When the second season of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) kicked off in Macau on September 1st, it set out to be the largest poker tournament ever held in Asia. With the 538 players who entered the $3200 main event, it did just that. The PokerStars.net-sponsored tour made its mark on the international tournament circuit yet again.
Macau, part of the People’s Republic of China and a densely-populated island near Hong Kong, has quickly become one of the centers of the international gaming world. And one of the grandest developments in Macau is the Grand Waldo Casino, where poker players gathered from all around the globe. From amateur players to the most well-known on the professional circuit gathered to take part in the much-anticipated APPT main event.
The APPT Macau main event was broken up into three starting days to comfortably accommodate all players who made the trek for the tournament. Day 1A saw 125 entrants, including John Juanda, Liz Lieu, Barry Greenstein, Mike McDonald, Tony Dunst, Kofi Farkye, Wooka Kim, and Harry Demetriou. Also in the crowd was the 2007 APPT Grand Final champion Grant Levy, though his attempt to add another APPT title to his resume proved unsuccessful as he busted midway through the day.
Most of the group of pros followed suit by exiting the tournament and hopefully spending time taking in some of the sites of the island. But making it through Day 1A were only 45 players. Andre Wagner took the chip lead in the last hand of the day, forcing the chip leader up until that time, Kofi Farkye, into second position.
Day 1B began with more notables getting started in the tournament, including Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, Chad Brown, Vanessa Rousso, Mel Judah, Johnny Chan, Casey Kastle, Mansour Matloubi, and APT winner
Yevgeniy Timoshenko. The grand total of registrants for the day was 185. And as seen in the previous day, players headed to the rail as fast as they entered the tournament area, Kastle, Juday, Timoshenko among them. When all was said and done, there were 77 left, and it was David Steicke in the chip lead with Dennis Waterman nearby in second place.
The third starting day of the APPT Macau event was the one that put the tournament in the record books. A total of 229 players showed up, putting the entire field for the event at 538 starting players. The $1,620,000 prize pool became the largest ever for a poker tournament in Asia. The success of the Macau event, only the first of the APPT’s second season, demonstrates what so many have asserted – the fastest growing market for poker is clearly Asia.
In the Day 1C field were many famous faces, such as Joe Hachem and brother Tony Hachem, Hevad Khan, J.C. Tran, Quinn Do, Isabelle Mercier, Terrence Chan, David Chiu, John Phan, Lee Nelson, J.J. Liu, Men Nguyen and wife Van Nguyen , and the 2007 APPT Macau winner Dinh Le. But Khan, Phan, Le, and Tony Hachem were among the early bust-outs, unable to see the second day of play. When it was over for the day, only 86 were left, Mark Walsh sat atop the leader board with Quinn Do in a strong second.
The remaining 208 players didn’t hesitate to return to the Grand Waldo Casino for Day 2 action, as a juicy first prize of $453,851 was at stake. The top 56 players would receive a portion of the prize pool, and this was tapped to be the day that that money pit would be hit.
Players wasted no time in making moves to figure out if they could run for the money or the exit. Approximately one third of the field was eliminated in the first hour and a half of play, and nearly two thirds was out before the fourth level ended. But as is typical, action slowed when the money bubble approached, and Chris “The Armenian Express Gregorian busted in 57th place with nothing to show for it.
Once in the money, eliminations resumed their quick pace but stopped with only 39 players left. Lee Nelson picked up a money finish in 42nd place, and other recognizable players stuck around with above average chip stacks, like John Juanda and Carter Gill. However, Edward Sabat took the top spot with 379,500 in chips with Charles Chua following closely. Also in the top ten was reigning WPT World Champion and Chinese native David Chiu.
Day 3 saw a rapid reduction in the starting field of 39, though it slowed down a bit as the final table approached. Among those taking home some extra cash but not making it as far as hoped were John Juanda (26th place - $8,104), Quinn Do (25th place - $8,104), Charles Lam (18th place - $9,725), Carter Gill (17th place - $9,725), and Kenny Hicks (16th place - $12,967).
Closer to the end of the night, with the final table only two players away, David Chiu fell victim to Kuok Wai Will Cheong when the former’s top pair couldn’t match Cheong’s top two pair. Chiu left the tournament in 11th place with $16,208. And the last hand of Day 3 involved David Steicke, Jeppe Drivsholm, and Tian Chen. After an all-club flop of 10-7-6, only Chen and Steicke were left, and after an on the turn, Steicke was all-in with , but Chen had for top pair. It held up when a came on the river, and Steicke was the final table bubble boy, out in 10th place with $16,208.
The final table was set, and when players returned on Day 4, the players and chip counts were as follows:
Diwei "Brian" Huang 1,080,000
Edward Sabat 1,001,000
Jeppe Drivsholm 863,000
Tian Chen 768,000
Charles Chua 610,000
Mikael Rosen 361,000
Kuok Wai Will Cheong 334,000
Javed Abrahams 215,000
So Myung Sim 118,000
Play began with Charles Chua in aggressive mode, but it was Mikael Rosen who took the first pot after a flop. Everyone seemed to be getting in on the early action, not wanting to waste this final table opportunity. But short-stacked So Myung Sim was unable to do anything with so few chips. He pushed in the small blind with and was called by Tian Chen, who had pocket deuces. The board of brought nothing for Sim, and he was out in 9th place for $22,692.
Next, it was Javed Abrahams, another player who was short and looking for a double-up. He pushed with K-Q but was called by Charles Chua and his pocket eights. The board came down A-4-J-J-4, and the two overcards of Abrahams sent him to the rail in 8th place for $30,797.
Mikael Rosen, on the other hand was able to parlay his relatively short stack into something admirable. He first doubled through Edward Sabat, then doubled through Tian Chen with aces against jacks, and finally taking a large pot from Chua, emerging from the mayhem with over 1.2 million in chips.
But one of the victims of Rosen’s run was Chen, all-in in the big blind of a subsequent hand after Sabat made a move in the small blind. Chen looked good with against Sabat’s , but the board cards were a tease when the dealer showed . The flush sent Chen home in 7th place with $42,143.
Despite the hometown Macau native having a great amount of support at the final table, Kuok Wai Will Cheong had been unable to chip up like some of his opponents. After an initial raise from Sabat, Cheong pushed with , and Sabat called quickly with . They watched as were dealt, and Macau’s own Cheong was out in 6th place with $56,730 for his troubles.
It was then Sabat’s turn to chip up, taking down a pot of nearly 1 million in chips, and more pots to follow to show his willingness to gamble and get to the top of the leader board. At the same time, short stacks were pushing, and Drivsholm was on the losing end of that battle. First, Chua doubled through Drivsholm, then the latter moved against the rising Sabat. Drivsholm showed pocket fours, and Sabat had two overs with K-9. The cards came Q-Q-9-K-6, and Drivsholm’s low pair sent him home in 5th place with $81,044 in prize money.
Rosen was the next victim of the fortune of other aggressive players, as he had dwindled down to only 165K. That went into the pot with , up against the of Chua. The board came , and Rosen got no help. He was out in 4th place with $108,600.
Diwei Huang tried the aggressive strategy of his opponents, moving all-in several times in a row. And the third time, when he did it with , he was called by Sabat and his . Nothing came to help Huang on the board, and Huang took 3rd place for $153,984.
Chip counts going into heads-up action were as follows:
Charles Chua 3,185,000
Edward Sabat 2,140,000
The two remaining players fought to the finish. Sabat was the first to double through his opponent with A-Q versus the J-8 of Chua. Several hands later, Chua used a Q-2 to double through the J-9 of Sabat. Finally, Sabat came back to take the chip lead for the second time during heads-up play, and the last hand came down to a tense situation.
After a flop of , Sabat checked, Chua bet, Sabat raised it up, and Chua shoved all-in. Sabat took some time to think but finally called with , and Chua showed . The was satisfactory for Chua, but the gave Sabat the flush. Charles Chua finished the tournament in 2nd place and was awarded $291,871.
Edward Sabat claimed the title of 2008 APPT Macau main event champion, a trophy, and the $453,851 that accompanied it.
The Asia Pacific Poker Tour continues on to Seoul, Korea on September 26th, then to New Zealand, the Philippines, and Australia, wrapping up Season 2 by the end of the year. There is still time to win a coveted seat into one of these tournaments by logging on to PokerStars and competing in the numerous satellites running now. Download PokerStars now, using the bonus code “First2008” and marketing code “POKERWORKS” where indicated, $25 extra will be awarded new customers in addition to a 100% bonus on deposits up to $50.
(Thanks to PokerStars blog updates and PokerNews live updates for hand and chip count information.)