APPT9 Manila: The unstoppable Somberos
One thing I enjoy most about covering tournaments in the Asian region is the excitement over the growth of the game. In other parts of the world, poker has struggled to overcome various challenges and numbers have plateaued, but in countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Macau and the Philippines, poker continues to thrive.
So it was no surprise when it was announced that PokerStars would be expanding its live poker operations to open a dedicated room in the heart of Manila in December of last year.
PokerStars LIVE Manila has had great success in its infancy. Cash games are starting to build with regular players and the major tournaments that have been held during the year have been well supported by the local poker community.
Poker has deep roots in the Philippines, and one man who can take a lot of credit for that is none other than the "Godfather of Filipino Poker", Wally Sombero.
Sombero is a cult figure in Asian poker and the pride of Filipino poker. His story is folklore - a respected member of the Philippine Army, Sombero was awarded the 'Honour of Country' award and helped pioneer the first-ever registered poker room in the Philippines.
So it was rather poetic that Sombero would also capture one of the first major tournaments ever held in the new home of poker in the Philippines at the PokerStars LIVE Manila poker room.
The event was a PHP 1 Million Guaranteed event, and Sombero was reportedly unstoppable as he overcame a field of 311 entrants to capture the top prize of PHP225,000. If you think that "unstoppable" is an exaggeration, check out the amazing photo below taken when Sombero was heads-up with a fortress of chips spread out over the length of the entire table.
It was a story of Filipino poker coming full circle as the Godfather himself returned to the top of the mountain and dominated in a new era for the game in the Philippines.
Sombero had a deep run at the APPT Macau Main Event back in 2009 and would love to make another big impression in his home town tournament here at APPT Manila.
However Wally is in fact not the only Sombero in today's Day 1a field as he has been joined at the tables by his son Brian.
Brian Sombero (pictured left, with Wally right) is also quite an experienced poker player, with results dating back to 2008 including a World Series of Poker cash in 2011. He's yet to record a result on the APPT, so perhaps this Main Event will offer an opportunity to pass the torch in the Sombero household. However to do so, he'll have to either re-enter very soon, or jump back into the water tomorrow for Day 1b, as he was recently eliminated from play on Day 1a.
PokerStars.tv hostess Caitlyn Howe caught up with Wally Sombero to find out more about his passion for the game of poker in the Philippines:
Heath "TassieDevil" Chick is a freelance contributor to PokerStars Blog.