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Op-Ed: Resorts World Sentosa’s First Poker Tournament; Small Steps for Poker in Singapore

Posted by : ikelos on Monday, June 25, 2012 permalink
Over the weekend, Resorts World Sentosa – currently Singapore’s sole poker operator - conducted its first Texas Holdem’ tournament, marking the first time a decent size tournament has been held on Singapore’s shores since Betfair’s solitary foray in 2006.

Eligibility for the event was restricted to RWS Silver (and above) card-holders, and was by invitation only; since marketing to the general public (whether above or below-the-line) is expressly forbidden by Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority, the government body that regulates casino operators. If you were lucky enough to get invited, you’d have realized that you didn’t have to pay a buy-in (FREEROLL!!!!). To make things even more appetizing, the organizers were guaranteeing a prize pool of $150,000, with $45,000 set aside for first place.

If this had been a regular buy-in event, there would been some mighty vociferous complaining about the tournament structure (20 minute blinds, short play times, exponentially escalating blind amounts etc), which looked a facsimile of the structure used by Resorts World Genting at their infrequent poker tournaments. Poker players however, are a sensible lot. When we're not paying, we're never complaining. If you toss in some free beverages as well, you've won our hearts and minds.

RWS went a good deal further than that to make its players feel welcome. A lavish buffet spread was laid on for participants on the evening of opening night, replete with live band and free beer. There was even a smattering of fireworks, though it's unclear if that was part of the evening's festivities or incidental to.

While the hospitality was of the highest order, the conduct of tournament was not without it's hiccups. Some of these were teething problems; over-zealous table balancing, excessive floor staff, inconsistencies in rule application, and the peculiar rousing applause for every player who busted. These are trifles however; easily overcome with experience. By and large, the dealers and floor staff were more than competent.

The more serious issues involve, firstly, the use of paper cards (the poker norm is plastic). Paper cards are extremely fragile, and most of the deck is bent in one way or another by the time an orbit has elapsed. This has the annoying tendency of causing the tables' in-built auto-shufflers to pause or jam. More critically, paper cards are extremely easy to mark (all you need is the intent and a fingernail), which can, and usually does lead to dishonest behaviour - especially when players are competing for serious money. The writer understands that RWS is looking to change this for any subsequent events, as well as for it's existing cash games.

Players were also repeatedly reminded over the course of the tournament that should their chipstacks fall below one big blind, they would be automatically eliminated from the tournament. More than a few inattentive players found themselves eliminated in this manner, to their completely bewilderment. Industry watchers have confirmed that this mysterious and baffling rule emanates from the CRA. The reasons behind its imposition however, this writer can only guess at. So much for a chip and a chair, as the popular expression goes.

The successful conduct and conclusion of Singapore's first poker tournament in 6 years (and only it's second ever), brings about some interesting shifts in the poker landscape in one of South East Asia's most progressive nations. Will RWS make poker tournaments a staple in their suite of events? If the weekend's turnout was anything to go by, it seems more likely than not. The more crucial question is whether RWS has the interest to take its poker offering to the next level in terms of buy-in size and deep structures, and whether it intends to do so organically, or in conjunction with some of the region's established tour operators. Gentle but persistent murmurs in the poker community suggest that answers to the above will arrive very shortly.

Any views expressed above are the writer’s own, and are not representative of the views of
Resorts World Sentosa declined to comment for this article.
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