APPT Seoul: Ancient land welcomes poker's finest

Tournament poker is played in all sorts of locations – from cavernous function rooms in Las Vegas to the historic casinos of Monte Carlo and exclusive clubs in London and Paris.

However, it’s safe to say that the Paradise Walker-Hill Casino, located in the Sheraton Grande Walker-Hill Hotel, in Seoul, is among the most unique setting for an international poker tournament.

The hotel overlooks the wide and proud Han River, while casting a shadow from above is the ancient A-Cha fortress, which dates back to the Shilla Dynasty almost 2000 years ago. The venue for the Asia Pacific Poker Tour’s (APPT’s) stop in South Korea is an appropriate metaphor for one of the world’s most intriguing cities and countries.


Gyeongbokgung: the 14th century era centrepiece of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty.

The Korean peninsula has been apex of north-east Asia for thousands of years, and symbols of past dynasties are dotted all over the country but is now recognised as one of the most progressive and modern societies in the region.

The country emerged from war against its neighbour North Korea in 1953 (the two countries are still technically at war) to build one of the world’s most dynamic economies. Korean brands such as Samsung, Hyundai, Fila and LG are now global staples.


The Myeongdong precinct in the heart of Seoul is packed with shops, and shoppers, almost 24/7.

More than six million tourists travel to South Korea each year, with popular attractions including Seorak-san national park, the historic city of Gyeongju, and semi-tropical Jeju Island, featuring the World Heritage listed Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.

Korea has established itself on the world stage by hosting major events such as the 1988 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup finals, so it made sense that Korea was included as a stop on the first poker tour established in the region.

The first APPT event in Seoul was held at Paradise Walker-Hill Casino in September 2007. It was the first major poker tournament ever played in South Korea and on mainland Asia. The USD $2500 buy-in main event attracted 186 players including Team PokerStars Pros 2005 WSOP champion Joe Hachem, Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Lee “Final Table” Nelson and Vanessa Rousso.


Team PokerStars prepares its assault on last year's APPT Seoul main event.

However, it was a relative unknown, 25-year-old Israeli Ziv Bachar who prevailed to pocket a first prize of USD $139,872 ahead of a final table that included players from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, Norway and a trio of Americans who all reside in Korea.

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The reigning APPT Seoul champion, Ziv Bachar from Israel.

That tournament underlined the increasing popularity of poker in Seoul and South Korea. Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, Daniel “Rekrul” Schreiber and Guillaume “Grrrr...” Patry are better known in Korea as professional electronic gamers but have been at the forefront of the growth of poker on Korea.

All three enjoyed great success in 2007-08 – Schreiber (a WSOP bracelet winner in 2006) reached the final table of the APPT Seoul event, Patry finished fourth in the APPT Macau main event while ElkY also made the final table in Macau before going on to win the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas earlier this year.

However, they’ll face a stern test in this year’s KRW 3,000,000 (approximately USD $2600) buy-in APPT Seoul main event against Team PokerStars Pros including 2004 WSOP champion Greg Raymer and Hevad Khan, plus scores of the region’s best pros and online qualifiers from around the globe.

We look forward to bringing you all the action from the Paradise Walker-hill Casino in Seoul over the next three days in the chase for the biggest tournament poker prize on the Asian mainland: the 2008 APPT Seoul main event crown. Play is scheduled to start at 1pm local time.