APPT Macau, then and now
APPT Macau returns this May 14-25 and for me the tournament always has a special place in my heart. It's this poker festival that really got everything started for me as a Team PokerStars Pro.
In Season 1, I qualified online for APPT Macau. At the time I was living in Melbourne and playing online poker where I was ranked in the Top Ten for Australia. I had played tons of online tournaments but Macau would be a new experience. Relative to my usual online grind, the USD $2,500 Main Event buy-in was quite large and I had never played live in a different country before.
The tournament drew 352 runners. Even though I entered Day 2 with a relatively short stack I won some big pots to finish in 24th place. My bustout hand was pretty standard with my pocket Jacks running pocket Aces. I cashed the tournament so I was pleased with a profit but I didn't really know the significance of the result until later.
PokerStars approached me about a 1-event sponsorship into APPT Sydney which, at the time, was the tour's Grand Final. I was able to final table a side event and step by step I moved up the ranks. I would get another 1-event sponsorship into the Macau Poker Cup's Red Dragon main event and have a runner-up finish. Then I was put in a group of six PokerStars players to form Tour Team Asia. After winning the 10k Red Dragon event in 2009 I finally gained Team Pro status.
I think a lot players are hoping to get an opportunity to show what they can do and take the same path as me.
That's probably why the Asia Player of the Year (APOY) race has seen such a growth in interest. Particularly in China. You see, the APOY winner gets a one-year sponsorship with PokerStars LIVE Macau, which means they can have a taste of what it's like to be a sponsored pro.
Last year, Jian Yang -- a Chinese businessman who played poker recreationally - became the first player from China to win the APOY title and that's inspired a lot of fellow countrymen as well as bring a new prominence to the ranking system itself.
Winning that 1-year sponsorship means you have a spotlight on you and although opponents may suddenly play you differently, it also means you gain an audience that could potentially expand you future sponsorship opportunities like it did for me.
APPT Macau is always an important series as all the cash tournaments are official APOY event. I've seen new players working harder than any of the previous players on the tour to climb the rankings and are literally coming out for every single event that qualify for APOY points.
In fact, I've seen people play games they don't even know how to play so they have a chance at points like Omaha. Not too long ago in an Omaha event and it wasn't until 30 minutes into the final table that the chip leader realized you HAD to play two hole cards.
While it's funny, it also shows the work and determination that the players are putting themselves through to get better and learn more.
I've had some great success so far. I'm the only 2-time Red Dragon winner. I've won an ACOP Spadie. I've made the APOY Top 11 rankings in four of the five years of existence and never missed the Top 40.
But despite all that I've never won an APPT main event or the APOY title itself.
Ironically, the things that have given me seven wonderful years as an ambassador for PokerStars are still , in fact, the things to drive me to improve.
With the bigger fields and new breed of players who are physically able to play everything it makes it even harder for me to reach those goals. But I've never been one to shy away from challenge.
I'd love to win any event on the tour but there's absolutely no doubt that if I could choose it would be APPT Macau. The road begins now!
Celina Lin is a member of Team PokerStars Pro