Macau Millions Day 1a: Levels 1 - 5 (blinds 300-600)
10:10pm: Ten-minute break
10:05pm: Straight for Marks and a pair of Lins
Just prior to the break, Andrew Marks found a big double up when he turned a straight to crack pocket aces. The board was T♠9♣7♣6♦ when the chips went in with Marks showing 8♦7♦. The river bricked the Q♠ and Marks doubles to around 25,000.
Meanwhile short stacks Celina Lin and Hung-shen "Shaq" Lin will both survive to the first break after they both recently moved all in preflop and didn't find any callers. Those vital blinds will help as Celina is up to 4,000 with Shaq back to 9,000.
9:50pm: Celina in trouble
The good news is that Celina Lin has just found a double up. The bad news is that she was crippled a few hands earlier, so she is still struggling with a very short stack.
Lin recalled to us that her fall came when she went with pocket kings preflop against an opponent's ace-queen. The A-A-2 flop wasn't the flop Lin wanted, and another deuce on the turn left her drawing dead.
She was down to just 1,000 in chips which she committed a few hands later in the dark in the big blind. A mid-position had raised to 1,600 to, in her own words, "give protection" with 8♣9♣ as Lin was thrilled to be in great shape with his J♣8♦.
The board bricked out 5♠Q♠6♣2♦2♥ and Lin doubled to around 2,500 - or four and a bit big blinds!
9:30pm: Registration still open
With a couple of late registrations our field is up to 127, with registration still open until the first break in about 40 minutes time.
At the moment the top nine players will make it through to Day 2.
9:20pm: Marlboro moving up
The man they called "Marlboro" is now commanding a very healthy stack thanks to a handy river to eliminate an opponent.
We caught the action on the turn when Hanbing "Marlboro" Wang moved all in on a board of 8♦T♣2♦Q♠. His opponent made a quick call and tabled pocket queens for top set but Wang had a truckload of outs with his K♦J♦ for straight and flush possibilities.
Often in this situation Wang would suffer from what they call "too many outs syndrome", but this time around his monster draw connected as the 3♦ completed the board on the river. Wang is now up to 40,000 for one of the bigger stacks in the room.
9:00pm: Hoang gets full Marks
It's been an interesting couple of minutes for Canadian Andrew Marks as he's tangled with Jason Hoang in three consecutive hands. Marks took the first two rounds, but the decisive round went the way of Hoang with a big double up.
The first hand was uneventful as Marks called the flop before betting 1,000 on the turn on the board of A♣T♦4♥7♥ as Hoang let his hand go.
Next hand Hoang had flat-called a bet of 500 on a 9♥7♣6♦ flop before Marks made it 2,500 to play. The original bettor folded, as did Hoang as he flashed A♠A♦!
"Woah, I was still drawing!" exclaimed Marks as he raked in the chips.
However it was third time lucky for Hoang who raised a preflop limper to 500.
"Steaming?" questioned Marks. "I would be..." he added as he made the call. The limper came along three ways to a flop of 8♦6♥K♣. Action checked to Marks who bet 1,150. Marks made the call as the limper made a reluctant fold. The turn was the J♦ and Hoang moved all in for his last 2,500 with Marks insta-calling. Hoang held 9♥7♥ for a straight draw as Marks tabled K♦J♣.
The river was dealt the 5♠ to complete the flush of Hoang for a double up as Marks stood from the table is shock.
"Man, that's poker," he said through clenched teeth as he slops to 7,500 in chips.
8:35pm: Tang out
Another well-known pro in today's field, is, well was, Devan Tang. The 2009 Macau Poker Cup Championships winner didn't last too long. After making a late entrance, he made a very early exit. Lucky there's six more chances to do it all over again!
8:30pm: Killing the dead stacks
There are quite a few dead stacks in the field today as our field nudges over the 120-player mark. The dead stacks belong to online qualifiers who satellited online on PokerStars and will be removed from play if the players fail to turn up, which at this stage, looks highly likely.
8:25pm: Team PokerStars Pro in the house
There aren't too many familiar faces in our field today, but one who caught everyone's attention as she made a fashionably late arrival is none other than PokerStars Team Asia Pro Celina Lin.
One of the most popular and recongizable players in Asia, Lin will be looking for another result here to grab those vital Asia Player of the Year points.
A few others in today's field who are off to a good start in the Asia Player of the Year include twins Hung-Sheng and Hung Chang Lin, Ion Sang Song, Roy Wan, Rathi Shashank and Kristoffer Myhre.
8:20pm: The format
The Macau Millions is certainly one of the more unique tournament formats in the world. In recent years the "repechage" or second chance format has become popular in a way for organizers to increase prize pools amongst its existing customer base. The Macau Millions has taken that concept to a whole new level.
Not one, not two, not three, but seven opening day flights gives each of our players seven chances to buy into the tournament in the hope of reaching day two and the money. You can fire one bullet, or if you have enough ammo, you can take all seven shots!
Play will continue on each "Day 1" until the field has been reduced to the final 7% of the field. At that point the players will have secured a berth on Day 2 and a guaranteed payday of HK$8,000.
The great thing about the Macau Millions format is that if you make it through a day one flight you still have the option of playing each of the other opening flights. You can try and reach the cash once again as only the biggest stack from your successful attempts will be used when play recommences on Day 2.
This is quite possibly the first poker tournament in history where someone could potentially cash seven times in the one event!
The structure for today's play will see each player start with 10,000 in chips and 25-minute levels. Our educated guestimates predict we'll see a field well over 100 players this evening with play likely to take between six and seven hours to reach our final 7%.
8:15pm: Well, that didn't take long
Well it took all of four minutes and thirty seconds for us to have our first all in and first elimination of the day.
On one of the tables in the back of the room, a big pot was developing on a board of 5♠A♠2♦Q♦ between American William Franceschine and a local Macau player.
Franceschine's bet of 1,225 was raised to 3,600 by his opponent in position before the deliberate Franceschine moved all in. His opponent thought for a moment, perhaps considering that he has six more opportunities to buy back into this tournament, before making a gambling call with A♦6♦ as Franceschine tabled A♣A♥.
The river was a nice and confusing 5♦ as the local player thought he'd won the pot with his flush only to discover that Franceschine had improved to a full house to double his stack to over 20,000 and eliminate our first player of the day.
8:10pm: Macau Millions underway!
The dealers have had their final instructions, the cards are shuffled, the Grand Lisboa security guards' jackets are sufficiently orange and the players are in their seats. PokerStars Macau Marketing Manager Fred Leung has welcomed the players to the Macau Millions and uttered the immortal words, "Let's shuffle up and deal!"
Day 1a of the 2011 Macau Millions is now underway!
It's true that many live poker events around the world have struggled to match the numbers of the golden era in poker post-2003. With a tough economic climate and an online poker industry struggling for regulation, tournament poker was always destined to plateau. However there's one region which is currently defying the trend as poker in Macau is arguably starting to finally blossom.
It hasn't been easy, despite a rich gambling culture, as Asian players are hard to get away from squeezing on those Baccarat tables! Slowly, but surely, with the help of the hardworking team at PokerStars Macau, we are starting to see the fruits of the labour.
Late last year the Macau Poker Cup Championship brought with it record fields, which were enhanced further in February at the first MPC of the year and the Red Dragon Main Event. The high stakes cash games are bigger than ever, major high stakes tournaments are scheduled for Macau later in the year, and we even saw a handful of wealthy Macau businessmen mix it up with the best at the Aussie Millions.
Could we finally be seeing the much-hyped poker boom in Asia?
We're certainly going to get another strong indicator over the next week as the Macau Millions series kicks off this evening. It's a unique format, but one which is guaranteeing a HK$1,500,000 prize pool. With a buy-in of just HK$2,200 you can do the math to figure out that we're going to have a massive field for this event.
Last year's Macau Millions was run over five opening flights and produced a field of 741 to create a prize pool of HK$1,467,180, with Hong Kong's Justin Chan victorious as he collected HK$275,000 for his efforts.
The Macau Millions is an official Asia Player of the Year event, and as such, it will attract the best in the region, including several Team PokerStars Pros from Asia and Europe, and we believe that we might even be graced with the presence of 2010 World Champion Jonathan Duhamel later in the week.
Here's the schedule for 2011 Macau Millions:
Saturday, April 2, 8:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1A
Sunday, April 3, 2:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1B
Wednesday, April 6, 8:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1C
Thursday, April 7, 8:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1D
Friday, April 8, 2:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1E
Friday, April 8, 7:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1F
Saturday, April 9, 12:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 1G
Saturday, April 9, 8:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 2
Sunday, April 10, 12:10 PM - Macau Millions - Day 3
It all kicks off at 8:10pm this evening at the spectacular Grand Lisboa Casino with the opening flight. Stay tuned to the PokerStars Blog all week for live updates from the tournament floor.