APPT Cebu: Let's get ready to rumble

The citizens of the Philippines awoke this morning with a dilemma. Church or Pacquiao? Pacquiao or church? In this highly religious country, church is part of the weekly ritual. But this is different, this is the Philippines' favourite son - Manny "The Pacman" Pacquiao.

Judging from the hundreds packed into The Marquee here at Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, Pacquiao has already scored a KO win in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people. Pacquiao's fight for Miguel Cotto's WBO Welterweight world championship has even impacted on the final table of the PokerStars.net APPT Cebu Main Event.

Tournament officials have taken the decision to delay the start of the final table until the conclusion of the fight. That means we may be up to two hours away from the first hand. The fiercely patriotic Filipinos don't seem to be too concerned with the decision!

To tune up for all this toe-to-toe action in the boxing ring and at the final table, we decided to take in some claw-to-claw action in the heart of Cebu last night.

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Standing room only for Saturday night's main event in downtown Cebu

Before we have PETA knocking down the door, we acknowledge that cockfighting is brutal and cruel but it's a part of Filipino society. Indeed, legal cockfights, or sabongan, are conducted in the Philippines under the Cockfighting Law of 1974 (honestly). Restrictions include one cockpit per 100,000 citizens and no cockpits near schools.

But illegal cockpits, or tigbakay, are common, and seem to be tolerated as a part of everyday life, and are especially popular among the country's poor. Along the road to Cebu, hundreds of gamecocks can be seen tied to strings. We've even seen ads on local TV for "vitamin" supplements to aid the performance of the fighting cocks!

On arrival at the cockfighting arena, a jigsaw puzzle of scaffold and tin sheets held hundreds of screaming spectators. The noise came mostly from bookmakers spread through the crowd soliciting bets (most of which seemed around 500 pesos or USD $10) but once the combatants were brought into the arena, the noise quickly subsided.

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One of the world's great featherweights, the famed Filipino gamecock

Without going into the specifics of the actual contest, we discovered that the losing birds are given to the owners of the winners, the owners don't watch the fight but stay in air-conditioned comfort while the masses sweat it out on the bleachers and we never quite got our head around the betting.

And heaven knows how they tell the birds apart, but the undefeated King Arthur 16 was clearly well known by the regulars and was the most popular winner of the night. Needless to say, we might be giving KFC a miss today.

• Korea's Sim Somyung is the chip leader heading into the PokerStars.net APPT Cebu final table. A celebrity in his homeland after a successful gaming career as a Starcraft player, Somyung featured at the 2008 APPT Macau final table and is out to become the first Korean champion on the APPT.

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The match to catch: Korea's Sim Somyung

His closest challenger is emerging online star David Hilton from the USA, one of four PokerStars Qualifiers at the final table. Two New Zealanders - ANZPT Queensland runner-up Phillip Willcocks and APPT Auckland High Roller champ Kevin Clark - will be waving the flag for the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Mark Pagsuyuin will be assured the lion's share of support as the sole Filipino at the final table. The other final table starters are PokerStars Qualifiers Nick Pronk (Netherlands) and Alexandr Tikholiz (Russia) along with experienced duo Terry Fan (Taipei) and Dong-bin Han (Korea).

It promises to be a memorable day here under The Marquee at Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa, with a charity event also scheduled to aid victims of the typhoons that have swept through the Philippines in recent months.

PokerStars.net APPT Cebu final table

Seat 1: Mark Pagsuyuin, Philippines (497,000 in chips)
Seat 2: Sim Somyung, South Korea (1,442,000 in chips)
Seat 3: David Hilton (PokerStars Qualifier), USA (995,000)
Seat 4: Terry Fan, Taipei (610,000 in chips)
Seat 5: Alexandr Tikholiz, Russian Federation (231,000 in chips)
Seat 6: Phillip Willcocks (PokerStars Qualifier), NZ (791,000 in chips)
Seat 7: Dong-bin Han, South Korea (862,000 in chips)
Seat 8: Nick Pronk (PokerStars Qualifier), Netherlands (563,000 in chips)
Seat 9: Kevin Clark (PokerStars Qualifier), NZ (191,000 in chips)