The poker world is abuzz. The People’s Republic of China, with its massive population base already predisposed to gaming, has long been regarded as somewhat of a holy grail for the poker world. Just look at the way Macau has overtaken Las Vegas as the world’s pre-eminent gaming locale, just five years after deregulation. Much of this trade is from mainland Chinese.
But holding a real-money live poker tournament there has always been problematic. Where many have tried and failed, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour has finally succeeded, and in its inaugural season no less. Late last week it announced the first ever real-money poker tournament on Chinese soil, to be held in Macau on 22-27 November, with the main event on 23 November. Yours truly will most certainly be there reporting for Crikey.
This first season of the APPT has already been a raging success, with successful tournaments held in Manila and Seoul, and the Grand Final of season one to be held in Sydney on 13-16 December. About 600 entrants are expected at the Sydney fixture, each stumping up their $6,000 entry fee – making a prize pool of around $3.6 million. Many of them will win their seat in the tournament by qualifying online, for a mere fraction of the $6,000 entry fee. In the few days since the Macau leg of the tour was announced, about 30 people have already qualified online, and perhaps 250-300 entrants are expected for the Macau main event.
The newly formed tour owes its success to a number of factors. It has the long-term financial backing of Pokerstars.net as the major sponsor. Pokerstars is the world’s largest online card room, which has allowed many of the entrants to qualify online for relatively tiny amounts of money. A number of poker celebrities played in Manila and Seoul, including Australia’s own Joe Hachem, the 2005 World Champion of poker. Another key to the APPT’s success was the hiring of Australian Danny McDonagh as the tournament director. McDonagh ran the poker room at Crown casino for many years and he and his trusted team run an extremely tight ship. Some consider McDonagh to be the best tournament director in the world today.
The television deals which are now being negotiated will surely mean the tour will surely grow exponentially in the seasons to come. Pokerstars’ financial backing has allowed for the hiring of 441 Productions, the world’s premier poker production company to shoot the series for television. Such a professional production will no doubt make fascinating television, and you can expect to see season one broadcast in Australia sometime around Feb 2008. It will be seen on TV3 in New Zealand and Solar Sports in the Philippines.
Season two, in 2008, is already expected to contain seven fixtures, including New Zealand. With a tournament now announced in Macau, could it just be that we get one in mainland China one day? Imagine the number of entrants and the prize pool for that one…