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All in! The comprehensive guide to poker in Hong Kong and Macau
The hottest players to watch and where to play the game
Poker in Hong Kong is getting hot and it's about time. After all, the city has always been nuts about gambling, whether it's at the horse races or at private mahjong games and Big Two parties. Texas Hold'em poker is particularly popular for its simplicity.
Here's a comprehensive guide for poker players in Hong Kong and Macau -- from the basics, to the players to places to play.
How to play
For the absolute beginner, read on. For those that know their flushes from their full houses, feel free to skip this section.
It's advisable to start off learning poker with Texas Hold'em. Each player gets two “hole cards”, while five “community cards” are placed on the table. The objective is to make the best five-card hand using a combination of the hole and community cards.
What makes Hold’em so popular is the skill factor involved. Those with good analytical, mathematical and decision-making skills have a higher chance of guessing the opponent’s hands.
Until a couple of years ago, Hold’em players in Hong Kong were mostly expats and overseas students and the games were small home affairs. But several dedicated poker venues have opened up in the city recently, while over in Macau, world class poker rooms have opened in several casinos.
“With the seeds in place, it’s just a matter of time until poker blows up in Asia,” explains David Jung, Regional Director of online poker website Poker Stars Asia.
Hottest players to watch
Sailesh Verma first picked up the game of Hold’em during his days at university in Arizona. Upon graduation, he moved back to Hong Kong to teach English. But one night, he found a poker group on the website meetup.com.
“I found out a bunch of expats were organizing games at the Kings Hotel in Causeway Bay so I went and played,” says the 29-year-old. The skills he picked up at the casinos in Arizona worked as he started winning so much money he eventually quit his job as a teacher to play poker full time.
Verma has since become one of the most well-known players in Hong Kong on the weeknights and Macau on the weekends.
This 24-year-old Singaporean did so well playing online poker that he dropped his accountancy career to become a professional poker player. This year he moved to Macau where he plays six to 10 hours a day at the high limit tables (HK$200-400 blinds) at the Grand Lisboa poker room.
Lin got into poker in Australia after a random night out at the casinos.
“I tried it out and won quite a bit of money that night,” she says.
After honing her game online, Lin started playing cash games at casinos where she quickly made a name for herself due to the combination of her skills and good looks. Poker Stars Asia picked her as a sponsored professional player and she’s been traveling Asia playing poker since.
“I consider myself a tournament specialist,” she says. With wins at two Red Dragon Asian Pacific Poker Tour events this past year, she’s more than lived up to her claim.
This US-citizen honed his poker skills for over two decades at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles before moving back to Korea to become “the Godfather of Hold’em.” Kim laughs at the title.
“That’s a bit much ... but I did start the first legal poker room in Seoul three years ago,” he says.
Kim recently finished second at the Macau Summer Poker Festival at the Grand Lisboa, winning HK$2.8 million. He now splits his time between Korea and Macau where he can be found at the high stakes tables most nights.
Where to play
Hong Kong Poker House
For the past year, HKPH has been the place to go for poker. Professionals and rookies fill up the venue nightly, where games ranging from HK$10-20 to $50-100 take place nightly. With six tables, professional dealers, and backing by poker pro Joe Hachem, HKPH is every bit as legit as the top poker rooms in the world.
“There are over 200 players that come in and out every week, some for fun, some playing for a living,” says Verma, who’s one of the pros who makes his income from nightly action at the HKPH. The $250 entrance fee includes two drinks.
1/F, 49 Hollywood Road, Central, tel +852 2850 8833, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bankroll is about two things: sushi and poker. But if we're really honest, it's actually just about poker. But their Japanese menu is surprisingly good -- sushi, tempura, teriyaki, skewers can all be had at a reasonable price.
Bankroll and HKPH have the same owner, so it’s essentially one giant poker venue, just that one doubles as a bar and the other doubles as a Japanese restaurant.
3/F, 49 Hollywood Road, Central, tel +852 2850 8833
Blue Room, which just celebrated their grand opening last month, is a high-end poker room decked out with big screen TVs, super comfy chairs, and full size professional poker tables.
“The Blue Room is for higher stakes players,” explains Phil Lau, a professional poker player who recently won back-to-back Asian Macau Cup tournaments. “They have a HK$50-100 game going regularly. The Blue Room does not have their liquor license yet, but the owner says it’s okay to bring your own booze."
$250 entrance fee with two drinks. 2/F, 60 Stanley St, Central, tel +852 2537 3260
Unlike the aforementioned venues, Miusik is where you’ll find an almost exclusively Cantonese speaking crowd singing karaoke and playing dice games every night. But beside the mic-hogging crowd, a small group of local poker enthusiasts get together for a game. The play here is lower stakes and not as formal as the other venues. You also have to deal your own cards. Thursday is ladies' poker night where ladies get free entry into the poker tournaments.
13/F, Ying Kong Mansion, 2 - 6 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, tel +852 9198 4005, Miusik on Facebook
The HK Geo Texas Hold’em Meetup Group
The HK Geo meetup group are a bunch of expats who gather every Friday at the Best Club in Causeway Bay for some friendly poker action. Beginners and those who are not too serious should definitely give this a shot as the stakes are about as low as it can get (HK$ 1-2 blinds). The group tends to meet every Friday at 7pm with a quick dinner break at 8pm.
2/F, Elizabeth House, 250-254 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, tel +852 2537 3388
Grand Lisboa Poker Room
In addition to being home to the biggest poker tournaments in Asia, the Grand Lisboa Poker Room has the hottest cash game action on a nightly basis. There are 10 cash game tables and six dedicated tournament tables; HK$10-20 games and $25-50 takes places 24/7. On the weekend, the high rollers play anywhere from $100-200 to $500-1,000 blinds.
Avenida de Lisboa, Macau, tel +853 2828 3838
Wynn Poker Room
The Wynn Poker Room has 11 tables featuring no-limit Texas Hold'em and pot limit Omaha. Cash limits start as low as HK$10-25 to as high as the players want it to be (and with the high rollers at the Wynn, it can get very high).
Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Macau, tel +853 2888 9966