2014 ACOP Main Event Day 2: Behind the lens at PokerStars LIVE Macau
There are a lot of people who work on a tournament like the Asia Championship of Poker.
In terms of running the actual event, there are the dealers, tournament directors, admin, cashiers and executives. That only scratches the surface too.
Then there are people like the media coordinators, the bloggers and videographers - those like myself, who bring you all the information you need to track the progress and results of tournaments from around the world.
One job that is not often talked about in regard to the media coverage of a poker tournament is the photography. I like to think of the photographers as the unsung heroes of the poker media world.
It could be argued that there is nothing more important than photography in the media coverage of a poker tournament. How else would we put faces to names? How else would the champions of these events be celebrated?
It would be very hard to get excited or care about a poker tournament if you can't see who the players are and who the winner is. Without great photography, I might not have a job as I truly think people would stop reading about poker if there were no images to go along with what was being written.
It's a cliché, but they do say a picture is worth a thousand words and I think it could be argued pictures are worth even more in poker.
There are plenty of on-screen personalities in poker that are well known, lots of voices on popular podcasts and plenty of familiar names at the top of news reports and blog posts, but there aren't too many poker photographers that get credit for that they do.
The two men who deserve credit for their photography at PokerStars LIVE Macau are Kenneth Lim and Long Guan. Not only because they take excellent photos, but because they work harder than almost anyone involved in the events here in Macau.
Example: Just a few days ago we all had a late night to wrap up the Super High Roller, but we still managed to get home and into bed by 2:00 a.m. Not Lim and Guan. Instead they stayed up until 5:00 a.m. to shoot the winner's photo of the ACOP Warm-Up. Now that photo is a permanent record and the winner can look back on the moment he captured the glory of winning a poker tournament.
In my experience, bloggers, videographers and the like are often poker fans who get jobs working in the poker media. But it's the opposite for photographers. That was the certainly the case for Lim, whose background is in portrait and wedding photography.
"The first job I did was shooting APPT Macau in 2009 at the Grand Lisboa. I knew nothing about poker. I had to have the rules explained to me and even just even the general idea of a tournament itself. I had to learn about what the bubble was and even understanding the concept of a chip leader and those sort of key moments that you need to capture."
"I remember at the time one of the big players that was there was 'ElkY' and I had people explaining to me who these players are and who I needed to take pictures of. It was a totally new experience"
Since that first tournament, Lim has worked dozens of events, taken thousands of photos and captured hundreds of champions and certainly has learned a lot about poker.
Lim's Associate Photography Long Guan, on the other hand, was already a poker fan coming into shoot events at PokerStars LIVE Macau and so for him it was a different experience.
"I remember when I first had Long helping out with an event," Lim reflects. "I was like 'I'm glad he knows about this poker stuff!' because I had no idea."
"I already followed poker quite a lot in university," Guan says. "I used to watch shows like Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker, so coming in and shooting poker I thought it would be a lot of fun and it has been."
Over the years, Guan and Lim have unquestionably gained a lot of experience in shooting poker tournaments and they will tell you that it's not just about pointing a camera at a poker player and hoping for the best.
"I think it's like shooting a sport, or something specialized like that," Lim says. "You kind of have to know when the moments are coming. An analogy might be like in Baseball you have to be set up to say, shoot a guy stealing second base, but if you don't know anything about Baseball, you wouldn't realize you needed to do that. So you just have to assess when the moments are going to come."
"The thing that I love about it is that there is a community in poker and shooting that community so frequently you get to know the personalities and that's a portrait photographer's dream to be able to communicate that personality in just a still image."
So what do Lim and Guan consider the ultimate poker photo?
"If someone gets one or two outs that they are looking for and jump out of the table, that's a great moment for us," Guan says. "Sometimes you just have to walk around the tables and see how a hand plays out and wait for that reaction and try get a feel for when it's coming."
"The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," Lim adds. "It's sometimes hard to relate to some of these players who might be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I try to capture those moments as much as possible. Unfortunately there are a lot of players who are really good at hiding their emotions and that makes it challenging, but that challenge is enjoyable."
Lim and Guan have been busy over the last two weeks capturing those very moments, and more, and will continue to do so over the next five days before ultimately capturing the moment that someone wins the ACOP Main Event.
They did just that last year when Sunny Jung won the ACOP and managed to take one of my personal favourite recent poker photos that you can see below.
You can find out who eventually has moments like the above captured on camera, and continue to find stories from PokerStars LIVE Macau on the 2014 ACOP page.
You can also find out more about Lim and Guan's work on www.kennethlimphotography.com