Swimming with sharks & running off cliffs
Earlier this year, rather than flying out to APPT Cebu right before the tournament started, I flew in a few days early to make sure I had time to really experience the place. The Shangri-La (Mactan) is one of the best venues I've ever been to for a poker event. The hotel has its own private beach, two huge pools, a (short) golf course and a lot of nice restaurants. Getting a massage in the Philippines is really a bargain when a massage at the poker table costs $6 an hour!
The Philippines is also one of the best places in the world to go diving. I heard about this little village where a school of whale sharks visit every morning. The people from the village feed them and they've become a bit of a tourist attraction. We took a three-hour drive out there to do some reef diving and got to swim with the whale sharks as well. These sharks are not dangerous (they only eat shrimp and plankton ) but are immense in size, like five or six meters long. We got to swim right next to them for a good hour or so. I got really sunburned but it was worth it.
My next trip was to one of my favorite stops--the APPT Queenstown on New Zealand's south island. This is the one trip where my wife always insists on coming along and it's a favorite tour stop for many players in the region. It's a stunningly beautiful place, up in the mountains and right on a lake. It definitely did not disappoint because there was so much things we did in the area--skiing, para-gliding, frisbee golfing with every night capped off by great dinners & drinks by huge open fires/fireplaces. The highlight of the trip for me was para-gliding off the peak and the part where I ran off the cliff got my heart racing!
It was truly inspiring to be there to watch Jono Bredin who has Cerebral Palsy, win APPT Queenstown despite the circumstances he has had to go through. It goes to show poker is for everyone despite their gender, physical disabilities or age. Anyone can be skilled in this wonderful game.
I think it's really important, especially when you win seats online and travel halfway around the world for a tournament, to take the time to get out of the casino and enjoy yourself rather than stay totally immersed in poker. The potential to explore different countries and cultures is actually what got me hooked on playing live tournaments in the first place. At least I know even if I have a bad run on the felt, I'll go home enriched with experiences unique to these destinations! The next stop will be the Asia Championship of Poker held at PokerStars Live (Macau) where the sharks I will be swimming with are the ones on the tables in the City of Dreams Macau! I hope to see you there on the felt or perhaps bumping into you someplace else enjoying the sights and experiences Macau has to offer!
Bryan Huang is a member of Team PokerStars Pro