APPT Macau: Poker earning its stripes in the east
This is the third year that the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour has visited the world's gaming capital Macau, and with each visit has come more milestones and records. In 2007, it was the first No Limit Hold'em tournament to be played in the People's Republic of China. Last year, it was the largest field and prizepool ever offered in an Asian poker tournament.
For all the achievements in the past two years, the 2009 APPT lifted the bar to new heights. For the first time, the tournament was held at the stunning Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino, and in the largest poker room in continental Asia, PokerStars Macau.
The prizepool for the 2009 APPT Macau Main Event again set a new benchmark for Asia, with the field of 429 players chasing a slice of the HKD $16,130,400 prizepool (just over USD $2 million).
But there was more to this year's event than the numbers - poker felt like it really belonged in Macau. To see a packed room of players from around the world mixing it up with increasingly skilled and competitive locals in the heart of the most prestigious casino in Macau showed that the work of the regional APPT and PokerStars teams is starting to pay handsome dividends. There's still much work to do, but the foundations have certainly been established.
Appropriately, it was a player who won his seat in a live satellite at PokerStars Macau, 25-year-old Irishman Dermot Blain, who was the last man standing after four days and more than 30 hours of play. The quietly-spoken Dubliner played the final table to perfection, mixing aggression with skill to dominate his opposition, as shown by the 8:1 chip lead he held before the heads-up duel started.
Blain prevailed at an often enthralling final table, which featured a player who encapsulated the excitement of poker in Asia, 47-year-old Daoxing Chen.
A PokerStars Macau regular who learned to play Texas Hold'em less than 12 months ago, Chen, known as "Bao Bao", brought boundless enthusiasm and an element of carnival to the final table.
He spent more time out of his seat than in it, agonised over decisions much to the frustration of his rivals, congratulated and commiserated with those same players after almost every hand and, in the end, was heart-broken that to have finished higher than second.
Chen and the scores of PokerStars Macau regulars who also took their seats in the APPT Macau Main Event are the new guard to Asian poker pioneers like Mike Kim, who finished runner-up to Blain. Kim has been a tireless advocate for poker in Asia, and played a pivotal role in the first APPT event hat was played in Macau. The 42-year-old struggled for traction at the final table and rarely held more than the 1.6 million in chips with which he started the day.
And if ever there was an indicator of poker's growing popularity throughout this continent, our fourth-place finisher, Darkhan Botabayev hails from the nation more famous for Borat than poker players: Kazakhstan.
Other noteworthy performances came from Korea's Youngshin Im, who was the top-placed female player in 15th, PokerStars Sponsored Player Van Marcus who collected a record breaking fourth APPT cash and Roger Spets, who scored his third APPT in-the-money finish.
This event also marked the international debut of PokerStars.net Team Asia, with Korean-based Dan Schreiber leading the way in 40th place (his third APPT cash). Schreiber's teammate Jonathan Lin displayed plenty of tenacity to return for day two after falling ill in the wake of his day one appearance.
It was again encouraging to see many of the world's best players supporting this event, led by Team PokerStars Pros Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker, Raymond Rahme and Bertrand ElkY Grospellier along with members of PokerStars.net Team Australia and numerous WSOP bracelet winners (including dual WSOP Main Event winner Johnny Chan) and major title winners.
One down, three to go - with the postponement of APPT Seoul due to construction work at the Seven Luck Casino, the next scheduled stop will be APPT Auckland for the SKYCITY Festival of Poker (October 14-18).
PokerStars Macau is also scheduled to host two major events before the end of the year - Macau Poker Cup events will be held on October 19-25 before the season-ending tournament from December 12-20, including the HKD $20,000 Main Event with a guaranteed prize pool of HKD $2 million.
We'd like to thank everyone at the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino for their hospitality over the past week, and on behalf of Landon Blackhall and Jenn Barr, along with the entire APPT and local PokerStars teams, farewell from Macau, China. We look forward to bringing you all the action from SKYCITY Auckland in October.