The first person I saw after I got off my flight to Korea yesterday was Robert DeNiro.
Yes, that Robert DeNiro. The one who played Ace Rothstein in Martin Scorsese’s landmark film “Casino”. The man lauded by many as the greatest actor of his generation. He was here, in Korea, at Incheon International Airport, smiling at me.
DeNiro was dressed in an impeccably sharp tuxedo, holding the ace of diamonds and the queen of hearts. He was beckoning me, and all of the international tourists like me, to come spend some time at the Paradise Walker-Hill Casino – our venue this year for the APPT Seoul Main Event.
My first thought was to wonder how much DeNiro was paid for the privilege of plastering his likeness all over billboards at the airport and on buses that rolled up outside of it. My second thought was to wonder why he would even agree to do such a thing. Surely the money he’s made from a legendary Hollywood career has left him, his kids, and his kids’ kids set for eternity.
Once I got past all that (and I’m a guy who ponders things, so that took a bit), I considered the oddity of having an American acting icon advertise a Korean casino. Today APPT President Danny McDonagh set me straight that it’s not odd at all.
“It’s illegal for nationals to gamble in the casinos here,” McDonagh said. “The numbers [at APPT Seoul] would be nuts if they could. Only internationals can play. We have a few Koreans in the field, but they hold multiple passports.”
It’s a shame that the casino can’t get some sort of waiver to allow Korean nationals to play in the APPT Seoul festival. As it is, without any Koreans in the field, 129 players have already registered for Day 1a of this tournament. When combined with tomorrow’s Day 1b entries, the Season 5 field should easily surpass the 186 who played here in Season 1 and the 166 who pulled up a chair in Season 2.
Gaming law is a tricky thing everywhere, it seems.
At least Paradise has committed to a multi-year engagement with the APPT. Director of poker operations Kevin Song, who called shuffle up and deal today, announced that the 44-year-old casino recently signed a three-year partnership with the APPT. It guarantees that the tour will return to Seoul in Season 6 and Season 7.
DeNiro probably won’t be here though. At least, not in the flesh.