Interview: CEO of Beijing Poker Club, Zhang Yangchun

Do you often find yourself wanting to get a closer look at how the Beijing poker scene operates? The Asia Poker League is set to host its first event in Beijing, China on the 12th of August. The Beijing Poker Club will host the event, with Somuchpoker providing coverage. In anticipation of this upcoming event, we took a moment to chat with CEO of Beijing Poker Club, Zhang Yangchun.

CEO of Beijing Poker Club, Zhang Yangchun

Can you introduce the Beijing Poker Club to our readers?

Beijing Poker Club was established in 2012, as a club which was fully centred around poker. We have our event brand “Beijing Cup” (BPC) who have already hosted several successful events over the last 4 years.

Beijing Poker Club is situated in the well known entertainment centre stadium, west road. It is surrounded by many other famous clubs and entertainment hubs. The playing area of the club covers 2,000 square metres, which means we can accommodate 400 competitors at once. Our dealers, floor, and tournament directors are fully licenced and form the most professional operations team you are likely to find anywhere in mainland China.

What about the current poker scene in Beijing?

In the Beijing area there is only one club that has the legal qualifications to run Texas Holdem games, and that is Beijing Poker Club. As everyone knows, Texas Holdem cash games are illegal in China. Beijing Poker Club only hosts tournaments and Sit & Go’s however, which are legal, and also operates under an agreement with the Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and Beijing Municipal Competition Management Centre.

Our usual daily schedule includes two daily MTT’s and some Sit & Go 10 max games. We also hold special weekly tournaments, and the “Emperor Five Places Series” quarterly. We get around 400 players involved in our tournaments each day, with around 30 million RMB ($450,000) guaranteed in tournaments across the year.

Beijing Poker Club
Beijing Poker Club

We are hearing increasingly that, poker is booming in China. What is your personal view on that?

I personally think that 2016 is the year that we will talk about in future as the turning point for poker growth in China. The industry is increasing at unprecedented speed, as player ability levels rise and competition is raised to a new level. Since June, we get around two tournaments each month that generate a prize pool over 1 million RMB ($150,000) each. The “Yue Tan Cup” has just finished, and the guarantee for that was set at 1 million RMB. Due to the enthusiasm of the players however, the final prize pool actually topped 2 million ($300,000) .

Poker still seems to fall in a legal grey area in China. What are the legal challenges you had to face with Beijing Poker Club?

I’m not sure it’s entirely true to say it’s in a grey area. It’s simply important to understand all the basic facts involved. Gambling is illegal in China, and Texas Holdem cash games are defined as gambling under Chinese law. To hold any sort of poker competition, you need to first reach an agreement with the authorities. So, tournament poker is allowed, provided that you come to an agreement with the authorities first. For example, our Beijing Poker Cup has the necessary approval from the Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and Competition Management Centre.

It is certainly true that there have been problems recently with people trying to run poker competitions, but that is simply because they haven’t organised them in the correct way. The players involved in those competitions don’t have their rights guaranteed, and could forfeit prize money or buy ins if the tournament is shut down. So I want to emphasise here, that before choosing to play a tournament, you should always check that the organisers are protecting your interests by respecting the law.

We have seen more and more Chinese players involved in the WSOP and Asian circuit events lately. According to you, who are the most talented players to have emerged from the Beijing poker scene?

Going by what I have seen in our club, we have a lot of outstanding athletes who have made a lot of progress. In the APT, APPT, MPC and WPT we are seeing an increasing number of Chinese players achieving impressive things. The overall level of competition among players is experiencing rapid growth.

In a few weeks time your club will host the first leg of the recently formed Asian Poker League. Can you tell us why you chose to support this project?

The event will be held on August 12th, as the host country of the recently formed APL. First of all, I want to offer my thanks to our Korean partners and APL organisers, Judic and James. Their attitude and passion for this project was always evident, and it influenced us from the start. We were certainly persuaded by that. We clearly share the same love for the game, and hope that through our ties to the APL, our business will see further growth.

James Kim and Beijing Poker Club CEO
Zhang Yangchun and James Kim

What do you expect in terms of turnout for this event?

As the very first APL event, we will have to be careful with our expectations, but personally, I am very optimistic. After all, we already have the highest guaranteed prize pools for domestic events this year, and we have done a lot of work behind the scenes to make the event a great experience, both for domestic players, and international ones. I think we should clear 500 entries.

Playing an event in China is a new experience for many international players. What can you tell them?

I want to say that we are very welcoming to international players who wish to be a part of the APL. Not just for the first event, but all of them. We are full of confidence that we will see this happen, because we have an excellent team and will do everything in our power to make players feel at home. We also hope that with international players competing with domestic ones, local players will learn more and improve even faster. We also hope to improve the quality of the whole industry. I want to say to all the players – welcome to Beijing, welcome to the APL and let’s all enjoy the experience of competing in the sport we love.

More about the Asia Poker League: 

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