LG... Life's Good
Last week was the inaugural Asia Championship of Poker in the casino-haven of Macau. The event was a great success, with heaps of well-known pros flying in to play in the HKD$100,000 Main Event – the largest buy-in Main Event that Asia has ever seen. I’ve been to Macau every year for four years, and this trip was by far my favourite.
The original destination of the APPT was Grand Waldo Casino, located on Taipai Island – which is more of the Las Vegas mirror image than the main island of Macau. They then moved to Grand Lisboa for a few seasons. This year, PokerStars Macau returned to their original home for the launch of ACOP. The huge difference this time around, in comparison to the earlier years, is that an extraordinary complex, known as Galaxy Macau, now towers over Grand Waldo with three luxurious hotels and a plentiful selection of dining, shopping and entertainment. No longer is Grand Waldo a dark and lonely hotel and casino on the outskirts of the Cotai Strip.
I would describe Galaxy as a combination of Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay – thanks to my favourite feature, the manmade beach and wave pool. Angel Guillen and I were lucky enough to stay at Galaxy Hotel, and even had a couple of nights at the incredible Okura Hotel, both thanks to some last minute generous help from one of the kindest people in the world, Bryan Huang. Both hotels are within the Galaxy Macau complex, along with a Banyan Tree – the epitome of luxury. One morning before work began (many thanks to the late starts each day), Angel and I had one of the most incredible experiences at the Banyan Tree Spa. Every second of our time in there was blissful. The staff were so warm and welcoming, the facilities were immaculate and impressively designed, and my facial was beyond amazing. Our treatment began with a foot soak and massage while we sipped on ginger tea and ate fresh fruit in our bamboo-lined room. It was heaven! Too bad I had to go to work immediately afterwards…
So, back to work I went, and I must say we were spoiled with smoke-free space at Grand Waldo, which was a nice change. Here is a quick video tour of the ACOP tournament area:
Within the ginormous space we had, there was a PokerStars Mobile Lounge, where two daily, free-to-enter, iPad SnG’s were being held, and the winner of each nine-handed tournament won an iPad! On top of that, there was also the Zoom Challenge where players had 20,000 in play-money chips to begin, and whoever ran it up the highest within 12 minutes, over the course of the tournament, would win an iPad. That same event will be held at PCA, although that will be more of a high-stakes challenge, as it boasts a $1,000 buy-in!
Donnie Peters challenged me to the iPad SnG, so I simply had to document my feat on video. Whether it turned out a feat for me or not, you’ll have to watch to find out. Hint: I’m not writing this on an iPad!
APPT President, Danny McDonagh, is one of my favourite Tournament Directors in the world. He is always bantering with players, staff, media or anyone in his path. He loves to have a great time and takes the effort to ensure players enjoy their experience to the fullest, both on and off the felt. He’s obviously a brilliant Tournament Director and has the deserving respect of all players in this region. He also doesn’t hold back when it comes to enjoying a party. In fact, none of the PokerStars APPT team do! Robin Lim, the Events Manager, is a magician. I don’t mean in the sense that he puts together unbelievable events (which he can); he’s literally the guy on stage performing magic tricks. So naturally, the party in Macau each year is always one of the best, and this year, the ACOP schedule was specifically worked around it. We finished play on Day 1, the night of the party, at 10pm, and we didn’t begin Day 2 until 5pm! The party was absolutely nuts - it was held at D2 Nighclub and it was Ladies Night. One "feature" about D2 (or perhaps Macau) is that there are countless beautiful women, on display, if you will. They literally wear numbers and you can order your favourite at the bar... It's definitely an eye-opener. Not as bad the "racetrack" that I witnessed last year! Anyway, here's the video of the party, it was pretty awesome.
Team PokerStars Pros Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and Eugene Katchalov were in town for the event, and it’s no secret that they’ve been pretty serious with their fitness regimes. So much so, that they have their trainer, Lincon Rodriguez travel the world with them. Lincon is such a daredevil, the complete definition of fearless. So he managed to successfully convince ElkY to bungy jump off the top of Macau Tower - the highest bungy jump in the world.
I have no idea how ElkY managed to work up the courage to take that jump, but I must say his “chicken dance” as he was jumping was absolutely hilarious. I’m much happier keeping my feet on the ground, though!
That’s it from me for now; next stop is Auckland, New Zealand this week for the ANZPT!
My verdict on Macau after three visits over the past three years: it’s just not my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, most of the people visiting during the APPT absolutely loved it - especially my co-workers. The boys particularly loved the place with the cheap spas (not necessarily those spas) and gorgeous girls filling out Vegas-style nightclubs at a quarter of the price to its idol city. It's certainly every bit of Las Vegas, just an oriental translation.
The Awkward Moment When You Get in the Elevator...
At least once everyday, I had to share my elevator with a couple. Not your ordinary couple though. A 30-minute relationship that began on the ground floor, also known as the "race track", and happily ended on the sixth floor of my hotel. It started off intriguing, and while I'm certainly not judging the profession whatsoever, I just couldn't help but begin to resent the commonly rude, dominant men that I had to share my elevator with, along with their timid, unspoken "purchasee". People can certainly do what they want, and it's one of the biggest businesses in the world, but after being forced in the middle of it for a week (questionable choice of words there, I don't mean literally), I just didn't like the energy.
On my last day in Macau, I sent a Tweet to try to understand why many Chinese men, mostly 40+, constantly spit; at least in Macau and Hong Kong they do, from what I’ve seen. And I don't mean just spit... I mean the full "haaauuuhhooooochhhhh" as Dale 'Daleroxxu' Philip described it. You hear (and see) it every 10 minutes when walking around Macau. Some people responded on Twitter that it was about the pollution or smoking, but there are other cities in the world that are just as polluted and don't do this. Others said it was a spiritual belief of ridding bad energy from their bodies. Although they seem to just attract bad energy from those in the room around them! That was one custom I was really struggling to adjust to! Apparently now Hong Kong deliver fines for anyone caught spitting in public.
Macau has been in the poker-spotlight for quite some time now, and it really is a poker-players heaven for most, with places such as The Grand Waldo Spa to spend your Sunday grind kicking back on a giant recliner while getting super cheap pedicures and massages. The restaurants at The Grand Lisboa, where the APPT is held, are simply awesome, and of course so is the stunning hotel that I was lucky enough to stay in last year. My tip: order coffee at Crystal Cafe (under the poker room) when Lincoln is working - he was the only one who made an awesome coffee! And the white bread they use there for their toast is amazing. Random, but true.
As for the sights, there are some great things to see, but I won't write about it as I think I did enough talking in the following video!
With the long days of work, hitting the town at night wasn’t an overly available option for someone who needs their sleep like I do, except for one crazy night where we celebrated the kick off to the Main Event and PokerStars’ 10th Birthday and one of Macau’s most popular nightclubs, D2. Usually the male to female ratio at poker parties is so heavily skewed, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many females when we arrived. Check out the video if you don’t believe me!
One of my favorite things about working in the poker industry is the awesome people that you get to meet and work with. It’s rare for me to meet a poker player that I dislike. I don’t know Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew that well, but from what I do know, he is an awesome guy, and with that added to his monster online-cash-game skills, you’ve just got to love him! We could see it in his face with each all-in moment he had at this final table, just how much his heart and soul was in it to land that title. And that he did. Congratulations Randy!
The (Legit) Massage
Lastly, I had a few hours to spare in the Hong Kong International Airport so I got myself a chair massage in the Traveller's Lounge near Gate 1. My expectations weren't that high for a spontaneous airport massage, but oh my, the girl I had was absolutely incredible. Quite easily the best massage I think I've ever had.... Her name was Sylvia - do yourself a favour if you're flying through Hong Kong and request her!