When most people hear the word ‘Poker’, the first notion that most likely enters their mind is the word ‘Gambling’. In Asia particularly, poker players have been generally lumped together as gamblers, regardless of whether said players are there as professionals or for recreation. It is, after all, a table game romanticized in both Hollywood and Asian cinema, mostly defined by hushed voices and the eponymous ‘poker faces’ between individuals as they gamble more and more into a pot in the table, sometimes to incredulous proportions. A good hand, usually drawn out in slow motion, is the only thing that separates the winner from the losers. Gold, all the Glory, and a good Gamble.

However, if a non-player was to ever read between the lines of the stereotype, they may be surprised to find a fierce dedication and passion for the sport that lives in almost every player and game operator, as well as a level of respect and sportsmanship between players, regardless of whether they had the upper hand or not. Clearly, there’s more to learn.

During the recently-ended WPT Korea 2016 this May, we got the chance to talk to both the poker players, and other various parties, involved in the production of the WPT National franchise event. We asked them to express their views and voice out their reasons for participating in the poker festivities, and maybe, give people a little more insight into their lives. This is what we found.

To some, poker is a continuous experience to grow and learn in a sport they love, as they progress to build their profile in the industry. This player from Beijing says: “I’ve played a number of medium-scale local tournaments but I also wanted to experience the atmosphere of an international tournament. I don’t have a specific goal to attain. To me, it’s all about learning while enjoying the game”.

While to others, poker is a shared experience and a will to support a continuously growing community. “I have always supported Asian tournaments as the Asian (Market) is very promising, so wherever there are games in Asia, I will continue to support.” says Bryan Huang, a Singaporean poker player residing in Hong Kong. Bryan also opened a booking agency dedicated to assisting poker players in their poker tournament travel needs.

Pictured: Bryan Huang

Still, there are others who are as into the travelling and experiences they get as a poker player, as they are the sport itself. “It was a great experienced to take part at WPT National Korea. The tournament structures were great, and the place was good and lively fun! I can’t wait to be back soon! When I arrived at the hotel, I got a nice, warm welcome with the staff. Though I needed some minor adjustments, they did their best to facilitate my requests. Traveling and playing poker in different places is something I really love doing. I made a point to sample the cuisines of Jeju at different restaurants, and visit the shopping mall near the casinos during my free time. Both were worth it”, says Vivee, an up and coming female poker player from Australia, of her experience.

Pictured: Vivee Goldman from Australia

The differences from the stereotype don’t stop with the players, though, and can also be said for the poker operators and the industry at large. In order to continue to strive for the best available services, poker operators have resorted to collaboration and team work. The network system between organizations, as a result, are very transparent, understood by poker players as for the betterment of the community as a whole.

“The collaboration between Jeju and Poker King Club was an attractive new offering for local cash game players,” A tournament player denotes, referring to the organizers of the WPT National Korea event: Poker King Club, J&P, and Paradise Casino. “Poker King Club has the pull to potentially attract many Asian poker players from the various communities of players in East Asia.”

The event, WPT National Korea 2016 (May) , marks Poker King Club’s third event with WPT, an internationally-known tournament brand that has ventured out to create international-scale poker tournaments across Asia, “WPT and Poker King Club are longtime collaborators – we have done WPT National Korea twice now, and WPT Philippines once – and this event will not be the last. We have a common goal, and that is to provide the best in player experience and satisfaction at each and every tournament. Both parties pay attention to details like player remittance, hotel arrangements, and on-day entertainments. It has been successful so far, and hopefully, will continue to do so”, says a representative from Poker King Club’s Marketing Team.

Pictured:  Representatives of Paradise Casino, J&P, Maison Glad Jeju, and Poker King Club

And it has. The partnership between Poker King Club and WPT has resulted in a series of successful events across Asia, successfully quenching the cravings of action-hungry poker devotees. The verdict behind the success seems to be the ability to understand what the players want, whether by providing extra added services, or creating the best tournament structures.

“WPT tournament always has the best structure and is always the most outstanding feature” according to WPT Asia’s tournament director, Roberto Wong. “WPT has tournaments in Sanya, Philippines, and Jeju every year; and hopefully it will expand into more locations in the future and bring more fun to all poker players.”

Looking at the bigger picture, one can see that the poker scene in Asia, at its very core, is a very dedicated group of poker enthusiasts. A group that understands that what is generally perceived of as gambling is a sport, just like any other, fuelled purely by dedication, love, and sportsmanship.

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