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Some might be surprised to find Lee Nelson in the Australian Poker Hall of Fame. After all, Nelson is from New Zealand. However, there’s no doubt that Nelson has been an important part of the Australian poker community for many years, and he has had a huge impact on the Australian poker scene throughout his career. Through his writings, he has also become a well-known figure to poker players around the world.
Lee Nelson is a retired doctor (with an M.D.) who was born in the United States on January 19, 1943. His focus has been on nutrition and longevity, and in medical circles, he had some recognition for his book Prostate Cancer Prevention and Cure. He spent his career as a doctor living and working in New Zealand.
Nelson is primarily known as a tournament poker player, and has long been a mainstay on the tournament circuits in Australia and New Zealand. A quick look at Nelson’s career reveals that he has never cashed in the World Series of Poker, and that he has never won an event on the World Poker Tour – yet he is still one of the most prolific winners in Australian tournament poker history.
The reason for this is simple: most of Nelson’s significant wins have come in Australia and New Zealand (though he has occasionally branched out to play in Europe and other destinations). Early in his career, he was one of the dominant local players at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, making final tables there more than 20 times from 2000 to 2004.
But it was 2005 that would be the true breakout year for Nelson. After scoring his biggest ever cash in January – he won the Pot Limit/No Limit Speed Poker tournament at the Crown Australian Poker Championships, winning A$120,000 – Nelson was invited to participate in the invitation-only Party Poker World Open. Nelson proceeded to dominate the event, winning his heat, his semi-final round, and the final in route to a $400,000 prize.
That win put Nelson on the map, but it was what he would do in 2006 that made him an Australian poker legend. In January 2006, Nelson played in the Aussie Millions Main Event (then still known as the Crown Australian Poker Championship). He won a prize worth A$1,295,800, still the largest of his career.
Since then, Nelson hasn’t scored any dramatic million dollar cashes, but he has remained a very strong tournament player – especially in Australia. He frequently plays on the Australia-New Zealand Poker Tour, and won the Melbourne Main Event on that tour in September 2011. He also reached the final table at the 2012 Aussie Millions. Overall, Nelson has won more than $2.5 million in his career, more than any other player from New Zealand in history and nearly triple the amount of any other player from the country.
To many players, Nelson is best known for two important tournament poker books he has helped author. The first, Kill Phil, was one of the first books to fully explore the possibility of moving all-in frequently to combat professional players who have a skill advantage over amateurs. Later, he helped write a sequel called Kill Everyone, which discussed the more complex strategies used by today’s modern professionals.
Outside of poker, Nelson has remained active in the medical world. He recently built a wellness retreat near Abel Tasman National Park. Known as Split Apple Retreat, it features a variety of programs and activities designed to promote health and wellness. Nelson serves as the director for the retreat.
Today, Nelson lives in (appropriately) Nelson, New Zealand. In 2009, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Australian Poker Hall of Fame due to both his work as an author and his accomplishments in Australian poker.