The recently concluded Macau High Stakes Challenge was a watershed moment for poker in Asia, not only because it came with a unique live turbo tournament format that lasted less than a day, but more importantly because it had one of the biggest prize pools in poker history. With a total prize pool of HK$182.3 million – that’s about US$23.5m – and a first place prize of just over US$6 million, stakes were indeed pretty high at the tournament.
The people behind the staging of the tournament certainly had their hands full in putting the whole thing together, especially when you take into account the timeframe laid out for the event to run as smoothly as it could have been. Remember, this kind of tournament isn’t your regular sit-n-go at a local brick-and-mortar; not when one buy-in will cost a player a staggering $250,000.
CalvinAyre.com‘s very own Angelia Ong managed to spend time with one of the people who was instrumental in putting the whole tournament together: AsianLogic chairman Tom Hall. In the interview with Hall, Angelia was able to get answers to some pretty important questions surrounding the High Stakes Challenge from no less than one of the men responsible for making the tournament a reality in the first place.
“The Macau High Stakes Challenge – was the result of work done by some of the guys who regularly play high-stakes cash games in Macau,” Hall said. The concept of the tournament was framed by both the Neptune Group and the Poker King Club. From there, the Asian Poker Tour and Poker Ace also got involved in the project, both of whom were responsible for bringing in more players, as well as providing the tournament staff that would be able to handle a tournament of this capacity, stature, and odd configuration.”
When asked about the mix of players that participated in the event, Hall remarked that the tournament had a pretty soft field that involved a wide range of players of varying skill levels. “There are some people here that are pretty new to poker, including five or six players that have never played poker,” Hall said.
“On the flip side, a strong pro poker contingent also showed up to the tournament, including the likes of Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, and Sam Trickett, as well as ‘keen amateurs like myself,” he added.
The peculiar nature of the tournament – it being a turbo set-up with re-buys up to a certain level – meant that a different kind of strategy had to be utilized to be competitive. In a separate interview, Angelia also caught up with yet another poker legend, Gus Hansen, who was in town to play in the High Stakes Challenge.
“In this event, it was pretty straight-forward; you have to make good decisions, catch some good cards at the right time and play aggressively,” Hansen said.
Definitely, this isn’t the kind of tournament that allows players to sit on the weeds and pounce when the appropriate opportunity arrives. The turbo format eliminates a big part of that play and pros like Hansen understand the importance of being aggressive from the get-go. All of that, of course, plays into why this tournament became such a big hit among the best poker players in the world.
“Tournaments in Asia are generally faster,” Hall said. “Certainly, with the high-rollers, those guys just don’t have the patience to sit here for three days to play so this (the Macau High Stakes Challenge) will run from 12 to 14 hours and we’re done.”
“That suits a lot of the baccarat-type players that like to play here. There’s a lot of action and a lot of gambling so the pros still have an edge but its slightly less because they’re forced to gamble a bit more.”