Somuchpoker took some time to discuss the event with Zhang Yangchun, CEO of Beijing Poker Club.
Somuchpoker: Currently, many foreigners think that poker is not very legitimate in China due to government regulation. So, can you introduce your Beijing Poker Club in briefly?
Zhang Yangchun: Beijing Poker Club is a Texas Hold ’em sports club authorised by Beijing Sports Competition Management Centre, which is affiliated with Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports. Since it was established in 2012, the club has successfully held 5 Beijing Cups with over one million Yuan in the prize pool ($150,000) each year. So far, the club has played a leading role in China’s Texas Hold ’em industry.
As for the current status of Texas Hold ’em in China, most games which are eligible for the competition are legitimate and protected. Authorities are only fighting against regional games that have not been approved by local authorities, or some cash games.
SMP: So what is your story with poker?
Zhang Yangchun: I joined this industry by chance. I used to be a judoka and I participated in some national competitions on behalf of Beijing. As a practitioner in the sports industry, I am very clear about the fact that it demands huge efforts to change from an amateur to a professional. When I saw that many poker amateurs had no access to standardized and safe competitions domestically, and that the poker industry faced a lot of difficulties in the bud, I realised that it was not good for amateurs. Therefore, I decided to hold the first Beijing Cup. Meanwhile, I opened a club to provide amateurs with a good environment and atmosphere for practice, exchanging ideas and playing more competitions.
SMP: What is your typical offering during weekdays/weekends (not during major festival/event)?
Zhang Yangchun: In addition to our annual Beijing Cup tournament, and the Imperial Palace Series hosted five time a year, there are two daily tournaments every day, one early in the afternoon at 3pm, the other beginning around 7 pm. We are also hosting weekly tournaments.
We are offering a large variety of tournament formats: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Head Hunter, Deepstack, Team Event. Basically, those are the ones that we hold regularly.
SMP: What is the largest event in terms of field that you have ever hosted in your club?
Zhang Yangchun. Last year’s Beijing Cup was the largest tournament up until now, with the total participants numbering 1,568. The total prize pool beat all expectations, making history. In terms of the number of participants, and the scale of the prize pool, this was among the largest events ever hosted in the country.
SMP: What is your relationship with the local authorities? How do they see poker and your club?
Zhang Yangchun As a manager of one of the largest poker brands in China, I have always called on everyone to communicate with each other, and communicate with government regulators to promote the sport in this context. Of course, as a sport, the wider the range of its lovers, the greater the opportunity to develop it better. At this stage, poker is legal in China because it is considered as a skill game. But at the same time poker is often misinterpreted as purely a gambling game and that is precisely the cause of its own rapid growth. So, finding a good way for this industry to develop and move forward in China, is not an easy task.
SMP: April will see two international events hosted in Beijing: the Asia Poker League Reloaded and WPT Beijing. What does this mean for Beijing’s poker scene?
Zhang Yangchun We did not expect to overlap with WPT at the time we set up our schedule for the year, and we had no time to change when we found out about it. So, we made an effort to coordinate things as best we could. WPT China has maintained a good relationship with us, and as for each other’s schedule being so close, we communicated, as far as possible in the existing situation. We try to complement each other to ensure we both have a good impact on poker. So, for the entire month of April tournament, Beijing will offer a perfect poker experience. We even heard that players are saying: “In April, you don’t have to go anywhere, just stay in Beijing. There are plenty of competitions there for you to participate in”.
Of course, we hope to hear the players praise the APL when they finish the game.
SMP: You will be the host and co-organiser of ‘APL Reloaded’. What do you expect for this second edition of the festival?
Zhang Yangchun: First of all, we intend to start making the APL Beijing stop an annual regular event each season, which will be a great addition to our annual schedule. Secondly, with the situation at the last APL in Shanghai, we are now more cautious about the choice of venue (the event was shut down due to legal problems with the authorities).
Last year’s problems at the Shanghai stop hurt the enthusiasm of the players, even though we made a lot of effort afterwards, and gave the players a lot of compensation – we need to face this. But, to a certain extent, because of this, we have prepared even more meticulously for this APL stop. We expect to bring all the players an unprecedented event experience, not just in terms of poker. There is plenty of fun waiting for you here as well.
SMP: What would be your recommendation to foreign players who come to Beijing for the first time, in terms of places to visit/parties etc?
Zhang Yangchun: The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven I highly recommend you should go to. This is our BPC totem, and is also a large part of the profound Chinese culture. Beijing is an ancient city which combines history and modernity. Whether it is tourism or food, I believe we will see players having a far greater time than they ever expected. This is what APL has always stressed – we are not just poker, we are more than poker.