Enter the Red Dragon

Alice Kok
圖 Photos courtesy of Pokerstars Live
PokerStars Live Macau at City of Dreams
The next edition of Macau Poker Cup takes place at PokerStars Live Macau at City of Dreams, from August 25 to September 10, and should assure at least HK$10 million in prize money, in the main event - Red Dragon.
 
 
The last Macau Poker Cup edition had a total of 5,527 entrants and HK$58,797,650 in prize money, over all the tournaments. This edition, the senior marketing and business development manager of PokerStars Live Events, Asia, Fred Leung, says the trend is to keep growing.  
 
“We’ve been growing for the past four Red Dragon events. I’d expect that trend to continue as this is arguably the most famous tournament in Asia. It’s been running since 2008 and so there’s a lot of history attached to it,” he mentions. “The last Red Dragon had HK$15.9 million in prize money, so I’m very confident we will once again exceed the HK$10 million guarantee,” he adds.
 
Looking at the main event, Red Dragon, Mr Leung says the figures keep growing. In August 2015, there were 945 entrants, while the following year, in February, there were 1,075 and 1,145 in September. In February 2017, there were 1,216 entrants. Moreover, the last Red Dragon event “owned the distinction as the Largest Freezeout in the Asia Pacific (including Australia) and the record was set in February 2017 with 1,216 players”. Mr Leung explains: “In poker we use a term called ‘freezeout’ which means each player can only play one time.  Other tournaments allow players to enter multiple times.”
 
For the Red Dragon tournament, interested players may register at the poker room and buy-in directly for HK$15,000. “There are also lower cost methods to qualify by what’s known as a satellite, which is a tournament where players are playing for an entry ticket.  For example, 10 people might put up HK$1500 and the winner (10 x HK$1500 = HK$15,000) would get to play the Red Dragon,” he explains.
 
Growing continuously over past editions, Mr Leung expects this trend to continue, as poker itself is also gaining more popularity in this part of the world.
 
“Poker is a game of skill as are games such as Mahjong,” he explains, adding: “While there is an element of luck involved, you can study and improve the way you play. Over the long term, the better player will win more often than the novice.”
 
Asia’s gamblers are “some of the most passionate players and are extremely eager to learn and improve,” even though baccarat is still the main game in the territory. Plus, as “poker is still a relatively new game [here] – compared to the rest of the world –  the advantage is even greater for those who learn quicker or have natural skills in things like math and probabilities.”
 
For the August tournament, Leung expects some local stars to pop by. “We have two Team PokerStars Pros confirmed in Aditya Agarwal and Celina Lin – who has won the Red Dragon event twice,” he says. Mr Leung prefers not to mention other names, even though there are more coming. “What I can say is that the Macau Poker Cup and Red Dragon are popular enough that Asia’s biggest poker names come out to compete each time,” he says. “It’s gotten big enough where professional players from outside of Asia now come to the event as well, and that’s certainly another reason for the growth.”
 
For the future, Mr Leung expects to continue developing a lot of brands for the PokerStars Live Macau poker room and, “instead of increasing in quantity”, the team is “more focused on enhancing the quality”. 
 
Plus, the biggest event each year is the Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP), which only happens once a year, unlike Macau Poker Cup that is held twice a year. 
 
“Macau Poker Cup is the nice middle ground for everyone and very much the reason for its success in terms of sheer volume of players,” he says. “But the ACOP is bigger in terms of the stakes the players are competing for and so that brings the world’s best players to Macau for the competition.”
 
This year’s ACOP is scheduled to take place between October 13 and 29 and the main event “has a massive prize pool guarantee of HK$25 million.” The 17-day schedule for Macau Poker Cup includes 29 Official ‘Asia Player of the Year’ events.