APPT Seoul: Who are those masked men?

By Sean Callander

The cards are in the air at the Walker-Hill Casino in Seoul for the first APPT event in South Korea. Even though this is only the second event in the first season of the APPT, a few traditions have already started to emerge.

After a welcome from APPT president Jeffrey Haas and’s Sarne Lightman, players were greeted to a performance of traditional Korean violin (with a contemporary twist) by the all-girl group Airato.

APPT Seoul: Airato Traditional Korean Musicians

Players also received a Korean mask, known as Yang Ban. The masks have been used by warriors, in burial rites and in shamanistic ceremonies to drive away evil spirits. Players will be hoping that extends to bad beats!

APPT Seoul: Yang Ban Mask

And for those planning to pull a Phil Laak and cover their faces with the mask, we have bad news – the masks are so small they’d barely cover Mini Me’s face!

The tournament kicked off with a bang on two counts. Firstly, the order to “shuffle up and deal” was given by Yuji Okamoto – a flamboyant Japanese high stakes player who turned up complete with feather boa in the style of former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

The fireworks continued just minutes later when Japan’s Kazuhiro Sato, who finished eighth in the APPT Manila tournament, doubled up on the first hand.

Sato, holding pocket sixes and his opponent Martin Myles (mupser on PokerStars), holding pocket nines, both made a set on the flop of 6d 9c Qc. Sato couldn’t believe his luck when he made quads on the turn (6c), before being faced with a no-brainer when Myles pushed all-in on the river (Qc), having made a full house.

The Irishman just popped by the share his hard luck story – “what am I going to tell them when I get home?” – but was already scouring the schedule for the next event.

For another player who performed strongly in Manila, Ira Blumenthal, the tournament is over. Blumenthal, a Bangkok-based lawyer from the US, found himself on arguably the toughest table in the initial draw, including Team PokerStars Pro Isabelle Mercier, PokerNews’ Gareth Edwards and top Australian player Jo Berec.

But it was one of the big contingent of Japanese players, Naohiro Ishihama, who delivered the killer blow when he made a flush against Blumenthal’s pocket queens. Another player who made the final table in Manila, Swede Roger Spets (sixth), is also back for another shot at APPT glory.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in