2014 ACOP Main Event Day 1: Abundance of red spades in Macau
There are several major events held at PokerStars LIVE Macau a year, but none bigger than the Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP). Apart from the buy-in size (HK$100,000), and the prestige, one thing that makes this clear are the players who come out for the ACOP.
Generally in Macau there are at least four Team PokerStars Pros playing in each event. Not too surprisingly, these players are the 'Team Asia' pros in Bryan Huang, Vivian Im, Celina Lin and Raymond Wu. Japanese Team PokerStars Pro Naoya Kihara also plays a lot of the events in Macau.
The difference with the ACOP, and perhaps what makes it so special, is that it's a draw card for some of the biggest names in poker.
Never have there been so many players donning the red spade in Macau at one time.
Team PokerStars Pros currently in town include: Bertrand Grospellier, Jonathan Duhamel, Eugene Katchalov, Isaac Haxton, Liv Boeree, Team Online members Isaac Haxton and Randy Lew and the aforementioned Asian pros.
Events on the European Poker Tour might always have that many, or more, Team PokerStars Pros at the tables, but this is a rare occurrence here in Macau.
Such is the lure of the ACOP.
Outside of the local Team Pros, some of the others like Katchalov, Duhamel, Haxton and Boeree haven't played too much poker here in Macau.
Then there are players like Randy Lew.
Lew is very familiar with Macau.
Back in 2010 Lew posted his first major live tournament result by winning the APPT Macau Main Event for HK$3,772,000 (~US$485,000).
Then, last year, Lew made the final table of this very tournament and ultimately finished 7th in the 2013 ACOP Main Event for another HK$792,000 (~US$100,000).
Those results account for more than half of Lew's lifetime tournament winnings.
To say Macau has been good to Lew is an understatement.
"Macau is really special to me because the first time I ever came here, I won the tournament," Lew tells us. "Before that, I really didn't have any big results, so it meant a lot to me. In my mind that's where I was able to start a live tournament career. APPT Macau just has a special place in my heart."
"After I won the tournament the first time I just thought I'm coming back here forever."
Lew didn't start too strongly here on Day 1 of the 2014 ACOP Main Event, but apparently that didn't faze him as he tells us that he has always started poorly in Macau before going on to have a deep run."
One thing that has changed since Lew's success here in Macau is the poker room.
When lew won the APPT, PokerStars LIVE Macau was on the other side of town at the Grand Lisboa Casino. Then, last year, the ACOP was in a completely different area of the City of Dreams.
"I think this room is much nicer. Having the PokerStars branding in a live room is nice. There are little perks in this room too, like the chairs are just really nice, it's like final table chairs at every table."
And hey, if Lew isn't able to repeat his success in the new poker room, he can always spend time doing what is truly important... Eating.
"The food in Macau is really good," Lew added. "I'm just really excited to eat food every time I come here. To be honest, it's actually really a highlight."
One Team PokerStars Pro who had a worse start to the 2014 ACOP Main Event than Lew was Vivian Im.
In fact, Im had just about as bad a start as you can have in a poker tournament as she found the exit during the first level of play.
It was a horrid set vs. set situation that saw Im head for the door. The Korean got all her chips in holding pocket threes on a 3♣Q♦6♥ flop and ran into Chen Man Hang with pocket sixes.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bertrand Grospellier has had a great start to the day, moving his starting stack of 30,000 towards 50,000.
In other news, these Team PokerStars Pros are part of a field that has already reached in excess of 250 players. That's a massive increase on the 203-player field of last year and a huge credit to APPT President Danny McDonagh and the team at PokerStars LIVE Macau.
Registration is open until the start of Day 2 too, so it's only going to get bigger. Be sure to stay locked at the top of the ACOP page here on the PokerStarsBlog for full live updates of the event.