MPC20: Celebrating the Red Dragon


Not the People's Republic kind, the porcelain kind.

That's the traditional gift for celebrating a 20th Anniversary.

Macau, which is a Special Administrative Region of China (the People's Republic kind) is having its own 20th Anniversary celebrations this week as PokerStars LIVE at the City of Dreams plays host to the celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of the Macau Poker Cup.

While MPC20 won't feature too much elegant Chinese ceramic ware, ironically there will be hundreds of Chinese natives in Macau to help celebrate the 20th edition of the biggest, longest running and most respected poker tournament in Macau.


It may not be China, but it's a damn impressive trophy

Rewind to April, 2008.

Poker in Macau was practically non-existent.

When I say non-existent, that's probably not fair to the Asia Pacific Poker Tour as in 2007 PokerStars were responsible for running the first-ever poker tournament in Macau. While the 2007 APPT Macau Main Event was a spectacle and was even filmed for television, that tournament was a high buy-in event aimed at an international audience.

By non-existent I mean that people didn't generally come to Macau to play poker. No, they came to pretty much exclusively play Baccarat. That is to say that no one from China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea and a plethora of other Asian locations considered Macau a poker destination. Heck, apart from that one APPT Macau event in 2007, no one in the world considered Macau a poker destination.

Not yet, anyway.

Cut to May, 2008 and the beginnings of an Asian poker revolution as the first-ever Macau Poker Cup took place. There may have only been 33 entrants in the first HK$10,000 Red Dragon Main Event - a buy-in considered significant considering the event was aimed at a local market - but a seed was planted and that seed would eventually grow, blossom, flourish...

And grow some more.

A man by the name of Kenny Leong claimed the first taste of new-generation Macau poker success and while he only received HK$126,700 for his effort, he will forever be remembered as the first-ever Red Dragon champion. Anyway, Leong can't be too upset with that modest first-place prize as he has posted dozens of results in Macau since then, even claiming HK$1,390,000 for finishing 2nd in the most recent APPT Macau Main Event.


Kenny Leong slayed 32 players to claim the inaugural Red Dragon

Now, fast forward five years from 2008 to April of 2013.


That's how many players partook in the 18th installment of the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon Main Event. It's a record for largest field size in Macau poker history and the eventual champion Terry Fan turned his HK$11,000 investment into almost HK$1.8 million. Ever since then, Fan is touted as winning the biggest and richest Red Dragon in history.

But it's likely Fan won't hold that title for long.

Not if MPC20 has anything to say about it as it is expected that up to, and maybe even more than, 1000 players will take part in the MPC20: Red Dragon Main Event.

Of course looking at the MPC in a nutshell and skipping five years of history from the 33 player-field in the inaugural Red Dragon Main Event to last year's monster record-breaking field is doing a disservice to the rich history of this great event.

From Taiwan's Victor Chen becoming the first players from outside of Hong Kong or mainland China to win the Red Dragon at MPC6; to Japan's Kenichi Takarabe being the pioneer player of his country when winning MPC10. From Celina Lin becoming the first female Red Dragon champion at MPC7; to Kitty Kuo making it back-to-back female champions at MPC8.

Speaking of Celina Lin, the stunning Team PokerStars pro would go on to win her second Red Dragon title at MPC16 - the first and only player to become a two-time Red Dragon champion.

Lin's record is unlikely to be broken. Not because any of the other former champions don't have the talent and determination to do so, but simply because of the math. After all with 1,000 players expected to take part in the MPC20 Red Dragon Main Event, a huge majority of the field is looking to simply become a one-time champion.


A big trophy cabinet is needed for two of these monster Red Dragons

There have arguably been dozens of factors that have attributed to the growth of poker in Macau, which is especially true when speaking on a global scale. However, when it comes to the growth of the local poker market and the growth of poker in Asia in general, the majority of the credit can be taken by the Macau Poker Cup.

Right now it is unclear whether in five to ten years' time we will be celebrating MPC40 with a monster field of 2,000 players in the Red Dragon Main Event, but if Fred Leung, Danny McDonagh and the rest of the team here at PokerStars LIVE Macau have their way, there is no telling how much bigger poker in Macau can become.

Until then we can speculate as much as we like, but right now our attention and the attention of the entire Asian poker community is focused on celebrating MPC20.

One thing is for sure though, it's going to be massive and while there won't be any traditional gifts of China, there will be celebrations consisting of packed tables, ruffling chips and millions of Hong Kong dollars in prize money.

Please join us here at the PokerStarsBlog as over the next six days we provide live updates of all the action and help celebrate the MPC20 Red Dragon Main Event.

Joshua Bell
@PokerStars in Asia Pacific Poker Tour