APPT Macau: Poker on the menu at world's biggest gaming buffet
Less than four years, it was almost unthinkable to envisage an international poker calendar that included stops such as Kyiv and Macau.
But just days after the opening event on season six of the PokerStars.net EPT wrapped up in the Ukrainian capital, the eyes of the poker world turn east for the first tournament on season three of the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour.
Welcome to the world's gaming capital, Macau and the stunning Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino for the next gripping chapter in the growth of poker in this fledgling poker region.
Macau is one of the two special administrative regions in the People's Republic of China - the other, Hong Kong, is about a 40km trip on one of the many high-speed ferry services that operate across this expanse of the South China Sea.
Home to 550,000 people, Macau is the world's most densely populated enclave and among the wealthiest cities on the planet, thanks to its 30 casinos which generate a staggering USD $17 billion each year.
So much has changed since we were here last year. This year's tournament is being held in the new "PokerStars Macau at the Grand Lisboa" live poker room, right in the heart of Macau's casino row.
The design of the stunning 58-floor Grand Lisboa building is based on a bright yellow lotus leaf, making it the instantly identifiable in Macau and one of the most striking buildings anywhere in the world.
PokerStars Macau is the largest poker room in continental Asia with 33 tables and 24-hour cash games. The room has been packed to capacity every night throughout the APPT Macau Poker Festival, which started on August 15.
Last year's tournament was played against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, with Macau, and its heavy reliance on gaming revenue, in the direct firing line. Twelve months on, and the signs of recovery are everywhere. The cranes are again on the move across the city's skyline while the casinos are turning over more patacas/dollars/yuan than ever.
The first and last European colony in China, Macau returned to Chinese control on December 20, 1999 after more than 110 years under Portuguese control. Preparations are well underway for 10th birthday celebrations, which are already creating a buzz around town.
Three years since poker arrived in Macau thanks to the APPT, the game is establishing a firm foothold with terrific cash action at PokerStars Macau along with great fields in the preliminary events played last weekend, which included the first Limit Hold'em tournament ever played in Asia (and hosted by PokerStars Player Terrence Chan).
Players had a chance to let off some steam before the APPT Macau Main Event starts with hundreds packing The Grand Buffet at the Grand Lisboa for the traditional Welcome Party.
After an introduction from APPT President Jeffrey Haas, PokerStars qualifiers and scores of other players swarmed the buffet for a taste of the region's finest cuisine before rubbing shoulders with Team PokerStars Pros Joe Hachem and Bertrand ElkY Grospellier, members of PokerStars Team Australia and Team Asia and a gaggle of glamourous girls from FTV, who were in great demand for a quick pic.
But the last glass of champagne has been drained, the last piece of dim sum consumed and it's down to business - day 1A of the 2009 PokerStars.net APPT Macau Main Event starts at 12.15pm (GMT +8hrs) at PokerStars Macau in the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino.