Lions danced to celebrate the launch of the first APPT Asian Poker open in Macau, where 352 players – including both poker celebrities and satellite winners – started to fight it out for a first prize of over $220,000 at the Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino, one of the newest casinos in this modern Asian City. This is a historic moment, since it’s the first ever No-Limit Hold’em tournament to be held in the People’s Republic of China.

At the official launch of the APPT Macau: Asian Poker Open, APPT President Jeffrey Haas did not hesitate to place it alongside the most influential moments in the history of poker tournaments. “This event ranks up there with the first World Series of Poker in 1970 and the 2003 WSOP, when Chris Moneymaker’s win played a pivotal role in starting the online poker boom,” Haas said. He is hardly exaggerating: this event opens the largest gambling market in the world to tournament poker, and is bound to have a large repercussion in poker tournaments for years to come.

The Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino welcomed the event with a traditional lion dance ceremony, believed to summon good fortune and avert evil. Gary Woollard, General Manager of the Grand Waldo, was very enthusiastic about this historic event, declaring:“Poker is enjoying tremendous growth in Asia and we are very excited to be a part of this and to be the first casino to host this event.” And to kick off in style, the traditional order to “shuffle up and deal” was given by poker royalty: none other than Scotty Nguyen, 1998 WSOP Champion.

The field includes a who’s who of poker celebrities, including of course Scotty Nguyen plus Joe Hachem, Mansour Matloubi, Barry Greenstein, and this year’s WSOP finalists Hevad Khan and Tuan Le. The female poker sector is very well represented by the fierce Isabelle Mercier, along with Vanessa Rousso and Liz Lieu. Bluff Magazine Player of the Year Chad Brown, dual WSOP bracelet winner Mel Judah and 2007 WSOP Heads-up champion Daniel Schreiber are also competing. And multi-bracelet winner John Juanda registered at the last minute, making another big dent in the hopes of all satellite entrants.

At the time of writing this the first day of play is over. The field is down to 77 players, only 40 of which will make it into the money. The chip lead at the moment belongs to German player Tobias Schulze, but he will still have to battle surviving pros such as Joe Hachem, Bill Chen, Liz Lieu, Hevad Khan, Isabelle Mercier and Scotty Nguyen for his share of money and fame.

The three day Main Event will be followed by a $15,000 buy-in High Rollers event on Monday, November 26, which hopes to attract many of the high rollers already in Macau.

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