Tournament coverage Poker

APPT season 4 gives even more

Written by Andrew W Scott

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.

The world poker explosion has now well and truly hit Asia. Pokerstars, the world’s largest online poker room, is also the sponsor of a veritable alphabet soup of land-based poker tours around the world. There is the well-established European Poker Tour (EPT) about to enter its seventh season, the Latin America Poker Tour (LAPT) which takes place in South America, the Australia and New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT), the UK and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT), the North American Poker Tour (NAPT), the Filipino Poker Tour (FPT), the Russian Poker Series (RPS), the France Poker Series (FPS), the Italian Poker Tour (IPT), our own Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), and of course the annual culmination of all these festivals: the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure (PCA). The PCA takes place every January in no less exotic a location as the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island in The Bahamas, and has awarded over US$50 million in prize money since 2004.

Our own APPT has well and truly established itself as the preeminent poker tour in Asia. In 2006, APPT founders Jeffrey Haas and Sarne Lightman saw Asia’s potential when Macau surpassed Las Vegas as the world’s largest gaming turnover city. In August 2007, the APPT was launched in Manila at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino. The tournament was graced by the presence of poker heavyweights like Daniel Negreanu and 2005 WSOP champion Joe Hachem. Celebrities like former World Pool Champion Alex Pagulayan also played. The success of the Manila event and the support of Mr Harold Tsakmaklis, CEO of the opulent Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino, both contributed to the emergence of the first ever live poker tournament in China. Two more stops on the tour, Seoul and Sydney, completed the first season. The 1,418 players competing for a total prize pool of US$5,586,159 in APPT Season 1 confirmed Haas’ belief in Asian poker. This was only the beginning. In 2008, APPT Season 2 had a total of 1,772 players and a total prize pool of US$4,998,268. In 2009, Season 3 saw 1,407 players vie for a total prize pool of US$5,412,834. While these numbers don’t yet show the massive growth of other poker tours around the world, their consistency shows that high stakes poker tournaments in Asia are here to stay.

Part of the success of the APPT in Asia can be attributed to TV coverage. Televising the glitz and glamour of poker tournaments creates a celebrity image for poker players in a region where gambling is a favourite pastime of everyone from students to grandmothers. 441 Productions contributed to the poker boom in the early 2000s, producing slick television coverage of the biggest poker festival in the world, Las Vegas’ World Series of Poker (WSOP). This coverage aired on ESPN, and the WSOP is now a regular feature on ESPN every year. 441 Productions leant their heavyweight TV credentials to the first and second seasons of the APPT. They have now been replaced with local production house, Poker TV Asia, which also films high quality poker productions of poker in Asia like the APPT and the regular Macau Poker Cups.

APPT Season 4 in 2010 promises to be bigger and better than ever. The season kicked off in March with a special poker tournament run jointly under the auspices of the APPT and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). With a buy-in of just US$2,700 and a PAGCOR guaranteed prize pool of US$1 million, the PAGCOR Efraim C. Genuino Chairman’s Cup held at the luxurious Manila Pavilion Hotel and Casino generated plenty of interest.

When the PAGCOR event was announced, there was concern as to whether the event would be successful. It was the very first collaboration of this kind between PAGCOR and the APPT and it was the first time an APPT event guaranteed a prize pool. The first two day 1s seemed disappointing but a huge influx of players on the third and final day 1 brought the total field to 430 players, easily exceeding the guarantee. This was the biggest playing field ever in the Philippines for an international event!

Thirty-one year old Vietnamese- American Binh Nguyen heard of the Philippines event and its US$1 million guarantee while he was in Macau. It was just an hour’s flight to come over to play. It was a good decision as he went home with a golden bracelet and the first prize of US$260,700. In 2009 he had cashed for US$935,044 when he was the runner-up at the World Poker Tour (WPT) LA Poker Classic. At his victory celebration in Manila, Binh said that despite having cashed more at the WPT event, winning the PAGCOR event and being the champion meant more to him. After his Filipino experience, he decided to support future legs of the APPT including the APPT Macau.

APPT Macau opening ceremony

APPT Macau opening ceremony

The success of the joint APPT and PAGCOR event further cemented The Philippines as a major stop on the APPT. The Philippines has 30 poker rooms – the largest number of any Asian country. It has a local poker tour officially sponsored by Pokerstars, The Filipino Poker Tour (FTP). The FTP started with 117 players in its inaugural event in January 2008 and has grown to the point that its most recent event in March this year boasted over 700 players. Thanks to the FPT, the APPT, and the support of Pokerstars and local Filipino poker rooms, The Philippines is now firmly established as the Asian poker destination second only to Macau.

The player base in the Philippines is much larger than Macau’s.The difference is that the stakes are much smaller. This has not discouraged Filipinos from joining international events. Pokerstars, with its numerous online satellites, has given Filipinos an opportunity to enter these tournaments cheaply and because of this Pokerstars is the only online poker room known to most Filipino players.

The APPT Manila was followed by the APPT Macau held at the Grand Lisboa, home of the biggest live poker tournaments in Asia. In previous seasons, the APPT Macau was held in August, but from this year it was moved to late May, just before the start of the WSOP. This year the APPT Macau rolled out so many side events that the entire festival lasted three weeks. Side events now include a freeroll satellite to the main event, a no limit hold’em express event and a KO bounty event.

Macau poker regular Chong Cheong

Macau poker regular Chong Cheong

The APPT Macau’s main event opening ceremony began with a game of Blackjack between three of Asia’s sexiest models: Chrissie Chow, Tia Li and Larisa Angela, and ended with a traditional Chinese bian lian mask changing ceremony. The main event field consisted of 342 players and the prize pool was HK$12,730,608. Among those who played were 2009 ANZPT Player of the Year Tony Hachem, legendary Dutch poker pro Marcel Luske, China moneylist number-one David Steicke, World Gaming magazine CEO Andrew Scott, and Pokerstars Team Asia pros Raymond Wu, Bryan Huang and Celina Lin. Players were welcomed at a lavish party at the luxurious ball room of the Grand Lisboa, and were entertained by an incredible Michael Jackson impersonator. The revelry didn’t end there. Tournament Director Danny McDonagh structured the tournament so that each day’s play finished early enough for players to enjoy Macau’s decadent nightlife. Sure enough, players headed straight to cocktails and music each night to enjoy the city that never sleeps. The APPT Macau was an outstanding tournament and an experience that players will never forget.

When the dust had settled 33 year old Victorino Torres from the Northern Mariana Islands emerged as the APPT Macau Season 4 Champion, collecting a handsome HK$3,246,200 in the process. Like many tournament winners before him, Torres had qualified online at Pokerstars for just a fraction of the full entry fee.

The APPT continues to prove it is a world-class brand. Tournament Director Danny McDonagh, Pokerstars Macau marketing manager Fred Leung, Robin Lim, Dom Choi, Calvin Shueh and all those associated with the APPT are doing a fine job and are well ahead of other tours in the region.

Indeed, the APPT seems to be heading in the same direction as the EPT. The EPT’s impressive growth has resulted in its total prize and player pool increasing tenfold in just five seasons. The sixth season in 2009/2010 had a staggering total of 9,270 players and awarded an almost incomprehensible amount of prize money – over €60 million! But that’s a story we’re saving for the next issue of World Gaming magazine.

You can get more details on the APPT at