyable and look forward to seeing you in the APLPT scene – exciting times ahead!”

Not Exactly Surprising News

There are two primary reasons that Williams’ move should not be particularly surprising.

First, Crown has been immersed in scandal since mid-2019. It all started with a massive journalistic exposé by 60 Minutes, the Age and Sydney Morning Herald. Allegations of money laundering and drug trafficking, shady junket operators and influence by Chinese agents put Crown in the middle of a media firestorm.

While Crown denied all allegations, regulators pursued investigations. Those wanting to examine the company and its gaming licenses included the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (NSW ILGA), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

The one that won out was the NSW regulatory body, launched its investigation to determine the viability of Crown to maintain its license to operate the new Barangaroo facility’s casino. The final result of that inquiry will become public this month.

There is a chance that Crown could lose one or more of its gaming licenses in 2021 or succumb to an acquisition offer by a larger casino company.

Second, the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on live poker throughout Australia. The poker room at Crown Melbourne never reopened after the initial shutdowns in March 2020. Further, Crown announced in November that the 2021 Aussie Millions would not be rescheduled but cancelled in its entirety.

Aussie Millions 2021 cancellation

One or both of those events – unknown future of Crown and cancellation of Aussie Millions in 2021 – likely inspired Williams’ decision to move on.

APL Recovers from Covid Shutdowns

The Australian Poker League (APL) has been hosting poker league games since 2005. Owned by Full House Group, the APL is a member-based organization but with no fees to join. In recent years, Full House Group absorbed Pub Poker and 888 Poker League, incorporating their league participants into the APL. And the APL’s database shows more than 400,000 players.

The coronavirus pandemic put it all on hold in March 2020. As with every other live poker operator around the world, the APL had to indefinitely pause all of its league games and tournaments.

Later in 2020, some of the clubs, pubs, and other establishments that hosted APL games reopened per government allowances. The virus seemed to spread in waves, so venues opened and closed as health officials dictated throughout Australia last year.

As 2021 began, the APL website showed events on the schedule. With some luck, the APL will be back to full operational capabilities by the middle of 2021.

New APL Position

The Australian Poker League proudly welcomed Williams to the team as its Major Events Director. According to the APL’s Facebook post, he will manage the events team and oversee the launch of the APL Poker Tour (APLPT) in 2021, as well as the return of the APL Million.

Williams expressed his excitement to be with the APL. “The APLPT concept is going to revolutionise league-based poker in Australia, and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition. The APLPT will give all players access to larger event prize pools than ever before. The range of APLPT series events will include buy-ins from $50 to $3,000, catering to players of all levels.”

When the pandemic shut down APL operations, the company noted that it will honor all accrued PTC credits and qualifications from early 2020. Players earn points through select APL events throughout the year and can be used for full or partial buy-ins to APLPT events.

Williams already attended the APL Jackstar event last weekend and spoke to players as he prepares to host the first poker tour event next weekend.

APLPT Set for February and March

Per the APL, the first events will take place at Southport Sharks from 11 February to 14 February. The APLPT Gold Coast is offering $150K in prize pool guarantees over the course of 16 tournaments.

APLPT Queensland

The next series will be the APLPT Melbourne, which is set for 3 March to 7 March. Williams and the team plan to set future events for Sydney and Adelaide.


Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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