Great future for poker in China

Poker has a great and expanding future in the vast Chinese gambling market, and appeals to mahjong and big-deuce players because of the similarities with mathematical odds and strategy, say experts in the game in a report carried this week in the Hong Kong Standard newspaper.

The article is topical with the 2008 APT just completed in Macau (see previous InfoPowa report), and the APPT commencing in the region, amid claims that the Texas Hold 'Em poker craze that has swept the West is set to take the region by storm,

Asia Pacific Poker Tour president Jeffrey Haas told the newspaper: "There are some very talented poker players from Hong Kong." He went on to emphasise the math and psychological skill elements needed to excel at poker, pointing out that at its core it's player vs. player, whereas in [most other casino] table games it's largely a matter of luck.

The popularity of poker has been growing in Asia since expatriates and returning overseas students introduced the game several years ago, and it has grown organically, said the president of the Hong Kong Poker League, Kelly Flynn, who played a role in setting up the League with assistance from the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. Cash is replaced with points, prizes and the chance to compete in international tournaments in the home grown League.

An indication of the growing popularity of the game is currently taking place on the island of Macau, close to Hong Kong. The just completed Asian Poker Tour, which carried a main event prize pool of $2.5 million attracted 257 top players, and the HK$100 million Macau stop on the APPT has just commenced and will run through to September 9, pulling in 400 players as InfoPowa went to press.

Last year the full tour embraced Macau, Seoul, Manila, Auckland and Sydney and recorded 1 400 player registrations.

"I've got over 3 000 players in my database for Hong Kong and that number will easily double or triple in the next 12 months," Flynn told the Hong Kong Standard.

Shanghai-born but Australian resident poker pro Celina Lin Pei-fei (25) is competing in the APPT and opined that the game of poker would appeal to mahjong and big-deuce players because of the similarities with mathematical odds and strategy. "I think Asians can be great contenders in the game because of their fearlessness and math skills," the poker millionairess said.

Twice World Series of Poker champ Johnny Chan is another entrant this year, and believes the game has a huge potential to become the region's most popular sport.

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