The Neptune Group/Asian Poker Tour/PokerAce inaugural Macau High Stakes Challenge (MHSC) lived up to the hype on Friday. The HK$2m (US$258k) buy-in attracted 73 players (and 21 re-buys) to the Galaxy StarWorld’s Poker King Club, creating a prize pool of HK$182.3m/US$23.5m. Twelve players finished in the money, with Du Yi Chen as the unfortunate bubble boy. While the event attracted such familiar poker names as Johnny Chan, Joe Hachem, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, JP Kelly, Ben Lamb, Brian Rast, Erik Seidel, Sam Trickett plus Manila Millions champ Allan Le and runner-up Devan Tang, the MHSC title and the HK$50.15m/US$6.465m first prize ended up going to Stanley Choi, who defeated Zhu Guan Fei after just one hand of heads-up play to go into the history books, presumably followed by a stop at his local bank branch to make a conspicuously large deposit. Don’t shed too many tears for Zhu Guan Fei, mind you, as he’s taking home HK$33.74m/$4.35m as consolation.
The one-day tourney was a blazing affair, quickly reducing the field to an eight-handed final table comprised of Ivey, Juanda, Trickett, Lap Kay Chan, Nicholas Wong, Choi, Tang Zheng and Zhu Guan Fei. Ivey was the first final tabler to fall (earning HK$6.38m/$822k for finishing eighth), with Trickett exiting not long after (HK$7.75m/$999k). Lap Kay Chan left in sixth place (HK$9.57m/$1.23m), followed by Juanda in fifth (HK$12.76m/$1.64m), while Zheng took fourth (HK$17.32m/$2.23m) and Wong took third (HK$25.53m/$3.29m). Not making the final table but finishing in the money were Alan Sass in ninth (HK$5.47m/$705k) with 10th through 12th going to Philip Gruissem, Di Dang and JP Kelly, each of whom earned HK$4.5m ($587k).
AsianLogic non-exec chairman and OneWorks biz dev director Tom Hall didn’t finish in the money, but the day wasn’t a total loss, as he won a bet with an unnamed exec in the poker biz that had predicted the “disorganized rabble” coordinating the MHSC wouldn’t succeed in attracting more than 50 players. Hall told PokerAce.tv he expects the success of the MHSC will lead to a series of similar high-roller events taking place across Asia, but perhaps “a bit more planned, a bit more organized.” Hall believes there’s “definitely a demand” for this type of format (at the HK$1m to $2m level) in the region, noting that a number of players who took part in the recent high roller events at the APT Manila – some of whom had previously never competed in a poker tournament, let alone an event of that magnitude – had also chosen to take part in the MHSC. “Gambling in Asia is very much more a fight against the casino,” so the opportunity to compete against other players, with a higher likelihood of success, has a lot of appeal. “The typical baccarat player … they like the odds!”