The APT Philippines Main Event has come and gone but the high still lingers for the champion Kim Sung Ho and runner-up Jae Hyun “Kyle” Lim. Both players are originally from Korea and have since moved to the Philippines with poker as their main bread and butter.
Somuchpoker traveled to the province of Pampanga where both reside and whilst there, we relived the thrilling moments that led to both of their successes. We also learned quite a bit about their poker lives, their aspirations, and how this latest event has urged them towards attending more live tournaments both in and out of the country.
SMP: Kim Sung after running deep at several major tournaments, you finally landed 1st at the recent APT Philippines Main Event. Congratulations! How do you feel about winning a major event for the first time?
Kim Sung: I really didn’t realize how it would feel until the event was all over. During the tournament, I was just trying to stay focused throughout because I wanted to win. When I realized I won, I was very very excited. When I won, that’s when I felt all the joy and glory. Before this victory, people would look at me as just an ordinary poker player but since winning, they treat me differently, with more respect. Now I can say I am a champion. When they see me, they call me champ. It feels good being a champion.
SMP: You definitely ruled that tournament. You were the chip leader entering the final table with quite a big lead against the rest of the players. You eliminated several players to amass an even bigger stack. You only lost that lead at three-handed when Kyle took down SJ Kim in two hands. How did that change your game entering the heads up round behind 3:1 in chips then going on to win it?
Kim Sung: For most of the final table I was very comfortable with my chip lead. Once it was three-handed and we decided to chop it three ways, I was even more relaxed because I knew that no matter what happened next, I was going to get the most money because I had a very big stack. But when my stack started going down and Kyle took over the top position, I needed to refocus myself and change my strategy. At heads up, even if I was behind, I wasn’t nervous going up against Kyle because I’ve played heads up many times in my life and I felt I was playing my A-game. But I had to stay focused to win.
SMP: At any point throughout the event, what would you say was the turning point moment for you?
Kim Sung: On my first day, I was able to build my momentum. With just king-high, I called down a player and I was able to take down a bluff. From that point, I started feeling confident and felt there was no turning back. I kept on building and building my stack. Then in Day 3, I won a very big pot with my pocket tens beating pocket aces.
SMP: Yes, I do recall you winning two big pots late in Day 3 to enter the final table as the chip leader. That was quite a big turning point. According to the stats online, that was your biggest live tournament win. How did you celebrate your victory?
Kim Sung: After the event, I took the entire team Korea out to eat Korean barbecue and drink, for three days (laughs).
On Running Deep
SMP: Let’s switch over to you Kyle, prior to placing 2nd at the APT Main Event, you placed 5th at the PokerStars Main Event three weeks ago. How does it feel to run deep twice yet one spot short of the title?
Kyle Lim: I still have a lot to learn about poker. I have very little experience over many players at the tables. Both tournaments were not easy. So when I took 2nd and 5th, for me the feeling is the same, I feel honored to be in the final table. But my goal is really to take first place.
SMP: In Day 3, I noticed you rose quickly in chips and at one point even became the chip leader. From there, you secured a seat to the final table. Can you share with us the events of that day, how you accumulated your stack?
Kyle Lim: In Day 3 I won many pots against SJ Kim, he was the chip leader at my table. I won every big hand I played against him. I think I tripled up my stack through him. When the tables balanced, I was the chip leader at my table.
SMP: So it seems you had SJ’s number. Even at the final table. Let’s talk about that one big hand that made you the chip leader. There were three remaining, you, Kim Sung, and SJ. How did that go down?
Kyle Lim: Yes many people have asked me about that hand. Many have asked how can I call? That situation started with a pre-flop raise by Kim Sung and I called and SJ called. At the flop, (K-Q-2) we all checked. When the turn came (9), I checked, SJ checked, and Kim Sung bet in button position. I called then SJ check-raised to over 500k. Kim Sung folded but for me, I felt SJ may be bluffing. If he has two-pair or top pair or J-10 straight, he won’t raise that big. If it was me and I had those hands, I would put in a small raise, not that big. So I felt he was trying to make us fold with his big raise. I started thinking it was a bluff that’s why I only called. After that, the river was a blank (4) and when I checked, he bet around 900K or more, near one million. Again, I am seriously thinking this must really be a bluff. So I told myself if I call, I am accepting I might be 3rd place. I really felt I had to call because I wanted to see his cards. I accepted it then called. He had a bluff (J-9). I had a higher pair (A-Q) so I won the pot.
SMP: That was a very big pot. You became the chip leader and then eventually eliminated SJ to face Kim Sung at the heads up round. How did you feel facing him?
Kyle Lim: Ohhh, Kim Sung was very lucky, (laughs) very very lucky.
SMP: Ah yes, he had Ace-Jack then an ace came on the river to win it over your pocket queens. How did you feel when that happened? When you realized Kim Sung just won the event?
Kyle Lim: Wow. Wow. (slow claps while shaking his head and laughing). Wow.
SMP: Well making it to 2nd place is another great achievement considering you don’t have that much live tournament experience.
Kyle Lim: Thank you, yes, I’ve only joined two tournaments, the PokerStars and the APT. I usually play cash games and online at AngryBet. I’ve won some tournaments online but not this big.
SMP: Can you share with us a bit of your poker background?
Kim Sung: Back in 1991-1992, I was playing at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California. I was playing Limit Hold’em until the year 2000. Then from 2000-2006 I went to Korea where I stopped playing completely. No poker. In 2007, I came to the Philippines and started playing poker again but I had to switch games because there were no more limit games, everything was No Limit Hold’em.
SMP: Since poker was just starting in the Philippines then, were you playing tournament or cash games?
Kim Sung: I am a cash player especially that I get to play everyday. When there were big tournaments, I would join them once in a while. My dream has always been to win one of the big events and I knew that one day I was going to win. I even went to the Aussie Millions to try and win.
SMP: So you are based here in Pampanga? Why did you choose to move here?
Kim Sung: In Korea, gambling is illegal so I had to move somewhere else. Philippines is a very friendly country, I liked it here from day one. I chose Pampanga over Manila because it is quieter and they also have everything here. There are also more Korean restaurants, and the air is much cleaner. I was one of the first Korean poker players here with a group and with Mike Kim. When we decided to stay, there was no turning back.
SMP: How about you Kyle, when did you begin your poker journey?
Kyle Lim: I’ve been playing poker since 2009 in Pampanga. I learned poker mostly through playing the cash games here and in Manila. Today I also play online in Angry Bet. The tournaments there have helped me gain more knowledge in understanding tournament poker like position, patience, things like that. I’ve also won some of the tournaments there.
SMP: So you didn’t know how to play poker before moving to Pampanga in 2009? What made you move here then?
Kyle Lim: No, I didn’t. When I first came I was on vacation. I was playing golf in Clark. After that, I realized I liked the environment, the silence, it was a nice feeling, very provincial. So I decided I would move here and in four months I came back and stayed. It was a very hard decision. I learned poker after my move.
SMP: Wow, that’s great. So you only play poker today? That’s your profession?
Kyle Lim: Yes. And I like it very much. The games are also much better today than when I started. There are more players now, so more of them to play big games with here.
Thoughts on the current poker landscape
SMP: What do you think of the poker scene today as compared to when you first moved to the Philippines?
Kim Sung: Back in 2007 the games were much bigger here. Very big games. Manny Pacquiao, airport casino, they had really big games. Today, the cash games are much smaller.
SMP: How did you adjust to the changes?
Kim Sung: The way I see it, the kids today play a fantastic game. They’ve gained so much knowledge especially online. There are many excellent players but I have many years of experience over them so I don’t fear anyone. I feel confident that I can always go up against anyone and do well.
SMP: Are you strictly live cash game player or you also play online?
Kim Sung: No no. I started playing online back in 2005 at NeverLosePoker.com.
Today I play mostly online at Angry Bet. I play many tables, even Omaha and Open Face Chinese Pineapple. I have a newborn baby, I’m a father now so I spend more time at home playing from there. I play everyday, around 8-10 hours. I’ve played so many hours and sessions of poker that my goal is just to maintain. I just want to make a decent income for my wife and child.
Poker Goals and Aspirations
SMP: You said earlier that winning a major event was something you’ve been aiming for. Now that you’ve won one, do you have any other poker goals or aspirations waiting to be fulfilled?
Kim Sung: Now that I’ve won one, I am looking to win more events in the future. I will be playing the Suncity Cup in Solaire in October and also many other events all over Asia.
SMP: How about for you Kyle, what are your poker goals?
Kyle Lim: My plan is to go to the WSOP next year. I will play the Main Event and some other events. I definitely plan to travel more to play poker.
SMP: So do either of you have poker idols?
Kyle Lim: Tom Dwan. My cash game style is like him. I always watch him on YouTube, his videos, and follow his style. I watched him when he was in Solaire and got a picture of him too.
Kim Sung: Jimmy Cha, he was the godfather of poker, the first high stakes poker player in the US, and they made a tv series in Korea of his life called “All In”. Also David Chiu, Chinese-American poker player. Back in the day when I was playing poker in the US, David Chiu was one of the best players then.
SMP: One last question for both of you, if a newbie wants to become a poker pro and approached you for advice, what words of wisdom would you impart?
Kim Sung: Enjoy and play the game for fun. If you want to make a living out of it, go ahead but I don’t recommend it because it is a rough life. Out of the 100 percent that play poker, there are so many that struggle. I don’t want to see more struggling to make a living out of the game.
Kyle Lim: I say “just follow me” (laughs). I feel that if you have the skill for it then go ahead and be the best in the game.
Kim Sung: (to Kyle) The difference between me and you, you are much younger. I am old so I want the steady life. (laughs)
SMP: Thank you for your time gentlemen. Wishing you the best on your next event.
Thank you as well to Mike Kim for helping translate some of the Qs and As.
Interview by Triccia David