APPT Cebu: Welcome to paradise
The concept of Shangri-La was first described by British author James Hilton in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon (subsequently made into movies of the same name in 1937 and 1973); a place that defined the concept of paradise, isolated from the outside world, utopian, harmonious and mystical.
Those words are certainly appropriate to our venue - the Shangri-La Resort and Spa near the Philippines' city of Cebu - for the penultimate event on season three of the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour.
We're delighted to be back in the Philippines for the third year in a row, and even happier to be situated at a venue true to the principles of James Hilton's view of Shangri-La.
The Philippines will always hold a spot in APPT history as the host nation for the first tournament in the opening year of Asia's first and largest poker tour.
For the past two years, the luxurious Hyatt Hotel and Casino in the heart of Manila has been the host venue for the APPT, but for 2009, players will share in another slice of APPT history. For the first time, an APPT event will be played away from the bright lights of a major city in a resort locale.
Located in the Visayas group of islands, close to the centre of the Philippines' archipelago, Cebu lies about 600km south of Manila. The island is 220km long and just 40km at its widest point.
Nowhere is more than 20km from the sea yet the island's mountainous spine hefts itself to a height of more than 1000m. Hong Kong is about a 90-minute flight away, which makes Cebu a favourite long-weekender for expats in the region.
Metro Cebu is The Philippines' second largest metropolis after Manila with five cities and municipalities and a population of more than 3.5 million. Most of Cebu's resort hotels are located on Mactan Island, across a narrow channel from Cebu and just a short distance from the international airport.
It's not only the international players who'll be soaking up the atmosphere and hospitality of Cebu and the Shangri-La. The Philippines' most prestigious poker title is yet to reside here, and scores of local players will be out to right that statistic in this year's PokerStars.net APPT Cebu Main Event.
With a thriving poker scene unrivalled in Asia, Filipino players have embraced the poker craze in recent years. Not surprisingly, a core of players has risen to the top of the game here and will be hoping 2009 is the year that one of their own is crown champion in the country's most prestigious poker tournament.
The local challenge will be led by 2009 APT Manila champion Neil Arce. Fresh from a third-place in the APPT Macau High Roller event, Arce is out to continue his dominance of major events in the Philippines for 2009.
For the second year, the APPT's Philippines event will double as the finale of the PokerStars Filipino Poker Tour (FPT). The list of past FPT event winners reads like a who's who of regional poker, including Arce and Kent Del Rosario, while the most recent FPT winner was Vic de Guzman, winning PHP 2 million.
The local players will need to be on their toes though - the APPT Cebu entry list includes a full complement of PokerStars.net Team Asia Pros - Celina Lin, Bryan Huang, last year's APPT Manila runner-up Tae Jun Noh, Raymond Wu, Jonathan Lin (fresh from his EPT London final table) and Daniel Schreiber.
Two PokerStars.net Team Australia Pros - 2007 APPT Macau High Roller winner Eric Assadourian and ANZPT Player of the Year Tony Hachem - have also made the trip, along with 2008 APPT Manila champion Van Marcus.
We can assure plenty of local colour over the next few days to go with the quality of poker to which we've become accustomed on the APPT. The first hand will be dealt at 12.15pm today on day 1A of the 2009 PokerStars.net APPT Cebu Main Event. The Main Event buy-in is 100,000 Philippines Pesos (or approximately USD $2130), and Cebu is GMT +8 hours.