The Land of the Rising Cards


In its traditions and cultures, the Far East is renowned as a place of mysticism and myth, themselves in no small part the chief factors in the region being one of the most visited in the world, for both business and pleasure.

However, for all those who have been pitched in battles of Texas Hold 'em in their favourite online casino, the ultimate aim is fast becoming to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun to pit their wits against a growing collection of the best poker players on the planet in some of the most exotic and dramatic locations this world has to offer.

The major event in the Asian poker calendar is the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. 2010 sees the tour kick off with a pre-season event in Manila, before heading to Macau in China, Auckland and Sidney, with past events pausing in, amongst others, Seoul and Cebu. The allure of these places alone is incredible, but together with the opportunity to face poker legends across the felt they become the Mecca for every aspiring poker player.

Perhaps the two greatest players from the region are Thuan B. “Scotty” Nguyen from Vietnam, and the Chinese legend Johnny Chan. Each has their own style, and each is responsible for some of the most memorable scenes from poker tournaments across the globe.

A former dealer at Harrah’s poker room, Nguyen made an impact in the world of poker in his mid-twenties. While his love of the game saw him regularly lose his $150-per-night income, he continually built up his knowledge of the game and reading of players. He made and blew his first $1,000,000 bankroll on a lavish lifestyle before returning back from the netherworld in the 1997 World Series of Poker when he won his first bracelet before cementing his place amongst the elite with a second bracelet a year later, this time at the Main Event in the WSOP.

There, on the final table and facing Kevin Mcbride with a full house dealt open, Nguyen was about to utter a phrase that has become embedded in poker folklore. Smiling at his opponent in his enigmatic way, he said, “You call, it’s going to be all over, baby!”

Left little choice, Mcbride called, only to see Nguyen’s hand and realise that he had just lost the $1,000,000 top prize to a player who would go on to become one of the world’s greatest, notching up five WSOP bracelets including winning the 2008 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship. To this date he is the only player in the world to have won this championship and the Main Event at the WSOP.

Five years older than Nguyen, Johnny Chan is arguably the greatest Asian player ever to grace the game of poker and one of the world’s all-time greatest players.

Set for a career in hotel management, Chan dropped out of university at the tender age of 21 in order to become a professional gambler. Working his way up the field, and without blowing fortunes in the same manner as Nguyen, Chan earned his first real success at the WSOP in 1985, winning his first bracelet in one of the lesser tournaments.

However, just two years later Chan won the Main Event – the No Limit Hold ‘em World Championship. Well and truly on the world stage, Chan went on to earn his status as a poker legend by winning the Main Event again a year later.

He is still the only player to have won the Main Event at the WSOP in consecutive years, and he came within a whisker of repeating the feat a year later, only to finish runner-up to a future legend and record-breaker himself, Phil Hellmuth.

Earning a total of ten WSOP bracelets to date, Chan is just one behind Hellmuth in those rankings but in 2002 he was deservedly indicted into the Poker Hall of Fame and remains the only player from Asia to grace its list. In truth, it is just another accolade to the many the man known as “The Great Wall of China” has in his pocket.

Interestingly, however, neither Johnny Chan nor Scotty Nguyen has ever triumphed at the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, although there are plenty of other big names competing for the top prizes. The pre-season stop in Manila alone guarantees a $1,000,000 prize pool, meaning that any lucky entrant will surely get to face some of the top stars.

With high-rollers locking horns across the felt over big money, the conditions are perfect for first class poker, the outcome of which is certain to be big casino news.