2014 ACOP Main Event Day 2: Big jump in field size indicates bright future

Day 2 of the Asia Championship of Poker Main Event has begun and that means registration has closed, the numbers are in and the cash has been counted.

To be honest, in 2014, several years after the poker "boom", there have been hundreds of players who have won huge prizes in poker tournaments.

That's not to say the 2014 ACOP Main Event isn't going to award a giant amount of cash.

On the contrary, this is by far the largest field in the event's history, and so the 291 total players means there is a ridiculous amount of cash up for grabs.

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There's a lot of digits in that prize pool

What's important to talk about at this point, however, is simply the magnitude of the growth of poker in this region.

At the small buy-in levels the growth of tournament poker here has always been unprecedented.

An example of this is the Macau Poker Cup that took place in January. There were 995 players in the HK$11,000 (~US$1,400) buy-in event. That's unique players. No re-entries, no rebuys, no repechages or any of that. It's important to make that distinction as so many events report as having "xxx entrants" and what that sometimes means is that only a portion are unique and the rest are re-entries.

In 2012 when the inaugural ACOP took place, it was really the first "Main Event" style tournament with a buy-in at the "championship" level of at least US$10,000 or more.

In actuality, the HK$100,000 buy-in of the ACOP equats to roughly US$13,000.

The 184 entrants in the first year was no doubt a success, but it was kind of the "testing the waters" stage of running championship events like this in Macau.

Then, in 2013, there were 203 entrants.

It was around a 10% increase and any increase is good, but it perhaps wasn't as big as what some hoped. However, there was a lot of competition on the poker calendar with WSOP Europe taking place right around the time of the ACOP.

This time around there was very little competition on the calendar, not to mention that PokerStars LIVE Macau's reputation for holding great poker tournaments continues to grow.

But the 291-player field - a 43% increase - has exceeded all expectations.

"I'm over the moon," APPT President Danny McDonagh told us. "Last year we were up 20 players on the previous year, but there was a lot of competition from WSOP Europe, WPT Paris and they were both down, but we were up, so there were still some positives."

"But this year, to have a 43% increase is amazing. It really is a breakout year for this tournament."

"The strong direct buy in entrants was massive for us too."

There are certainly a lot of international players in town to bolster the number, but it is a credit to McDonagh and the PokerStars LIVE Macau team and the work they have done to grow poker in the local market.

"There are lots of reasons we had so many direct buy ins," McDonagh added. "Firstly, it's one of the best structures in the world, especially from Day 2 on. Secondly, the Chinese just love playing with the best players in the world. They really come out and want to challenge themselves like that. And you can see that there are a lot of Chinese players now moving up from playing the US$2k, 3k, 5k events and are starting to buy in for US$13,000."

If this really is the "breakout" year like it seems, then that means it's just the start of something even bigger.

"I look back to the early years of the Aussie Millions where we had a slow start," McDonagh reflects. "It was 122 then 133 then all of a sudden 267 and 412. I think this is the first jump like that for the ACOP and I'm hoping to get equivalent jumps in the next few years."

"I think we can get a very decent 300 plus number next year and then if we can start to push it to 400, 500 in the next two three years, then we will be competing with any other event around the world outside of the World Championship in Vegas."

It's hard to tell just how big the ACOP can get and only time will tell really. Until then, we must live in the present, and for the 130 or so players remaining in the current ACOP Main Event during Day 2, it's all about the HK$27,092,100 (~US$3.5 million) up for grabs this week.

It's the top 31 players who will pocket at least HK$202,000 (~US$26,000), while a spot at the final table guarantees HK$675,000 (~US87,000) and the eventual winner will take home a gigantic HK$6,300,000 (~US$815,000).

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You can find the full payout information in the live reporting section at the top of the 2014 ACOP page and that's also where you will find continued live coverage of all the action from Day 2 and beyond.

Joshua Bell
@PokerStars in Asia Pacific Poker Tour