Who are the Asian players to watch? Why has “short-deck” poker become popular? Paul Phua picks the highlights of this video interview with the most influential man in Asian poker
There are many who will say the growth of poker in the West has stalled. Certainly it is not increasing in popularity as quickly as it did during the first online poker boom.
In Asia, however, poker is still an exciting new game. I myself had never even seen poker played until about eight years ago.
If there is one man most responsible for the rise of poker in Asia, it is Winfred Yu. He runs the Poker King Clubs in several major Asian cities. He also helps organise many poker tournaments, including the Triton Super High Roller Series which I co-founded.
Winfred Yu talked about his early years and how he set up the Poker King Club in this video for Paul Phua Poker. Now, in this latest video, Winfred Yu shares his expert knowledge about the rise of poker in Asia.
Why poker is taking off in Asia
The main reason for poker’s growing popularity in Asia is the same as elsewhere: it’s a great game! Once people are introduced to it, they soon realise how challenging and enjoyable it is.
As Winfred Yu says, “It’s fun, exciting, most likely now in a lot of parts of the world is considered a very challenging mind-sports game. And that fits in with the Chinese players very well.”
As the organiser of many of Asia’s top poker tournaments, Winfred Yu knows better than most how popular they have become. “If you look at a schedule from now until the end of the year,” he says in the Paul Phua Poker video, “pretty well every week there’s poker tournaments happening.”
Strip-deck or Six Plus Hold ’Em
There is one area of poker in which Asia is not just following the West, but leading the way. That is in the exciting new variant on poker known as short-deck poker, or sometimes strip-deck poker or Six Plus Hold ’Em. This has become very popular in the ultra-high-stakes cash game known as “the Big Game” that I play in, along with other Asian businessmen and Western pros such as Dan Cates (“Jungleman”), Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Trueteller.
Short-deck is similar to Texas Hold ’Em, the main change being that all the cards from 2 to 5 are removed from the deck. Phil Ivey has spoken in a previous Paul Phua Poker video about why how that “suits a gambling type of player”.
Winfred Yu adds in this video: “This game has really put in a lot of excitement because most of the time you will have a starting hand to play. Which is, the Chinese players won’t get bored, won’t be out of patience because every hand they’ve got – or every other hand at least they will have – something to play with to see the flop. Also this will give more of a winning edge than a normal Hold ’Em game to the Chinese or the amateur players. So you will reduce the skill and the skill levels between the amateur players and the pros.”
The game is not yet officially recognised in Macau, though it is in Manila and Montenegro. Yu says it has been submitted for approval to the Macau gaming authorities, and hopefully we will add a short-deck tournament to the Triton Super High Roller Series soon!
The Asian players to watch
Asked who the emerging players to watch are, Winfred Yu mentions the Chinese player Mr Shi Shang Lo, and a Taiwanese player called James. But his greatest compliments are reserved for Wai Kin Yong, son of my good friend Richard Yong.
Wai Kin Yong has been the outright winner of two Triton Super High Roller tournaments. His live tournament earnings stand at an impressive US$3.3m, most of it earned in just the last year. Wai Kin Yong has a very aggressive style of play, which he talks about in this video for Paul Phua Poker. But he is too smart to be reckless.
Winfred Yu says: “People think he’s just a rich kid trying to bluff his money away, but he actually has very good card sense and reading.”