APPT Macau: High Roller paving path to poker excellence

It takes time to build tradition in any sporting event. Imagine if The Masters suddenly appeared on the PGA circuit a few years ago and the organisers started handing out green jackets to the winners. It would hardly be a big hit.

But having established more than 80 years of history and stories of triumph and heartbreak, The Masters stands the test of time as an event as relevant today as ever.

In poker, the World Series of Poker built on a tradition established by a core of former Texas road gamblers and is today recognised as the pinnacle of success in tournament poker.

It will take time for similar traditions and legends to be established in Asia with tournament poker in its formative stages, but the Asia Pacific Poker Tour High Roller event has stolen a march on any challenger that may one day claim the title as most prestigious poker event on the continent.


The APPT High Roller final table.

For the second year in a row, the HKD $150,000 buy-in APPT High Roller event (already one of the world's highest buy-in regularly scheduled tournaments and guaranteeing a prize pool of HKD $10,000,000) attracted a list of the world's best players - 61 in all.

There were established tournament pros like WSOP main event winners Johnny Chan, Mansour Matloubi and Team PokerStars Pros Joe Hachem.

There were WSOP bracelet winners including Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein, J.C. Tran, Quinn Do, Dan Schreiber, John Phan, John Juanda and David Chiu.

There were some of the stars from the online world like Mike timex McDonald, Will cutiepie314 Ma, Tony bond18 Dunst, Shaun shaundeeb Deeb and Team PokerStars Hevad RaiNKhaN Khan.

And there were scores of accomplished tournament players including Team PokerStars Pros Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier, Lee "Final Table" Nelson and Bertrand "ElkY Grospellier; last year's APPT High Roller champion Eric Assadourian, fellow PokerStars Sponsored players Emad Tahtouh, Van Marcus, Terrence Chan, Ivan Tan and Celina Lin; Harry Demetriou and Nam Le.

Also making a re-appearance just hours after finishing runner-up in the APPT Macau main event was Charles Chua - albeit two hours late.

Any great event needs intrigue, drama and surprises. The 2008 APPT Macau High Roller did not disappoint in this regard.

Early in the first level, players had barely had a chance to put a dent in their start stack of 20,000 when Celina Lin found herself on the rail, her aces cracked by Russian young gun Yevgeniy Timoshenko.

In contrast, David Steicke (the third-placed finisher in this event last year), picked up where he left off after finishing 10th in the APPT Macau main event.

By day's end, Steicke was the talk of the room as he'd charged to 160,000 and a big chip lead over Mike McDonald (95,400) and defending champion Eric Assadourian (90,500). Other players in the 28 to progress included Quinn Do, Nam Le, Van Marcus, Terrence Chan, Johnny Chan, Charles Chua, Ivan Tan and two Team PokerStars Pros - Barry Greenstein and Joe Hachem.

But there was no clue of the drama to come on day two. In last year's APPT High Roller event in Macau, it took five hours to eliminate the last six players before the final table line-up was decided.

Play gradually slowed once the field was split between two tables but, curiously, all 10 players agreed to converge to a single table with the field one short of the TV and money bubble of nine.


David Steicke celebrated successive final tables at the the APPT High Roller.

Those 10 players - Eric Assadourian, Van Marcus, Ivan Tan, still chip leader David Steicke, Andrew Scott, Johnny Chan, Nam Le, Quinn Do, Will Ma and Charles Chua - turned on an enthralling session that lasted four hours until Nam Le claimed the scalp of Assadourian, who was gutted to fall short of successive APPT High Roller final tables.

The final table started with Marcus, Chan, Chua and Tan all short-stacked and under pressure - only Chua had the answers and clawed his way back as the other three became the first victims at the final table.

Will Ma, a 20-year-old from the same small Canadian town as Team PokerStars Pro Steve-Paul Ambrose and Mike timex McDonald, bowed out in sixth while Steicke's remarkable run ended in fifth; the fearlessness that saw him lead for most of the event proved his undoing.

It would be more than two and a half hours before Charles Chua was KOed by Nam Le, ending a remarkable week for the Malaysian-based Australian in which he finished second in the main event and fourth in the High Roller.

Scott was always going to find it tough against the combination in seats one and two but progressed to the heads-up duel when he took out Quinn Do. He entered the contest against Nam Le trailing 2:1 but the final table experience of a player whose won more than USD $4 million in tournament poker proved telling.

Steadily chipped away, Scott made his final shove with J-10, but Nam Le's K-2 connected on the board to secure the HKD $3.7 million first prize.


APPT High Roller champion Nam Le.

Assadourian, Le - already an impressive list, but one sure to include more of the game's brightest stars as the tradition continues. APPT Macau High Roller event

1 Nam Le (USA) HKD $3,700,000
2 Andrew Scott (Australia) HKD $2,100,000
3 Quinn Do (USA) HKD $1,200,000
4 Charles Chua (Malaysia) HKD $900,000
5 David Steicke (Hong Kong) HKD $700,000
6 Will Ma (Canada) HKD $500,000
7 Johnny Chan (USA) HKD $400,000
8 Ivan Tan (Singapore) HKD $300,000
9 Van Marcus (Australia) HKD $200,000

• On behalf of Jeremy, Jenn, Ted, Joe, Mad and JP, thanks for following our coverage of the APPT Macau from the Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino. We'll be back on September 26 for the APPT Seoul main event from the Walker-hill Casino in Seoul, South Korea.

All photography © Joe Giron/IMPDI