Around the World with LG

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The REAL Cebu

May 04, 2013 1 comments

Tags: APPT, Cebu, PokerStars, Tour, Travel, Guide, Philippines.

Many people in the Philippines are exceptionally poor — living in shacks, consuming not much more than boiled rice.

Yet they are quite possibly THE happiest people on the planet.

Their connectedness is inspirational. They don’t have doors on their homes – the mothers of all the villages are outside together, helping, talking, loving. Their gratitude for the simplest things is amazing. Their perspective is grounded and they absolutely love life. They’re not stuck in their story of self-pity.

They have FUN. The kids run around the streets fearlessly, with smiles from ear to ear. Not one tantrum in sight. Every corner you turn there is someone greeting you with so much genuine joy. They’re honest. They’re real. And they are rich with unconditional love.

While we can do a lot to help Filipinos monetarily, we can also learn a heck of a few important lessons from the beautiful people in this place.

I haven’t been to any other islands other than Cebu and Mactan, but I can tell you that I absolutely LOVE it here!

In the following video, we take a REAL tour of Cebu, diving deep into the Filipino street-culture. This was one of the funnest videos I’ve made to date. An amazing experience.

ACOP Macau

November 18, 2012

Tags: APPT Macau, APPT, Macau.

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!

LG x

Love a Little Seoul

March 13, 2012

Tags: APPT, Seoul, Korea, Travel.

I've just arrived home from my first-ever trip to South Korea. I've been to a lot of airports over the years and a few have impressed me, but I must say that Incheon Airport blew me away. I was a little reluctant to head to the airport five hours early for my flight, however when I discovered last-minute that many places closed on Monday in Seoul, particularly my destination of choice for my free day - Dungdaemun Market (a collection of 26 malls, housing over 30,000 retail stores, mostly catering to women's fashion. Also known as heaven on earth, and also known as the place I never got to visit), I decided what the heck and joined the rest of the team on the early bus to the airport. I couldn’t be more thankful that I did, as I actually ran out of time after exploring everything this place had to offer! From the endless shopping, to the lounges, to the public toilets, massage and nail salons, Incheon Airport is nothing less than awesome.

Anyhow, the appreciation for Seoul certainly doesn’t stop the airport. Seoul is a fantastic city, and quite a beautiful one too. The APPT was held at the Paradise Casino Walkerhill, which is set on the edge of a riverside mountain, surrounded by trees, opening up to a stunning view of the intense city. I did venture out twice during the week, however it was always on a bus headed downtown, so on our last day, fellow PokerNews-er Donnie Peters and I went for a walk “down the hill” to check out the area that we had been living in for the past six days. We walked in the freezing cold along the eight-lane highway, which every road seemed to be, passing giant building after giant building. Despite being 10km outside of downtown Seoul, a distance that you would usually assume to find yourself in a quiet residential neighborhood, everywhere in sight was still full of skyscrapers. Seoul, and many other big-cities in Asia, is a totally different world to what I'm used to, one where everyone seems to live in the sky.

The view from Paradise Casino Walkerhill.
The view from Paradise Casino Walkerhill.

This was Angel's first time to ever visit Asia, and my only other city of comparison from personal experience was Macau... which really is a world of its own. So despite the minimal expectations that we had, we were amazed within the first 30 minutes of touching down. Koreans are not only technological geniuses as one would expect, but their warm and gentle natures really make you feel welcome.

At the airport we stopped by a stand that was renting out portable WIFI routers and found the Olleh Egg. This was one of the best finds of the trip, allowing for seven devices to connect at the bargain price of around $8 USD per day. For the first-time ever I was able to tweet to my heart’s content while touring around the city.

The Olleh Egg
The Olleh Egg

The city tour began on the subway. If you thought London’s Tube was intense, you’re in for a shock when you see the underground system Seoul has got going on. Not only was it ginormous, it was outstandingly efficient. Just like the city bus tour that we took – not once was anything ever late. Everything here works on time, to the exact minute. The city bus tour offered over 30 stops at landmarks throughout the city. With just one afternoon to play, we had to limit our choices. We started at the moving Korean War Memorial where the struggles of the divided country were evident, along with so much hope of reconciliation.

The Korean War Memorial - The statue resembles North and South Korean soldiers who are brothers reuniting and reconciling in hope of peace. The crack down the middle of the dome resembles the divide between the north and south of the country.
The Korean War Memorial - The statue resembles North and South Korean soldiers who are brothers reuniting and reconciling in hope of peace. The crack down the middle of the dome resembles the divide between the north and south of the country.

Next was the romantic N Seoul Tower. The tower is positioned on top of Namsan Mountain, a huge mountain in central Seoul. At first, it just looks like any other city tower that has an observation desk, but once you reach the top of the hill, and the base of the tower, you’re faced with nothing but love. Hundreds of thousands of couples have declared their everlasting love here, by securing padlocks, together with love notes, to the fences surrounding the tower.

Padlocks of love at the N Seoul Tower
Padlocks of love at the N Seoul Tower

We then went to the quaint, preserved town known as Bukchon Village, for a taste of the true local culture. We sat in a tea house where I had the most amazing Pumpkin Rice Punch tea. You can see all of these stops, plus more, in the following PokerNews video.

Our second night was spent at Ark Lounge in downtown Seoul for the PokerStars player party. Every table had it’s own VIP bottle service with Absolut Vodka flowing freely. As you could imagine it didn’t take long to get the dancefloor started, which was then overtaken by some serious breakdancing. Check it out:

Our second last night in Seoul was quite a long one, with Day 2 of the APPT Main Event not finishing until after 1am. On dinner break only around 30 players were left in the Main Event, and one of them was Angel’s friend from Panama, Jose Severino. So a few of us whisked Jose away for some Korean BBQ on dinner break to Myongwolgwan, a restaurant next door to the casino. It felt like a sauna inside the restaurant with all of the tables each having stoves built into them, but once we adjusted to the heat, we then indulged in one of the best meals I think I’ve ever had. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking to splurge on some of the finest Korean BBQ in the country with one of the best views over the city.

Our chef cooking up a Korean BBQ feast at Myongwolgwan
Our chef cooking up a Korean BBQ feast at Myongwolgwan

Macau: Lights, Baccarat & Happy Endings

December 05, 2011

Tags: Macau, APPT Macau, APPT, Travel, Tourism.

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.

The Spitters
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.

My Suggestions
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!

The Party
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!

The Champ!
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!

LG xx

Sweet As, Queenstown!

August 23, 2011

Tags: APPT, Tourism, Travel, New Zealand, Queenstown.

What a place! Think Lake Tahoe... But even better. Ten times better! Queenstown, New Zealand is the Southern Hemisphere's best kept secret. OK, it may not be a secret, but is definitely the most underrated holiday destination in the world. Many of my friends had told me in the past that it's awesome but they were all snowboarding junkies so I assumed it wouldn't have been as awesome for me being the sun-chaser that I am: I've never picked up a ski or snowboard in my life. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong! I've never seen such a stunning view. Ever. This is my view as I write this very blog enjoying a coffee at a little cafe Patagonia (with free, unrestricted wifi - rare here) before work. Jealous??

My view as I write this blog :)
My view as I write this blog :)

All the reasons why I love this place have been jam-packed into the following four minutes. If you've never been here before, do yourself a favour...

The Dong-ination of APPT Sydney

December 16, 2010

Tags: APPT, Sydney, Jonathan Karamalikis, XMONSTERxDONGx.

I’m finally home in Melbourne, Australia, after the busiest two months of my life, including one heck of a November to remember. Last week, the PokerNews Live Reporting Team was in Sydney for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final.

Despite numbers dropping from last year, this was one quality field, and the final table could not have proven that any more than it did last Sunday. Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu and his travel-buddy, 2007 APPT Manila Champion Eddy Sabat, both made it to the final nine, along with Aussie-loving Brit Roland de Wolfe and 2010 WPT Grand Prix de Paris runner-up Antoine Amourette. For the Aussies, though, the biggest highlight was Jonathan "xMONSTERxDONGx" Karamalikis who not only joined the star-studded final table, but also crushed his way to victory.

A Main Event can never happen without a party to lubricate everyone before the tough week ahead. Some arrived fresh off Bondi Beach, others arrived fresh out of a spray-tan booth (refer to Daniel Negreanu's tan-line below); and when prawns are firing up on the barbecue, what better place would there be than the APPT Welcome Party to showcase some of Australia’s finest vocabulary?

There is no doubt in saying that Karamalikis is a ridiculously good poker player both online and live, and he continues to prove it over and over again. He is also quite a veteran on the old joystick (there’s a flashback to 1995) when it comes to NBA Jam. One thing he and Daniel Neilson could take a few lessons on, though, is cleaning their rooms.

For a light break from the xMONSTERxDONGx show, please enjoy some gorgeous pictures of the stunning city that is Sydney. I literally fell in love with this place – I always say there is no other place in the world besides Melbourne that I want to live, but Sydney has now crept up on my extremely small “maybe list.” Oh, and look at that, an unavoidable Dong reference crept up in the photos too.

So now it’s back to the Monster Dongination. I wonder what it’s like to be Jonathan Karamalikis. Catching your two-outer when your kings run into aces. Claiming the prestigious APPT Grand Final title from one of the best final tables seen in 2010? Drinking "Dong-Perignon" straight from the bottle knowing you’re about to cash out of that casino for almost half a million Australian dollars. It must be nice. Although, there were other players in the Main Event – 289 of them in fact. So here is a quick snapshot of the fantastic week we had in Sydney. I hope you enjoyed our live coverage as always, and if you were crazy enough not to follow as we covered the event, then the following video will be the fastest and most enjoyable way to catch up!

Follow me on Twitter! @LynnGilmartin

A November to Remember

December 09, 2010

Tags: Kristy Arnett, Cebu, Philippines, Shangri-La Mactan Resort, APPT, Kadasig Aid and Development.

It's safe to say I just had the most fun-filled, action-packed, brilliant month of my life! From my birthday in Las Vegas, my first November Nine, meeting my sponsor child in the Philippines, cheering for the Dolphins and the Penguins in Miami and then the Magic in Orlando, my first Thanksgiving, hanging with Mickey Mouse in Disney World, to drinking pina coladas with Kristy Arnett on a Caribbean cruise. All I can say is, life’s great!

It's my Party

I turned 26 on November 3, and there’s no better place in the world to be than Sin City. I had some Aussie friends in town and of course my dear friends from PokerNews to help me drown my sorrows in officially passing the halfway mark to 50. The aftermath consisted of bruises that took almost a month to heal, meaning the night was a complete success.

My 26th birthday in Las Vegas
My 26th birthday in Las Vegas

November Nine

It feels a lot longer than just one month ago, but this year was my first November Nine experience. The hype, the entrance songs, the gum chewing, and the never-ending Jack Effel dad-jokes – I simply loved all of it. I had picked John Racener to win, so I wasn't too far off! Speaking of picks, I almost beat the PokerNews Team in the ESPN Poker Pick'em, but Chad Halloway got me in the tiebreaker!

Some of my Twitpics during November Nine
Some of my Twitpics during November Nine

PokerStars.net APPT Cebu

I could go on and on about how amazing the Shangri-La Mactan Resort in Cebu, Philippines, is and the amount of fun we had during the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour, but I will allow this video to do the talking while wrapping up the Main Event.

It wasn’t all glitz and glamour on this trip to the Philippines, though. I have a sponsor child in Cebu and I went to meet him and his family which was the most incredible life changing experience. For just $250 per year, my sponsor child can go to school and participate in wellness programs through Kadasig Aid and Development. Seeing the impact that my tiny contributions make on not only the child's life, but the family and community was amazing. If you would love to help make a difference, only $35 will buy a hamper to feed a Filipino family this Christmas. And yes, that is a PokerStars bag I gave him.

Breth, my sponsor child in Cebu, Philippines
Breth, my sponsor child in Cebu, Philippines

I'm in Miami B#$*%

Once the PokerStars.net APPT Cebu was over, it was back to the US for one crazy night in LA during the North American Poker Tour, and then, without any sleep and after a few too many drinks, it was on to a 6am flight to Florida for two weeks of vacation. For our first night in Miami, Team PokerStars Pro (and crazed Miami Dolphins fan) Jason Mercier joined us at a Dolphins game against the Bears. Growing up, I've always loved going to various live sporting events, and I have to say, the USA sure knows how to put on a show.

When I thought that was all, a couple of days later we ended up going to my first NHL game, which I think now is my favorite sport to watch live – so much brutal action! My boyfriend and I started our road trip from Miami to Naples, where we stopped, in the middle of nowhere, at Miccosukkee Casino at 1 a.m. for a little $1/$2 no-limit hold'em fix, and it didn’t last long. The felts were so dirty I couldn’t bring myself to shuffle my chips in case my nails scraped up the dirt on the felt, and that’s even if the dirt on the chips allowed them to freely separate to even successfully shuffle. When security guards require guns on their belts, you know you’re not in the best of locations.

After an hour, we left empty handed, which feels like the norm lately. An amazing three days past in Naples – a stunning town that for the first time in my life, made me excited about getting old and retiring – we were on the road again up to Orlando for a Disney World fix, my first Thanksgiving, and we figured, why not throw in another sport in, scoring last minute tickets to an NBA game with Miami Heat playing Orlando Magic. This, too, was another first. My first sighting of Dwight Howard. Oh yes.

Fun-filled Florida!
Fun-filled Florida!

Of course, the biggest "first" of the many I had this month, was my first Thanksgiving. Along with the rest of the American nation I was all turkeyed out that afternoon, although the next day I certainly paid for the ten-too-many Mimosa's I had in the solid 14-hour drinking session. Another first to add to that was my first attempt at Cornhole. I completely sucked, but I must say, my form was nothing short of professional.

Fine Cornhole Form
Fine Cornhole Form

If you Like Pina Coladas...

The fun ramped up even more when Kristy Arnett and her fiancé flew into Florida for a crazy night out in Miami followed by a five-day cruise through the Caribbean. What more could you want? Well, we wanted poker. We had assumed (and accepted) on day one that the casino did not have a poker table, until we heard an announcement that they were holding a no-limit hold'em tournament the following day. The reaction from all four of us when the announcement went over the PA system was like four meerkats sighting food for the first time in a week. We thought our prayers to top off the tropical paradise we were living in had been answered.

Until we saw this:

Norwegian Dawn - Poker Tournament Structure
Norwegian Dawn - Poker Tournament Structure

A structure like this would really draw out serious skill at the table, right? Ha! Obviously we did not play, but we did manage to get a $1/$2 cash game started on a couple of the nights. A cash game that took a 10% rake up to $25 with a minimum of $1 on every pot – including walks! Of course, we were on vacation, so the most important part was that we had a great time, and that we did. The cruise was phenomenal. I say that because it’s the truth, and I’m running out of descriptive words. In fact, I’m giving up on words altogether as the hundreds of photos we took would do a better job than any words ever could!

Our Caribbean Cruise!
Our Caribbean Cruise!

Home, Sweet, Home... Almost

I'm not quite home just yet, but close enough! I'm back in the land Down Under for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final in Sydney, Australia. It's become apparent over the past couple of years that we don't quite speak English down here, so I guess I could say it's so refreshing to be able to speak in my native language again! It's only my second time to visit this city, which is kind of incredible because I'm from just "next-door" in Melbourne. There's a rival between the two cities, so as a Melbournite, I'm breaking all sorts of rules in saying this, but I have fallen in love with Sydney!

Sydney

December 02, 2010

Tags: APPT, Sydney.

Sydney, Australia’s unofficial capital, is the oldest, largest and most extravagant city in my home country. I’ve been all around the world, yet up until last December, I had freakishly never been to Sydney. I finally had the opportunity for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final, and with the days flying by so fast, I cannot believe that time has come around once again.

Sydney is a city that draws you outside, whether it be for surfing at Bondi Beach, sailing under the Harbor Bridge, jogging (or even horse riding) through Centennial Park, shopping in Paddington, or simply having a drink while overlooking the Sydney Opera House. It would be a waste to spend too long indoors, except for going deep in the APPT Main Event!

I have to say that Melbourne definitely wins for the people and atmosphere of Australian cities (call me biased), but Sydney offers some serious eye-candy along the Harbor and at Bondi Beach, and I’m not just talking about the Aussie chicks. There’s a free ferry that takes you along the Sydney Harbor from the dock just outside the Star City Casino over to the Sydney Opera House. The views are stunning.

Unfortunately, in typical southeastern Australia summer fashion, my experience last year of Bondi was attacked by some unexpected torrential rain, so I am excited to revisit for another attempt at checking out one of Australia’s most popular beaches, and you definitely should, too.

The Essentials

  • Weather: averages at a perfect 25°C (77°F)
  • Currency: Australian Dollars are almost equal to USD right now
  • Language: I feel the need to include this because a couple of Americans had been surprised at how good my English was when they found out I was Australian -- I’m not kidding. We’re pretty much all English, folks.

The Star City Hotel & Casino

The Star City Hotel & Casino is once again the host venue of the PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final, tucked within the heart of Sydney with the Darling Harbor at its doorstep. This is the only place in the state where you’ll find gaming tables, but with over 200 of them woven through this complex of six restaurants, eight bars, a 2,000-seat theatre and 480 hotel rooms, you won’t be short of options.

One of my biggest peeves is when you have a 10-minute break and nowhere to go for a cheap, easy, on-the-go meal. You won’t have that problem here with the Trophies Foodcourt or even the Garden Buffet where you can load your plate with as many prawns as you can eat.

The AUD $6,300 APPT Sydney Main Event attracted almost 400 locals, well-known pros and international qualifiers, forming a juicy prize pool of AUD $2.37 million, and with the Australian dollar so strong at the moment, there are really too many reasons not to miss it this year. To add to that, I hear that Daniel Negreanu will be making a trip down under for this event.

A Taste of Australia?

One of the most common first questions I receive when I meet non-Australians is something about kangaroos. If you’re heading to Australia for the first time, let me tell you that you certainly will not see any hopping around the city streets. Unless you have the time to head out to the countryside to spot some wild roos, then I would suggest an afternoon at Wildlife World where you can see roos, wombats, and you can even pet a koala (please don’t ever attempt this if you see one in the wild. Although they look as friendly as your little sister’s teddy bears, they’re not). If you love this wildlife kind of activity, you can even back up Wildlife World with a visit underwater in the Sydney Aquarium right across the harbor from Star City Casino. And don't forget the zoo, which you can reach by ferry.

For a traditional Aussie lunch or dinner, head to Centennial Parklands and fire up one of the public barbeques. All it will cost you is the price of the snags (sausages) and the Esky (cooler) of beers you’ll sneakily drink while in the park.

A Video Tour

Had enough reading? Here’s a glimpse of the city that we crammed into one minute and thirty-eight seconds during last year’s APPT Grand Final

Cebu

October 28, 2010

Tags: APPT, Cebu, Shangri-La Mactan Resort.

In just two weeks, I will be Asia-bound for the unofficial icon-event on the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour. The islands of Cebu in the Philippines blew everyone’s minds when the city itself, famous for its amazing beaches and sweet mangoes, was introduced on the third season of the APPT.

I’ve learned that photos on any property’s website are usually deceiving, requiring you to lower the expectation those photos build by at least 40 percent to remain impressed when you arrive. The APPT’s location of choice in Cebu, the Shangri-La Mactan Resort, exceeded not only my “reduced” expectations, but the original by a mile, and after six nights of staying there, it still continued to pleasantly surprise me every day.

There are over 13 acres of land, like a huge playground of beach-side tropical gardens to explore. The attention to detail is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Throughout the grounds are huts with massage tables where, when you lay on your stomach, you see a bowl of colorful petals floating on water so you’re not staring at a slab of concrete. When you lay on the beach, there’s staff to serve you with refreshing pineapple and mango, and when you’re in the gym running on the treadmill, the trainer comes around every so often to give you an ice-cold towel soaked in subtle lavender. I even had a one-on-one yoga session by the beach just before my buffet breakfast in the sunshine -- all-included, of course. I felt like I was in heaven! As always, last year we created a video showing off the resort.

The resort is swarming, and I mean swarming, with such friendly staff at every corner you turn, all there ready and waiting to greet you with such genuine, delighted smiles on their faces. From the concierge, to the cleaner, to the gardeners, to the henna tattoo guy on the beach, to the girl who takes your room service order over the phone -- each oozes such an appreciation, enjoyment and love of the job that you can’t help but smile.

The PokerStars.net APPT Main Event was huge success, with the numbers going well over the original cap of 300. The champion, Dong-bin Han, won $148,000 for first place after three days of work in the middle of this paradise. After the amazing experience everyone had last year, I have no doubt numbers for this year will skyrocket. Space is your friend at this resort, and that was extended to the poker room.

If you want to venture out one night after a long day of play, which I actually didn’t do last year because there’s so much to do inside the resort, there are a couple of popular clubs to visit in Cebu City, about 30 minutes from the resort, including Sunflower Disco, the largest and most popular nightclub in the city, or Club Vudu which is smaller but gets hopping on the weekends. Just be weary if you’re single and not looking to pay for your date, it’s hard to tell the difference and you don’t want to waste all your best material wooing a girl to leave with, just to find out she wants you to open your wallet first. Or, maybe you do!

I could rave on and on forever about how amazing the resort was last year, but I did feel guilty for enjoying the luxury when at the very same time a friend was traveling throughout the Philippines on an aid-mission. The stories of her experiences had me in tears. Poverty is a serious problem in the Philippines and I had to do my bit to help by sponsoring a child through Kadasig Aid and Development. Breth, pictured left, is now put through school for the tiny price of $235 per year. I am so excited to have the opportunity to meet him when I return, so I will be sure to write about that experience in a few weeks.

The Essentials

If you haven't figured it out already, this event is definitely up there on my list of top poker destinations. If you're joining us in November, then here's some basic information you'll need to know. The Shangri-La Mactan Resort is located in Lapu-Lapu City, on Mactan Island; the same island where the airport is located. Cebu City is on a separate island connected by bridges. Taxis are the ideal way to get around, or if you're staying at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort, they also offer private cars and you can prearrange a transfer to/from the airport.

  • Language: English is widely spoken
  • Currency: PHP 1.00 = USD 0.02
  • Time zone: GMT +8
  • Voltage: 220/250 Volts
  • Weather: Averages around 31°C/88 °F

From One Bar to Another

October 07, 2010

Tags: Aussie Millions, APPT, LAPT, WSOP, Gloria Balding, Kristy Arnett, Matthew Parvis, Snoop Dogg, Melbourne, Las Vegas, Cebu, Florianopolis.

My job here at PokerNews is really hard. It’s so tough that I have to endure party after party after party when attending all of these poker tournaments across the globe. Throughout all the sweat and vodka cocktails, I can promise you, with so much dedication to my job, I will never fail to attend each and every one of these parties, just so I can show you what you could have been going through. In self-recognition for such hardship, I decided to compile my most standout parties to date and tell you why I loved them so much, of course!

PokerStars.net LAPT Florianopolis

I’ve always spoken openly about the giant soft spot in my heart for the Latin American Poker Tour, as it never fails to provide such a good time with such amazing people. The party in Florianopolis, Brazil, would definitely be my favorite of Season 3. I’m not sure if that’s because I spontaneously tore up the dance floor with Team PokerStars Pros Joe Cada and Veronica Dabul until the wee hours of the morning, had my first taste of a Caipirinha, or because I was lucky enough to receive dance lessons from the best of the best – as Kristy Arnett puts it, Brazilian women win at life – and wow, can they move their hips like no other! Enjoy the second half of this one fellas.

PokerStars.net APPT Cebu

It excites me so much knowing this tournament is just around the corner. The PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour is returning to Cebu, Philippines, to fill up the stunning Shangri-La Mactan Resort once again for a trip of absolute luxury. I’ll be writing more about this amazing location in coming weeks, but for the party – think crashing waves, palm trees, sand, balmy nights, fireworks, incredible food, and flowing drinks served by sexy Filipina. What more could you want?

Aussie Millions

My favorite time of year at home in Melbourne is Australia Day – the entire country goes wild. The day always falls during Aussie Millions, which is just another reason to add to the long list of reasons why you should head to Melbourne for one of the best tournament series in the world. I snuck out to St. Kilda Beach during the 2010 Aussie Millions to show off just how crazy the national holiday party is.

World Series of Poker

Surely it's no surprise that there is more than one party on my list for this category. The first: combine Snoop Dogg with Las Vegas and there is some serious fun to be had. All I am going to say is, thank you PokerStars!

Next was the PokerNews Kick off Party at Lagasse’s Stadium on the eve of the 2010 World Series of Poker. The team got together for the first time for the year, and we were all bursting at the seams with anticipation to get started. It’s always a treat when Gloria Balding, Kristy Arnett and I get to actually work together in the same video, and on top of that including the rest of our PokerNews friends that usually hide behind the screens of their laptop for the Live Reporting Blog. Meet some of our team and their not-so-accurate predictions pre-WSOP. Note: don’t miss Editor in Chief Matthew Parvis' red-wine mouth.

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