10 years ago, Poker in Asia was a virtually unknown commodity and you couldn’t pick out a poker player from a crowd. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t play the game, or at the very least, doesn’t know how it works.
While it was popular across America — specifically in California — and some parts of Europe, poker remained in the dark among Asian countries. For a long time, land-based companies have expressed interest in pursuing the Asian market but have been largely unsuccessful in part because most of these countries – with the exception of Macau – banned any form of gambling. As a result, poker remained a Western game, completely detached from the East.
10 years later and it’s a different story altogether.
It’s no secret that poker’s popularity experienced an unprecedented surge with the introduction of online poker. Not only that but broadcasts of the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour introduced the game to millions of casual viewers.
But most importantly, poker’s introduction to Asia happened because the countries slowly began to open its collective arms to land-based and on-line gambling.
The allure of Asia as a poker crazy region comes as no surprise considering almost half of the world’s population can be found there. China and India alone comprise almost 2.5 billion people when combined and that’s not even counting Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines — densely populated countries in their own right. With all these people starting to get familiarized with the game and the attraction that comes with it, it was only a matter of time before poker games and poker tournaments exploded in the region.
And now, to say that Texas Hold ‘Em, unquestionably the most popular type of poker, is being played everywhere is a vast understatement. Poker rooms are sprouting like full-blown seeds all over Asia. Macau, a baccarat-dominated country, is slowly beginning to experience the thrill that is poker. In recent years, it has hosted numerous poker tournaments including the Asian Poker Tour Macau 2008. Incidentally, the APT now has its very own poker room at the Galaxy StarWorld Hotel and Casino.
Even in the Philippines, poker is growing faster than you can say, “All-In!” The country has hosted its fair share of tournaments not the least of which is the Asian Poker Tour. As a matter of fact, the success of last year’s APT tournament – which drew well over 316 poker players from all over the world – has resulted in the APT holding another tournament to kick off its 2009 season. The Asian Poker Tour Philippines 2009 will be held from January 27 to February 1, 2009 at the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel and it is widely expected that some of the best poker players from around the world will participate in the event.
Asian poker players have also become instrumental in the propagation of poker in Asia. Some of the best poker players in the world, including Johnny Chan, Men “The Master” Nguyen, JC Tran, Nam Le, Steve Sung, Quinn Do, David Rheem and Kwang Soo Lee all trace their roots in Asia and their impact in the world poker scene hasn’t gone unnoticed.
With the meteoric rise of poker in Asia, it only seems inevitable that more and more of the future top players of poker will come from the region. It’s a testament to a game that only ten years ago was not even an afterthought. From the darkness of obscurity, poker has risen to become one of the most popular games in Asia.
With the way things are going, it’s a safe bet that poker is far from reaching its peak popularity and that’s good news, not only for Asia, but for the entire world.