While many players in the Asian poker circuit are familiar with the likes of Filipino pros Andrew Gaw, Flo Campomanes, John Tech, Lester Edoc, Mike Takayama, and the Rivera brothers, there are also those who may not be as popular but have been making waves at the felt. Like the pros, these players have chosen to make a living out of playing poker, and despite the competition, they are slowly inching their way up the ranks. These are the Young Guns of the Philippines.
Kim Michael Enriquez
Kim Michael Enriquez has been playing poker for quite some time. He may not be up in the ranks as the leading local pros however he has made a decent living out of poker, enough to buy himself a car, a house, and live content everyday. For Enriquez, this is his job. Ever since he was a child, he enjoyed playing cards. Whatever the game was, as long as it was cards, he wanted to learn. Years later, he became a Karate instructor, and enjoyed it for a time until poker came knocking on his door. That’s when everything changed. Realizing he had the passion and skills for it, Enriquez gave up Karate and focused on poker.
Enriquez began online, patiently turning his US$5 into thousands of dollars (through the years) playing micro games. In the live scene, he won his first big tournament in his hometown Cebu back in 2013. From there, he moved to Manila where poker was more accessible. For the past two years, Enriquez has consistently cashed at APT side events; he also placed 4th at the PokerStars Live Manila Megastack 3 Main Event back in September 2015, and recently, an 8th place finish at the APT Philippines 2016 II Main Event in July for his biggest tournament career winnings of US$7,900.
As a self-taught player, this young gun feels that winning isn’t what truly drives him. His goals are simple, earn enough everyday to maintain his chosen lifestyle. He realizes there are ups and downs and balancing his bankroll is always the focus.
John “Chekwa” Sayo
John Sayo, or Chekwa, a preferred nickname he goes by, has been playing poker since he was 17 years old. Like everyone, he started off casually playing with friends, which naturally evolved into playing random cash games. For years, Sayo flew under the radar, learning the game directly from watching players at the table.
In October 2015, Sayo got a taste of his first final table berth placing 6th at the PokerStars Live Manila P1M Guaranteed Main Event. From there, his stats began to consistently accumulate. He placed 6th at the APT Finale Main Event in December 2015, placed 10th at the APT Kickoff Main Event in January 2016, then just one month after, he placed 4th at the APT Cebu Main Event where he cashed his biggest tournament career win of US$11,075. Sayo believes that his step-by-step approach is what helps him manage his bankroll and continue to improve his game.
Although his report card may not reflect it, Sayo has also lost his fair share. Just recently, he took a gamble at baccarat and lost a big chunk of his bankroll. He vowed never to do that again and advises young gamblers to avoid making the same mistake. Sayo is one of the lucky ones having many who believe in him, players such as Lion Lee, Atty. William, and Lester Edoc. With these mentors to guide him, there is no doubt there is much more to come from this young gun.
Christopher Luke Pangan
This young gun comes from the wild wild west town of Pampanga. Pangan is one of the most colorful players in the local circuit, branded with poker patches all over his jacket, and striking blonde hair that everyone calls him “Bon Jovi”. Pangan is one of those loose cannons on the felt, growing up loving one thing, competition and gambling. He delved in cards, pool, and eventually honed in on poker. He was player of the year for three consecutive years at Wild Aces poker room then began making his presence known in the Manila scene two years ago.
In September 2014, Pangan got close to a final table berth at the APT Asian Poker Series Main Event, finishing in 13th place. He returned the next year with guns blazing, consistently cashing in many events then landed a 7th place finish at another APT Asian Poker Series Main Event for his biggest tournament career winnings of US$11,049. A few weeks after, he went deep again, finishing 4th place at the PokerStars Live Manila P1M Guaranteed Main Event. This year, Pangan has impressively cashed almost every month.
Pangan attributes a lot of his growth from his friends at Wild Aces poker. He hopes to participate in tournaments outside of the country to prove that he is not just good locally but can also compete with the best in the world. All this young gun needs is to get his passport to tackle the world.
Regie Ann Delos Reyes
One of the most active female players in the local tournament circuit is Regie Ann Delos Reyes, or Rehg for short. This little lady is fierce at the felt, unafraid to gamble with the big boys. Rehg emerged into the local scene two years ago, and since then, she has been spotted at almost every poker event in the country. Complete with her red headphones, she shuts out the world and plays some serious poker.
Starting September 2014, Rehg has been cashing at various events all over Manila. She placed 10th at the PokerStars Live Manila Megastack 2 Main Event in March 2015, and then continued to run deep in many events throughout the year. Last December, she placed 12th at the PokerStars Live Manila Megastack 4 Main Event, then one month after, she earned her biggest tournament career winnings of US$4,532 at the APT Kickoff Welcome Event with a runner-up finish.
With many events lined up all over the country for the rest of 2016, this young gun will surely be there ready to fire her bullets in every direction. No one is safe with her at the felt. If there is one woman who can dominate the men in this game, it is definitely this up and coming lady. Her passion and drive for the game makes her one of the players to watch out for.