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Playing Poker in the Philippines

In this article I provide in depth information about playing poker in the Philippines. When it comes to live poker we have many options that are all regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). I will discuss this in great detail, but first I cover online poker.

For playing poker online there are no viable domestic options. In the Philippines we use the same poker sites Europeans use. For this there are three types of poker sites broken down by banking method.

EntroPay Poker Sites

Entropaywww.entropay.com is a service that offers prepaid VISA debit cards. You join their website, create an account and you will get a VISA card number. You can then add money to it using any debit or credit card from a Philippine bank. You can then use EntroPay to deposit at poker sites.

You can also purchase (for $10 US) an EntroPay Plastic Card. When you cash out your money from these poker sites it gets added to your EntroPay account balance. You can then access your EntroPay Balance at a local ATM. The bank you are using will automatically convert this to Philippine peso (PHP) for you.

The reason this is all needed is because most Philippine credit cards do not work at poker sites. They do however work at EntroPay so this is a way to deposit with credit card. The websites below accept Philippine residents and support EntroPay deposits and withdrawals.

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PokerStars.com is the world’s largest online poker site. Several years ago they started a PAGCOR sanctioned live tournament poker series in our brick and mortar card rooms called the Filipino Poker Tour (FPT). They have many Philippine residents who play on their website. They are the best in the business for customer support, especially for issues that deal with how to deposit and withdraw.

The other option, Comeon! Poker, offers much softer (easier to beat) games. It operates on the Revolution Network, so traffic is decent but nowhere near as strong as PokerStars. Even though their support staff is less familiar with Philippines issues, this is still a good poker site to use because their games are easier to beat.

Click2Pay Poker Sites

This is the lowest cost banking method. To use it join www.click2pay.com. Once your account is open, you need to fund it using your Philippines bank account. This will allow you to easily deposit and withdraw using Philippine pesos (PHP). The websites below all accept Philippine residents and support Click2Pay as a deposit and payout method.

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Launched in January 1996, Intertops was the first ever online sports betting site. Today they have sports betting, poker and casino, all from the same website. Like Comeon! they operate on the Revolution Network. The other option Carbon Poker operates on the Merge Gaming network.

Western Union and MoneyGram Poker Sites

moneygram logoThese are services where you take pesos to a local agent to send money somewhere else in the world. www.westernunion.ph can be used to find the closest WU agent.

MoneyGram agents are found in Cebuanal Huillier pawn shops, Banco De Oro, Metrobank and Allied Bank branches, post offices with a Peragram logo, KwartaGram agents, M. Lhuillier, RD Pawnshop, SMART and SM Mall.

The Filipino friendly poker websites where this method can be used for depositing and getting paid are listed below.

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With the sites above you will need to join and then contact their support to ask for instructions for sending Western Union or MoneyGram. They will give you a name and country to send to. Once set you contact them back with the money control number, the money is added to your account in minutes.

Bovada is part of the Bodog Poker Network. Their Asian bookie Bodog88.com is actually based in the Philippines (Bodog88 can’t accept Filipino locals) and is on the same poker network. This site has anonymous poker, meaning players are identified as Player 1, Player 2 (and this changes each time you sit at a table) instead of a username. This blocks the use of tracking software which helps keep the games soft and easier to beat. Also because their Asian bookie attracts players from countries where poker is brand new you will find lots inexperienced players here.

BetOnline is popular with US sports betting players. Their small poker room has lots of American gamblers that don’t know poker well and are easy to beat. Now that I’ve covered where and how you can play online poker in the Philippines, I will discuss playing live poker.

Playing Poker Live

In the Philippines all legal live poker is operated by PAGCOR. There are many poker clubs inside PAGCOR’s 42 casinos which are called “onsite” locations. Because there are no laws about how many table games a casino can offer many of these poker rooms are quite large. There are also many dozens of standalone poker rooms called “offsite” locations. These are privately owned but are strictly regulated by PAGCOR.

In all PAGCOR owned or licensed poker clubs the game offered is mostly No Limit Hold’em (NLHE). This is available 24/7/365 in cash game format and there is no shortage of scheduled multi-table tournaments. You can also find some other games such as Omaha or on occasion Pusoy (open faced Chinese Poker) and Pusoy Dos (Big Two) which are more common in home games and backroom games.

One nice thing about having PAGCOR as the governing body is the rules are the same at each casino. For example the rake is uniform. It is 10% of the pot capped at 300 in P25/P50 games, 400 in P50/P100 games and 500 in P100/P200. It is not possible for the casino to legally charge more rake than this. Of this rake, 50% is tax that goes to the government. In onsite locations 30% goes to the cardroom and 20% to PAGCOR. In offsite locations 37.5% goes to the cardroom and 12.5% to PAGCOR. The difference is because onsite operators benefit from traffic the casino brings.

While the rake might seem high, one nice thing is many casinos have a no tip policy. One of the largest with this policy is Resorts World in Manila. Not having to tip does help in offsetting the high price of rake. There are also loyalty promotions at many card rooms. For example Metro Card Club (Ortigas) is open 24/7 and has 30 tables. Several times per year they host PHP 1 million guaranteed freerolls for loyal players. In these it is possible to win cash or luxury prizes such as cars.

The rake also helps keep the games well regulated. PAGCOR is far from a lazy commission. They actually care about the games and players, and add a lot of value to our local scene. In fact, PAGCOR is so serious about regulation that their employees cannot play in any cards rooms (onsite or offsite ones) that they license. This rule is not found in Las Vegas where dealers routinely play when offshift. Also PAGCOR is aggressive in going after cheaters. Because they are the regulator of all our poker rooms, players found cheating are blacklisted nationwide.

Poker Tournament Circuit

philippine poker tour logoWe also have a solid high stakes poker tournament scene here. Each year the Asian Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) has a stop in Cebu in the Philippines where massive prizes can be won. Season 5 was won by Hoang Anh Do who claimed the PHP5,927,000 first place prize. It is possible to win seats to APPT events at www.pokerstars.com.

There is also the Philippine Poker Tour which was founded by Jojo Allado. Metro Card Club Ortigas, Metro Card Club Davao, Resorts World Manila, Midas Touch Poker Sports Club, Let’s All in Poker, Angeles Poker Club, and Squeeze Poker Club are regular stops on this tour. This increasingly popular tour features some huge guaranteed prize pools as well as a player of the year (POY) Leaderboard.

The Asian Poker Tour (APT) also has regular stops here with 3 major festivals taking place here in 2012.

This covers only some of the major poker tournaments held here. Pretty much every local card room has advertisements for the major poker series they are involved in. Also note that this is just referring to majors. There is daily scheduled Muti Table Tournaments (MTT) in almost all card rooms. These are not boring either; there is plenty of variation to make them unique and more interesting for regular players. For example Empire Poker Sports Club in Ortigas offers a daily PHP8,000 bounty tournament.

All that is covered in this article is only the tip of the iceberg, in explaining our poker scene. I hope I have given you a decent overview and will just leave it by saying poker is very popular here. If you love the game, Manila is a top place to live.