By Sean Callander
One-third of the field have already been eliminated barely four levels into the APPT Seoul main event.
After a strong start, Team PokerStars Pro Lee Nelson joined the growing list of casualties when his stack received a mortal blow at the hands of Ariel Bronstein. Nelson pushed all-in on a flop of Jh 6h 2c with his pocket queens but found himself trailing Bronstein’s pocket jacks.
Down to barely 1000 in chips, Nelson coughed up the remainder to PokerStars sponsored player Jimmy Cha, who has charged to more than 40,000 to be among the leaders.
Two other players on the charge are Team PokerStars players Isabelle Mercier and Masa Kagawa. Mercier just took a huge pot against Gareth Edwards to break through the 50,000-chip barrier.
Kagawa called an all-in of 25,000 with pocket aces, which had his opponents A K dominated. The flop of Qc 8c 5d 3c Jc gave the popular Japanese player the nut flush and shot him up to almost 40,000 in chips.
While Kagawa is no stranger to casinos, he is still a relative newcomer to poker. In contrast, his countryman Yoshio (Yosh) Nakano has earned his stripes in poker and was a popular addition to the entry list for this APPT Seoul event.
Now residing in California, this Team PokerStars player is best known as one of the most popular poker room hosts in the US after a long stint at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. On the other side of the felt, Nakano placed 14th in the 2002 WSOP main event (won that year by Robert Varkonyi). He also cashed in the 1989 and 1994 main events.
The Japanese ‘team’, many of who are regular players in the Japan Poker League, are among the largest here at the Walker-hill Casino – a great sign for the future of poker in the region.
It’s worth noting that due to regulations allowing only non-Korean players to enter the Walker-hill Casino (home to Korea’s only legal poker room), the APPT Seoul field consists entirely of international visitors and foreign ex-pats living in Korea.
Unusually for a major poker tournament, the main event is being contested inside the casino poker room, which is operated by Mike Kim and the Korean Professional Poker Tour. As such, there’s a great vibe and presence in the room. It’s also a great showcase for poker, which is still in its infancy in this country.