Asian Relocation for Poker Pros


Even before online poker in the United States was squashed by government regulators a decade ago, online poker players were moving to Asia. In places like Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam even low-stakes grinders could bank enough profits to feel like a high roller when they could find a strong internet connection. But the advantages of cheap living are often offset by creaky infrastructure, culture shock and inhospitable surroundings.


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Asian Relocation for Poker Pros

These days live poker players are spreading out across Asia as well. Let’ s look on some of the top Asian countries for putting down poker stakes…




The former Portuguese colony of Macau, lying a scant 40 miles west of Hong Kong, emerged as a world gambling center shortly after sovereignty was transferred to China in 1999. There are more than three dozen major casinos and some 300 card rooms operating in an area of about 11 square miles.


Like Las Vegas, Macau is powered by gambling; eight in every ten jobs is connected to the casinos. While everything in the front of the house looks like Las Vegas, Macau far outstrips Sin City in the cash room in the back. In flush times, Macau would ring up gaming revenues seven times as high as Las Vegas.


These are not flush times, however. The Republic of China has initiated anti-corruption measures directly at the glitzy gambling dens of Macau. The result is that the high rolling whales for which Macua was known have virtually departed in unison. No big-stakes gambler wants to expose a mega-bankroll to the vagaries of government investigations.


Revenues have been halved from almost $40 billion per year to less than $20 billion. That is still three times more than Las Vegas so poker players will still find plenty of middle class and low end action. Living in Macau or nearby Hong Kong also means being tied into one of the true world cities so there is never a lack of action outside the casinos either.




When Filipinos say gambling is a way of life in the Philippines they can point to sabong, a form of cockfighting that was popular even before the Spanish colonized the region in 1521. Gambling in the country was corralled by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) back in 1976 which brought an end to illegal gambling activities. The first casino, The Manila Bay Casino, opened a year later.


PAGCOR oversees more than forty casinos and many dozens more standalone poker rooms. Even when operated by private interests, these games are under the tight control of the state. PAGCOR rules make card playing in the Philippines uniform across the country. A rake of 10% is standard and while this can seem high, no tipping is allowed at tables so winning poker players should not be too concerned about the rake. There are plenty of popular tournaments for players to dive into and a lucrative poker tournament circuit.


The capital city of Manila is the hub of Philippine gambling, with about half of the country’s casinos. The most spectacular are located on the shores of Manila Bay in a complex known as Entertainment City. Four billion-dollar casinos are planned for the space, two of which have already opened. It is no coincidence that the land for Entertainment City was reclaimed from the bay – this is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.


Since land is scarce in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines, no foreigner can own any. But poker winnings go a long way in the island nation that boasts one of the lowest costs of living among middle-market countries in southeast Asia. Nineteen languages are commonly spoken among the population of 100 million, but English is one of the national languages.




Singapore is an island city-state at the end of the Malay peninsula that has been a major shipping crossroads since its founding in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Until recently, when it was passed by Shanghai, the port of Singapore was the largest in the world. More importantly to gamblers is the amount of money flowing across the gambling tables in Singapore.


Legalised gambling was only passed in this nation of five million people in this century and the two casinos in Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, only opened its doors in 2010. Even so, the duo generates enough revenue to challenge Las Vegas as the world’s second biggest generator of gambling money with more than $6 billion annually (both far behind Macau).


While poker players can count on finding a big money game in Singapore they can also count on making it home with the money. Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and it seems to drop each year. Street crime is a rarity and murders are almost non-existent – usually fewer than 20 per year. Consider that Finland, a similar-sized country known for its relative domestic tranquility still deals with more than 100 murders each year.


Big winners can also expect to live under the radar in Singapore where conspicuous wealth is an everyday part of life. The world’s fourth-largest financial centre mints millionaires at one of the quickest paces in the world. The fast pace of business means almost half of the work force is in Singapore on a temporary basis. The richly multicultural society maintains four official languages – Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English, with English considered the common tongue. On the downside, poker players had better hope the cards are friendly at Singapore tables. This is the most expensive city in which to live in the world.