APPT Cebu: Korean victory in Asian paradise

Sitting at breakfast this morning, a couple of PokerStars Qualifiers stood nearby awaiting their freshly cooked omelettes. We chatted about this and that for a minute or so, before they turned and asked, "see you next year?"

That seems to be the sentiment as players start to say their goodbyes and head home from Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa - everyone just assumes you'll be back in 2010. After two years in Manila, the move of the PokerStars.net APPT to the southern city of Cebu and the idyllic Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa has been wildly successful.

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The sun sets on Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, and the first APPT Cebu Main Event

From the resort's location on a pristine white beach overlooking the crystal blue sea of Magellan Bay to the impeccable service, myriad dining options and vast array of leisure activities, everyone's going to go home with a story to tell from APPT Cebu.

We've chatted with players who've tried diving and parasailing for the first time, spent hours recharging their batteries in the luxurious CHI Spa, missed holes-in-one by the skin of the teeth or partied till dawn with the cool crowd in downtown Cebu.

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The APPT Cebu Welcome Party was a hit with the PokerStars Qualifiers will take some topping!

And there's one guy with a story to tell from his sojourn to this part of the world - the 2009 PokerStars.net APPT Cebu champion Dong-bin Han. He becomes just the second Asian-based player to win an APPT title after Yoshihiro Tasaka who took out the 2008 APPT Seoul title.

In last year's APPT Manila Main Event, three Korean players reached the final table, including PokerStars.net Team Asia Pro Tae Jun Noh. This year, two Koreans reached the ultimate poker stage in the Philippines' biggest event.

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The Marquee made a stunning backdrop to the first APPT Cebu Main Event

Making his first major tournament appearance, Han has been playing poker for several years and makes a significant contribution to the growth of Korean poker. His win underlines the stature of Korean players in the region following Mike Kim's runner-up finish in Macau back in September.

The 37-year-old outlasted a field of the region's top players, including PokerStars.net Team Asia and Australia Pros like Bryan Huang, Daniel Schreiber, Jonathan Lin, Tae Jun Noh, Celina Lin, Eric Assadourian and Tony Hachem to claim the first prize of PHP 7,410,000, or almost USD $160,000.

The hopes that the trophy would stay on hone soil were boosted by a Filipino contingent of quantity and quality. For the third year in a row, a local player reached the final table but Mark Pagsuyuin would bow out sixth - maybe next year.

For at least 12 months, Dong-bin Han will be acknowledged as the winner of the biggest and richest poker tournament ever played in the Philippines. APPT Cebu drew a field of 319 players, who built a prizepool of PHP 29,086,420 (approximately USD $622,036).

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Dong-bin Han, the first Korean champion on the APPT

But with scores of players heading back to their homes around the world and spreading the word about this event, we'd be amazed if those figures weren't topped in 2010.

From the Philippines, it's back to our homeland of Australia for the final event of season three - the PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final at Star City in Sydney. The AUD $6300 buy-in Main Event starts runs December 1-6, with a great line-up of preliminary events starting on November 24. Grant Levy in 2007, Martin Rowe in 2008 ... will the stranglehold of the Aussies be broken in 2009?

We'd like to acknowledge the support of PAGCOR, the Filipino Poker Tour and the Metro Card Club guys for their assistance in making APPT Cebu such a huge success, and everyone at Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa for spoiling us over the past week. On behalf of my PokerStars blog partner Landon Blackhall, and the APPT and local PokerStars teams, it's paalam (or farewell) from Cebu in the Philippines.