I’ll explain the title later . . . keep reading.
I had really been looking forward to the Asian Poker Tour in Macau for many reasons (in no particular order)
1. Who in gaming doesn’t want to see a gambling mecca larger than Vegas?
2. Check out the local poker scene
3. Catch up with some old PartyPoker cohorts
4. Catch up with some poker blogging brethren
5. Catch up with some industry folks
I scored on all the above.
I arrived over by ferry, got checked into my hotel (The Rio Hotel and Casino), and scurried over to the Asian Poker Tour (APT) tournament room at Star World Casino.
If I’m remember this correctly the first person I ran into was Ozzie who I used to work with at Party. Soon after I ran into Angelica, Ozzie’s wife, and former Party employee and now working for the APT. Then it was inside the main room where F-Train quickly peeked his head over his computer. I think the last time I saw F-Train was when we went down to Hustler Casino in Los Angeles with Grubette and cleaned up on some $15/$30 or $25/$50 games. Next on the meet and greet was J-Dawg, the tireless victim of abuse from Ozzie and myself when we all worked together at Party. Next there was Sinead who is also still at Party and is willing to try not to act offended no matter what rude or crude things leave your mouth. And what event would be complete without Warren? Actually most, but Warren still shows up anyway.
I also got an opportunity to chat with Amy, one of the producers of “Poker King” the Johnny Chan featuring flick that they were shooting on site at the APT. I found it really interesting to get her take on poker in Asia and how this film that’s aimed at an Asian audience will be different to Rounders or any of the US-centric poker films. She mentioned that Asians find the game boring so a lot of what they were going to do was turn up the luck and excitement and turn down the skill and battle of the minds angles. Can anyone say “That’s a license to print money if poker ever takes off in Asia”?
I have to say that from what I could see of the APT event it was very well run. I never heard any of the players complaining about blinds, levels, or anything that usually gets some bitching and moaning. Most of the players seemed in very good spirits and looked like they were having a blast.
All of us hit the cash game tables that night but since many of us had been socializing over drinks since late afternoon I’m not really sure what I did was playing poker. I think I mostly donked off some chips while having a good time.
Woke up on Saturday and had lunch/early-dinner over at the Wynn. I didn’t have much on my agenda for the day since the big deal was the private party being thrown by the APT that evening. Invite only and from people had gone the previous year it was not a party to be missed.
And it lived up to the talk.
First off, the party was being held in some former penthouse suite of the Star World Casino that they had added some gaming tables to and taken out the beds to accommodate. You’re on the 39th floor overlooking all of Macau in nearly every direction.
Ozzie insisted that the must-see feature of the place was the bathroom and we soon found ourselves standing in a line for our opportunity to tour the bathroom. WOW!!!
You walk in and everything is white or glass. Like the rest of the suite, two entire walls were simply glass meaning that as you stood there in the bathroom you look out of the city. A bathtub was in one section of the bathroom, a dual person shower in another, and some contraption which I could only guess was a sauna was dead center. I mean, this room was absolutely stunning. That’s a bathroom that makes you want to go to the bathroom.
And that’s where Mel Judah comes in.
Mel was in our little group that entered the bathroom together. The bathroom was totally for show as there were other “public” bathrooms in the suite with slightly less awesomeness. Someone whipped out a camera and asked Mel to take a pic and pretty soon all of us were hamming it up for the camera. Thus, Mel Judah took my photo in the bathroom of the Star World Casino.
Later on in the evening Liz Lieu showed up. I met her maybe back in 2005 or 2006 at the WSOP but it was one of those “Oh hi,” type of intros. I’ve always wanted to get a proper intro. Okay, yes, obviously she’s a gorgeous woman and all but I think she’s one of the few players out there that has really tried to use the internet and social media the way it should be used. Most pros websites are nothing more than vanity sites or there to push whatever they’re selling (products, poker rooms, etc). Other pros go in the opposite direction and set up a shrine to their ego where they can boast about how great they are, how many ice cubes they like in their drink (or other factoids nobody gives a hoot about), or drop names in every post, Facebook update, or Tweet.
I kind of dig players who get the balance right. That’s why I’ve always been preferential to guys like Tommy Angelo. He’s not constantly hawking his books or coaching but sharing little snippets of his thoughts and his life with people who might have an interest. Daniel Negreanu is another cat who seems to have a decent balance between “this is who I am as a real person” and “this is me the poker pro.” Similarly, that’s what I try to do here on the blog with the exception that I’m not a poker pro but a mere poker blogger who has been in the online poker industry for the last several years. I’ve had people tell me they aren’t particularly interested in my travel reports or this or that but for every person who tells me that’s not their cup of tea I have four or five others who say that they feel like they know me as a person via my writing. And that’s the only goal I ever had for this blog so mission accomplished on some level.
Anyway, Liz and I have swapped Tweets in the past so when I saw her I went up and introduced myself. We chatted a little bit about Phuket and her latest tattoo that she had done down there using the old-school bamboo needles and tapping the ink into the skin. Cool stuff actually and I’ve always wanted to get one of those if/when I get another tattoo.
I’m not complaining but I wasn’t really sure what the reasoning was with the APT hiring girls from the US to sort of be hostesses at the event and that night at the party. I mean, okay, lots of Asian or Asian looking models, many having been surgically enhanced, is always easy on the eyes but it just seemed odd being half-way around the world talking to a girl who goes to UC Irvine.
Some local Hong Kong/Macau girls were also allowed admittance to the party so the usual sausagefest that is typical at player parties was avoided. One of these gals kept walking up to me with her glass full of wine and would toast and then insist that we both drink our entire drink. Of course, I’m drinking Jack and Coke so I’m pretty sure I’m getting bad odds on this one.
As they say, there’s no rest for the wicked and being decidedly in the wicked camp I was up, packed, and ready to go in the morning. First though I headed over to the Grand Lisboa to have lunch with Jeffrey Haas from PokerStars where they were getting some preliminary events going for the APPT. I don’t think I’ve seen Jeffrey since he was at Check Raise Poker and sponsored the very first World Poker Blogger Tour event at Sam’s Town. Heck, I think I still have the jacket he had made up back in my storage unit back home.
While I was waiting for Jeffrey I spotted Terrence “Not Johnny” Chan. He’s another one of those people who we sort of know each other from online but have never met so I introduced myself. I made a joke about meeting Johnny Chan at the player event the night before and told Terrence that Johnny had introduced himself as Johnny “Not Terrence” Chan. Either he was distracted because he was minutes away from kicking off a limit hold’em tournament or my joke wasn’t that funny.
Even though my flight wasn’t until 8:50pm and it was only 4:30 I had to start making my way back over to Hong Kong. It seemed like every little step was eating time off the clock. First I missed the 5pm ferry and had to wait for the 5:30. Then when we docked in Hong Kong I missed the free shuttle to the airport express train and got stuck waiting in a huge line for a taxi. When I got to the train station I had just missed the train and had to wait another 15 minutes for the next one.
By the time I got checked in and was heading towards immigration it was nearly 8pm so that was about 3:30 minutes door to door. A little closer than I normally like but the flight was delayed (typical Air Asia) so I did get a chance to get something to snack on before the 3 hour flight back to Bangkok.
Back to the grind. . .
Anyway, some final thoughts on poker in Asia . . .
Everybody talks about the big day when poker becomes legal in China or somewhere but I think a lot of people overestimate the market. As Amy said (and I concur) my experience around Asians in casinos and seeing them here in South East Asia is that they love action. Poker is a boring game to fold, fold, fold, fold so it may never get huge traction.
On the other hand, I do think poker can do a healthy turnover in Asia. It’s just not going to be that every man, woman, and child all of a sudden becomes a full-fledged poker freaks overnight. There’s a lot more complexity to it than that. Starting with the legal situation, going through mob control and monopolies, all the way to the fact that in many Asian countries an overwhelming majority of people don’t have very much expendable income (if any).
But things do look encouraging. When I popped over to the Wynn they had at least 11 full tables spread with stakes going from $25/$50 to $200/$400 (HKD). There were some white faces at the tables but they were vastly outnumbered by the Asian players. My guess is no more than 20% of the players there were Caucasian.
And that was just at the Wynn while the APT was going on at the casino across the street. I know the Grand Lisboa was spreading games as well as Star World so all in all a somewhat impressive turnout during what would normally be low season in Hong Kong / Macau.
And with the APT and APPT both staging events in the region I can see some nice organic growth going on. Should be interesting to watch.