Poker profiles Poker

David Jung: a hero in the making

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2011 issue of World Gaming magazine.

David Jung, former regional director of Asia for PokerStars, is one of Asia’s leading experts in gaming and particularly poker. He was instrumental in legalising poker in Macau and opening up the Taiwan poker market. He established the largest poker room in Asia at the Grand Lisboa and co-founded the biggest and fastest-growing regional tournament in Asia, the Macau Poker Cup, with its signature Red Dragon event. Last but not least he set the standards for one of the most successful poker tours in Asia, the Asian Pacific Poker Tour (APPT).

David Jung

David Jung

David is known for having handpicked pros from the amateur ranks and developing them into PokerStars Team Asia. He worked tirelessly on establishing the Macau Poker Cup. In years to come when the history of poker in Asia is written, there will be a chapter on David Jung.

But early last year, after three years at the helm with PokerStars, David decided to switch gears and resign from his position as Asian Regional Director. It was a high-powered position with an impressive array of projects, and many wondered what he would turn to next.

In his own words, “I’m going out there to do it all again but this time for all international markets, and I’m going to do it on my own.” The transition to his next challenge didn’t happen overnight and there was much soul searching.

“When I left in March 2010, it was probably the most difficult decision of my professional career. All my colleagues were telling me to enjoy the fruits of my labour. PokerStars is a phenomenal company to work for. But the way I looked at it, we accomplished something that at the beginning seemed nearly impossible and then I was here, still standing. I felt like Alexander the Great after he conquered the known world – I wanted to keep going!”

A close family friend had set up a position for David in a prominent private equity firm which he was to take up a few months after his resignation. But after taking some well-earned time off David realised he had an unquenched passion for working in the gaming industry, so he set about unearthing the right project. He was approached by other online poker sites to develop their Asian operations, “But when you’ve worked at the number one company, why would you work for anyone else?” David toyed with the idea of going back to PokerStars but he was looking to do something he describes as, “more impossible, something truly epic in business.”

His epic dream turn out to be the massive challenge of starting two new online gaming brands simultaneously – one for mahjong and the other for poker. As fate would have it, in August 2010 a private fund contacted David to consult for them, examining worldwide online gaming legislation for a feasibility study. While the fund didn’t end up investing in their current project prospects, they asked David to start his own gaming brands with their funding. After a few months of hard work, both HeroMahjong. com and were launched in early 2011.

Mahjong was the perfect place to start. David wanted to create a skill-based product that didn’t require the level of education that poker did. That led him to the door of Mahjong Logic, a company that develops Mahjong software for online gaming operators.

“The Mahjong Logic client is clean and professional, not like the cartoony and flashy local products. From poker I have learned that when playing for real money, players are more concerned with a product that is smooth and stable more than flashy graphics, so working with Mahjong Logic was the ideal choice.”

While Mahjong Logic is licensed in the Isle of Man, it is fundamentally a Swedish company. It was a straightforward process to launch with them. Mahjong is a game that is extremely well known in the Asian market and it is surprising it has taken so long to start making an impact online.

 Hero Poker: James Mackey

Hero Poker: James Mackey

The poker side of David’s operation was in some ways easier but in others an incredible challenge. David’s understanding of the industry, especially in Asia, is better than anyone’s but starting a new poker site in this saturated environment was always going to be fraught with difficulty. All poker industry heavyweights understand that Asia is the final frontier and that there are pots of gold waiting to be found. Many have tried, but most have already failed due to a poor understanding of poker and more importantly of Asian gaming culture.

“When the investors first asked me about the viability of this poker project, I told them that unless we were prepared to take the exact opposite course of the most successful sites, then we wouldn’t have a chance. The main component of the Hero Poker brand is to provide new players with a site they can trust and one where they can grow as a player.”

David is pushing as the “World’s Premier Online Boutique Poker Room”. Through his work with Merge Gaming he has acquired some big name pros including Gavin Griffin (poker’s first triple crown winner) and Terrence Chan to support the brand. David also feels that his site caters to new player development mainly through guarantee tournaments and a special seven-division 300-level VIP program.

David is one of those individuals who exude confidence. He is a consummate professional who works tirelessly and is prepared to make tough decisions. His path is one that few have ever taken in the gaming industry. In David’s own words, “The odds are completely stacked against me, but that’s what makes a hero a hero – one who has the courage to do the impossible.”