12. “Hong Kong” Tom and the Birth of the Macau Big Game
Of all the facets of the live high stakes poker ecosystem, the one most shrouded in mystery and intrigue has been the nosebleed games in Macau.These games bring together amateur businessmen and a smattering of staked professionals, all willing to gamble it up to previously unheard of extremes - leaving the storied $800,000 Doyle Brunson-Laliberté pot in the dust. Amounts of money in play at the Poker King Club border on the obscene, with tens of millions of dollars in chips and plaques at a single table not unheard of.
The recreational players who frequent these games have also been active on the international poker circuit as of late. In April, 2014, seven Asian businessmen, including Richard Yong and Paul Phua, participated in the €100,000 EPT Super High Roller in Monte Carlo, where they made a stir in their baller Macau Billionaires Club baseball caps. Three of the Macau players made the final table, placing fourth through sixth, in a tournament that One Drop winner Daniel Colman won handily for $2.6 million, kickstarting his live poker career.
High stakes crusher Jason Somerville notes that he has heard “crazy stories of different rules,” such as that you can’t quit unless you have played for 24 hours or are stuck for 10 million Hong Kong dollars ($1.29 million USD). When a businessman asks to see your cards “you kind of have to for the good of the game” (in other words, you will not get invited back, if you don’t). Despite stakes that are equivalent of the gross domestic product of many small countries, the game is strictly for fun - modern poker accoutrements such as headphones, sunglasses, hoodies, and an off-putting attitude are unwelcome.
One of the “godfathers” of the big game in Macau is poker impresario Tom Hall, a UK native with Hong Kong roots through his Eurasian father. The dapper Hall, with a charisma and style reminiscent of the Roger Moore-era James Bond, grew up in a brainy household and was fascinated by geology and stamp collecting as a youth.... [continue with the eBook]