We like to think of ourselves as seasoned travelers here on the PokerStars Blog, so dragging a suitcase and laptop from London to Macau, the gambling paradise that rises from the South China Sea like a Sim City computer game landscape, would be a breeze. Indeed the 12-hour flight to Hong Kong was pleasant enough, as was the A11 bus from the airport (which a friend of mine helped to build – the airport, not the bus) to the Sheung Wan ferry terminal. Just as enjoyable was the 40-mile boat trip to the island, especially as I fell into an exhausted sleep within five minutes. Once in Macau it was one last bus trip to the hotel.
But this is where I made my first mistake, trying to book in to the Lisboa Hotel… it should have been the Grand Lisboa Hotel. Having covered PokerStars tournaments in luxurious and exotic locations around the world I should have realised it would not be any old Lisboa hotel, but a grand one. No matter, a five-minute walk later, in the company of a concierge who insisted England was basking in 80 degree heat (he was about 20 degrees out), and I was finally at the right place.
The Macau Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino is the jewel in Macau’s crown, standing tall and oh-so-pretty within a glittering and breathtaking skyline that screams Las Vegas, except that’s in the desert and this is in the middle of the ocean.
The colony is a heady mix of European, Far East, and Nevada thanks to a fascinating history. The Chinese gave Macau to the Portuguese centuries ago as a thank you for ridding the area of pesky pirates. Then, in 1999, it returned to China as a Special Administrative Region and has not looked back since.
This is where poker’s finest gather later today for the start of PokerStars Macau, season four of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. Macau itself, like PokerStars, does not like to do anything by halves, and you won’t be surprised to hear that yet again we intend to break records this week. We’ll play this out in the PokerStars Macau Poker Room, the biggest poker room in Asia, and we can say with confidence we expect the $40,000 HKD (around $5,000 USD) tournament to be the biggest ever held in region. We’ll have three day one flights, and then whittle the field down to a final table on Sunday when someone will emerge with the title and an impressive bundle of cash.
Last year Irishman Dermot Blain won this one, collecting $541,072 USD. It would be a surprise if he wasn’t back this year joining, at my estimation, around 500 others looking for glory in the East. Among them will be a usual merry band of PokerStars qualifiers and Team PokerStars Pro, represented by members of Team Asia like Raymond Wu and Celina Lin. Expect, too, to see Team Pro Australia out in force, with the likes of Tony Hachem and maybe his brother Joe. Team Pro traditionally flock here from further afield, and Marcel Luske, from Holland, was here yesterday as proceedings began with a press conference that had plenty of glamour. We’re not saying Luske is not glamorous (mind you, have you heard him sing?), but the eye turned more easily to the three lovely ladies who were center stage to get things under way.
Celebrity Chrissie Chow and Taiwan’s top models Tia Li and Larisa had the job of raising the curtain on the main event, and they did it rather well. Chrissie was wearing a skirt made up of giant cards, which the other two peeled off one at time in one of the most, er, enjoyable games of blackjack you’re ever likely to see.
So, without further ado, we’ll now grab a coffee or two and prepare for the start of day 1A which is scheduled to begin at 12.15pm local time. I’ll be joined this week by Tim Duckworth with a notebook and pen, and by Joe Giron with boxes of very expensive looking camera equipment. If you prefer your pictures to be moving, videos will be provided over on pokerstars.tv. In fact, we’ve got everything you need to enjoy a record-breaking poker tournament. Settle back and enjoy the coverage.
In the meantime, learn more about Macau with the video team…