The big boys in town for Asia's showcase event
Stepping off the plane this afternoon, I wasn't sure if jetlag had kicked in or I'd just set my watch in the wrong direction as a dark and sleepy haze set across the skies as I arrived into Macau. Sure this place is sometimes a victim of classic big-city smog, but this was as thick as I'd even seen on numerous trips to these parts. It was a little apocalyptic for five o'clock in the afternoon, but as we taxied across the Ponte Da Amizade from Taipa to Macau, the familiar neon lights started to shine through the haze, with one building standing taller than them all.
The unmistakable architectural masterpiece that is the Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino will be our home for the next week as players from all around the world descend upon Asia's gambling capital for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour.
From 1962 the gambling industry in Macau was operated under a government-issued monopoly license, but when that monopoly ended in 2002, several overseas operators entered the market and Macau experienced its own boom. With the opening of the Sands Macau in 2004 and Wynn Macau in 2006, gambling revenue was greatly prosperous and more Las Vegas operators grabbed their slice of the pie including the MGM Grand Macau and the Venetian Macau, which at the time was the second largest building in the world by floor space.
While the original Casino Lisboa was built in the late 1960s, it wasn't until 2007 that the iconic Grand Lisboa opened its doors - primarily as competition to the new Las Vegas operators which were dominating the skyline.
The Grand Lisboa was also the first casino in Macau to open its eyes No Limit Texas Holdem, so it's fitting that PokerStars Macau calls the Grand Lisboa its home. The PokerStars Macau poker room is the largest in Asia, boasting 33 tables that offer a variety of cash games and tournaments around the clock.
The APPT Macau series is the pinnacle of a remarkable year for PokerStars Macau which has seen records smashed in almost every major championship series this year. Growth upon growth is defying the trend of the poker world as Macau becomes the new hot spot.
You only have to look at some of the big names that are in town this week. We've heard rumours of various pro sightings already, so it wasn't a huge surprise when a casual walk through the poker room of a nearby casino this evening saw us spot none other than Jeff Lisandro, Alex Kravchenko and Johnny Chan all seated together on the cash tables. Just 16 WSOP bracelets right there.
Throw in a throng of Team PokerStars Pros as well as Asia's most talented players and we've got ourselves a scintillating climax to the Asia Pacific Poker Tour season.
Last year it was Victorino Torres who defeated a field of 342 entrants, however the buy-in was a little higher last year. With satellites still pumping online on PokerStars and live in the Grand Lisboa poker room, we might push the cap of 500 runners for the HK$30,000 Main Event this year which would be an enormous result.
There are also valuable points up for grabs in the Asia Player of the Year race with Taipei's Hung-Sheng "Shaq" Lin holding a sizable lead at the start of the series.
2011 Asia Player of the Year Leaderboard
1 Hung-Sheng "Shaq" Lin (Chinese Taipei) - 6,028
2 Raiden Kan (Malaysia) - 4,936
3 Aaron Hung-Chang Lin (Chinese Taipei) - 3,984
4 Haifeng Xue (China) - 3,431
5 Charles Lam (Hong Kong) - 2,984
6 Mark Benasa (Philippines) - 2,585
7 Ion Sang Song (Macau) - 2,510
8 Kwan Pao Mah (Canada) - 2,365
9 Tetsuya Tsuchikawa (Japan) - 2,184
10 Xin Rui Lu (China) - 2,163
It's going to be an exciting week, so make sure you stay locked into the PokerStars Blog as I join forces with Brad Willis to bring you all the live updates as they happen from the tournament floor with the action kicking off at 12:10pm tomorrow (GMT+8). See you then!