In early 2007 poker walked out of the dungeons of secret hideouts in the Philippines and bee-lined its way directly into the public’s view with card rooms sprouting in parts of Manila and tables offered at some of the casinos. Later that year, gambling city Macau began to include Texas Hold ‘em tables to the floors of their casinos. For several years after, poker boomed in these two places with abundant cash games and big tournaments on the yearly calendar that anyone looking to play would have no trouble finding a game at any time.
In the Philippines, two of the most well-known poker venues were the Metro Card Club (the largest poker room in Asia) and Resorts World Manila Casino, with both places hosting the biggest poker festivals in the country. Macau, on the other, pumped out one of the most sought after events, the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon, as well as the Poker King Club “Big Game”, which drew in famous players from the poker industry.
Manila vs Macau in 2014
Looking at the data provided to us by the Global Poker Index, the Philippines and Macau seem to be at par in 2014 with both places registering exactly 85 events however the difference between the two is highly evident in volume and in clientele. The Philippines had a total of 9,190 entries while Macau nearly had double with 17,391 entries, and the prize pool totals were also a blow out with Macau generating almost USD$25M while the Philippines with slightly over USD$5M. This indicated that the Philippines catered to a market with pockets not nearly as deep as the ones in Macau. Macau offered bigger games and bigger payouts, which to every poker player, was what mattered most. Between the two, gambling mecca Macau clearly had the edge in poker in 2014.
|2014||Number of Events||Number of Entries in||Total Amount Buy In Fees|
Source: Global Poker Index
Is 2015 a turning point?
This year, major changes have taken place in Asia with President Xi Jingping declaring war on global gambling. Almost instantly it posed big challenges for Macau with many high stakes clientele disappearing from the scene. On top of that, the cap on new gaming tables in Macau is still a structural problem for the growth of poker in the city. Operators need to be selective and keep giving a priority to table games which are more profitable than poker.
In the Philippines, it was the opposite; branded poker rooms such as PokerStars Live Manila and the Asian Poker Tour Poker Room entered the scene and have already hosted several tournaments under their banner. In April, the Poker King Club announced its move to the country as well.
Since their opening early this year, both PokerStars Live Manila and the APT Poker Room continue to offer their clientele stakes that are considered very low in comparison to Macau’s range. This certainly will not bring in the big gunners of Macau, but it does help develop a market looking to grow and get into bigger games. With the addition of Poker King Club though, things may change. Known for their high stakes games and their high rollers, the caliber of poker in the Philippines would bump up several notches once they are fully established. If that happens, then the stakes would rise and the Philippines could possibly become the future poker destination in Asia.
Article in partnership with the Global Poker Index