APPT Manila: Poker's great big melting pot

The random nature of big buy-in poker tournaments means that a kaleidoscope of characters is assured. That factor is multiplied on the APPT, where many players are making their first major tournament start or hail from countries where poker is still in its infancy.

We just spoke with a beaming Ursula Holt, a National Pub Poker League (NPPL) player from New Zealand. She qualified for a trip to Manila via a satellite event played at SKYCITY Casino in Auckland – “I can’t believe I’m here – from pub poker to this,” she said as she surveyed the day 1B field at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino.


Dan Alspach: the capped crusader.

At the other end of the scale is the always-colourful (and current chip leader) Dan Alspach. The husband of PokerStars Sponsored player JJ Liu, Dan looks resplendent in his usual tournament outfit of matching cap and shirt. Veterans of the tournament scene, Dan and JJ have been great supporters of the APPT and bring more than a touch of class to the entry list.


JJ Liu always has a smile for the cameras.

But while there’s more than a few readily identifiable faces in the field today, a common theme on the APPT this year has been the increasing ratio of Asian players to internationals.

Our Japanese blogger Jenn Barr reports that there is a Japanese player at virtually every table today. “Auckland was a bit far for these players, but after their friends took first and second at APPT Seoul, many players have flocked to Manila for their chance at fame and fortune with the game they love,” Jenn said.

On day 1A, two of the eight Japanese players survived: Tsutomu Nagashima and professional Mahjong player Takashi Ogura. Today there are at least eight more representatives of the “Land of the Gods” and many of them are already making their presence felt.

We’ve already mentioned Japanese high roller Yasuhiro Waki APPT Seoul winner, Yoshihiro Tasaka. On the main floor we find APPT Seoul runner-up, Hidenari Shiono, dressed in his trademark flame-shirt and blue hat.


There's been no sign of the exuberance that Hidenari Shiono showed at the APPT event in Korea – yet.

A few tables away is his younger brother Takashi, in matching flames. On the other side of the room is the 2007 APPT Manila eighth-place finalist, Kazuhiro Sato, back again to better his score from last year.


Kazuhiro Sato was a pioneer for Japanese players on the APPT.

Also back for their second APPT experience are Itaru Kaneko and Taiyo Akagi. Akagi qualified on PokerStars and is here celebrating his first anniversary as a poker player. They practice their live skills in the Japan Poker League and playing online at PokerStars.

Kaneko has even taught his 11-year old son how to play and has a poker table in his house. He supervises play-money games for his son’s friends and teaches them about the mind-sport of poker.