Online Poker in Asia

Asiabet.org is a complete guide to online gambling covering sports betting, casino games and of course online poker. It’s important to understand the topic of poker is a vast one. We have dozens of pages on this topic, tailored specifically for each country in Asia.

All our regional and country specific guides will lead you to details on how to deposit and withdraw at online poker sites servicing the market of your location. We also cover bonuses, games offered and much more.

In the rest of the article I’ll discuss Asian online poker in general. This is a market that’s on the rise and many poker experts are predicting the poker boom here is just getting started. The top poker sites for players in Asia are listed in the following table. However, some of these have restrictions. For example Bodog88 only accepts players in Vietnam and China. I recommend reading one of the country specific guides linked to on the left hand side before getting started.

  • Rank
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Asian Poker Players

One of the reasons the poker boom hasn’t come as quickly to Asia as many outsiders looking in might have expected it would, is because card games played on the continent are different. Yes, when looking at the success of Asian players on the western poker scene, one might suspect poker has long been popular in Asia, but this isn’t really the case.

Guys like Johnny Chan (China / Hong Kong), Scotty Nguyen (Vietnam), Steve Sung (Korea), and countless other well-known Asian poker pros moved to the United States as children. Sure, there are also a few who had great success coming from Asia to the US as adults. Indonesian player John Juanda is the best example. He is now in the top 10 on the all-time money earnings list for high stakes poker tournaments. However, he also somewhat fits the same bill as the others. He first came to the US to attend university in 1990 and it wasn’t until a decade later that his poker career took off.

There are only five others on the top 100 all-time money list that state their country as an Asian one. After John Juanda #7, from Australia there is Joe Hachem #10 and TonyG (Antanas Guoga) #82, from China Stanley Choi #43 and Zhu Guan Fai #99 and Vivek Rajkumar from India at #100. There are of course many other Asians on the list. For example other Vietnamese players joining Scotty Nguyen include David Pham, JC Tran, Nam Thien Le, and Bon John Phan. There’s also Jerry Yang who was born in Laos, David Chiu (China), Joseph Cheong (South Korea) and Surinder Sunar (India). But all these Asian players have long lived in the US or the UK, most of them since childhood. On the all-time money list their names are accompanied with the United States flag rather than a flag from their country of heritage.

The Asian players currently, or more recently having had, residence in Asia are just now making noise in both in the cash game and tournament poker scenes. Again, one of the leading reasons for this is the card games most popular around the continent differ from poker games popular in the US and Europe.

Asian Poker Games

asian card games

Asia is home to hundreds of unique card games, from l to r: Japanese Duel Masters, Korean Go deck, Chinese poker, rummy

Each Asian nation has its own unique card games. In China a card game called Landlords (斗地主 / Dou Di Zhu) and the trick-taking game Tractor (Tuo La Ji / 拖拉機) are both very popular. They also have Chinese Poker which was formerly a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event, though this is rarely played on the mainland. In India the national game is no doubt Paplu (Indian Rummy), however Flush (also called Flash) is played often for real money and is a high stakes game of choice. In addition to being known as Flush and Flash, it’s also popular under the name Teen Patti (Hindi: तीन पत्ती; English: Three Cards) due to a Bollywood film starring Ben Kingsley as a math wizard intent on cracking the same game under this name.

The list of card games popular in Asia goes on and on. In Vietnam the game of choice is undoubtedly Tiến lên which is also known as Big2 when played for high stakes in Las Vegas. I still have fond memories from years ago when this game was played online for real money at Tiger Gaming.

Korea’s greatest contribution to poker in the west is inventing the game Badugi which is now played online at PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. However, the most popular card game in Korea is actually Go-Stop (고스톱) also known as Godori (고도리), Hwatu (화투) and Matgo (맞고). In Thailand the most popular game is Rummy (รัมมี่ ) though it is often played with modified rules (family rules) and oddly enough in Isaan is often called poker.

Indonesia might have the most card games of any nation. Remi, capsa banting, tahu tempe and seven of spade are some of the hundreds of different card games this nation has, and they also play many other Asian games including those from China. However, the most popular is likely Truf. This is a bidding and trick-taking game played with four players (though with modified rules it can be played with three). Many Indonesians learn games that involve heavy mental thought at a young age. Though speculatively so, this is “perhaps” a factor in how John Juanda faired so well at poker once he moved to the United States.

The same really can be said of the games in most Asian countries. Many of the skills you can learn playing the games covered in our section on Asian Card Games translate well to poker. The though process, memory and intelligence it takes to beat some of these games might make poker look more like child’s play. If you’re wondering why there are so many Asians great at poker, this is perhaps one of the top reasons why. Many have been playing card games where skill is dominant over luck since a young age.

The Asian Poker Boom

As mentioned, many gambling experts are predicting an Asian poker boom is about to start. If this is true, there are several names and events that deserve credit. The largest credit goes of course to Asian poker players. What Scotty Nguyen and others did to inspire players from their birth nations can’t possibly be understated.

Also, credit obviously goes to the Indian State Goa, and to the Philippines where the first “legal” poker games in Asia were played before Macau became Asia’s poker hub. Next on the list of early credits goes to the PanAsia Poker Tour (PAPT). While this tour never made it big time, and flopped rather quickly, it did get sanctioned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and brought the first high stakes poker tournaments to Asia in 2006.

We then also give credit to StarWorld Galaxy Casino who in August 2007 hosted the first poker games in Macau. These were actually played initially on the new electronic tables that were then debuting on trials in the west. Where things really started to take off is when two massive companies became aggressive in the Asian poker market. The first was PokerStars in 2007 and was soonn followed by AsianLogic, starting in 2008. These two today are still the largest players in the Asian Poker market both live and online.

PokerStars Focuses on Asia

pokerstarsAlready the world’s largest online poker room, PokerStars began to market aggressively in Asia starting in 2007. This started with their sponsorship of the Asian Pacific Poker Tour. This tour saw tournaments hosted in Manila, Philippines (August: 2007) and Seoul, South Korea (September: 2007) before it hosted Macau’s first high stakes poker tournament in November 2007.

This first Macau tournament was held at the Grand Waldo Hotel & Casino. The main event had 372 entrants each paid the USD 2,500 buy-in. Well known pros Joe Hachem (8th place), Liz Lieu (7th place), and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier (5th place) made the final table. But the final three came down to players from Asia. Third place was Sangkyoun Kim from South Korea who won USD 72,864. In the end Ivan Tan from Singapore won USD 129,536 finishing runner up to Vietnam’s Dinh Le. He took home USD 222,640 and the title of Macau’s first poker champion.

Due to the success of APPT Macau, two months after its conclusion the government published the official rules for Texas Hold ’em. The following month (February 2008) PokerStars opened its own live card room in the Grand Waldo Casino. They actually were not first to the market. The Grand Lisboa Casino had started the first live dealer poker games here a month earlier. However, in May 2009 this same room would become PokerStars Macau when the company changed locations.

One other contributor worth mentioning is the Wynn who started a “learn Texas Hold’em” school in its casino in November 2008. The Asian Pacific Poker Tour is now in its sixth season with plenty of tournaments listed on their website www.appt.com. PokerStars remains the primary sponsor. It’s possible at www.pokerstars.com to win seats to APPT events and to many other Macau poker tournaments.

These include Macau Poker Cup: Red Dragon, Macau Poker Cup: Championship and the Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP). Their online poker site is the largest in the world. Their website, software, lobbies and tables are available in English, Chinese, Japanese and dozens of European languages.

AsiaLogic Promotes Poker in Asia

asialogic AsiaLogic is one of the big players in Asian gambling. They operate several brick and mortar sportsbooks in the Philippines through their 60% ownership stake in Orient Capital Ventures (OCVI) which operates under the branding MegaSportsWorld.

They also own a number of online gambling sites, while acting as a white label and software provider to several Asian bookies. Asia Logic came on the poker scene in 2008 when they purchased the Asian Poker Tour (APT). This tour has hosted several tournaments in South East Asia, and also brought India its first major high stakes poker tournament.

Currently they are making large strides through their subsidiaries Dafabet and DafaPoker. The latter is the only website on our list of Thai language poker sites, and also is on our list of Japanese language poker sites. To be clear, while other “websites” are available in Thai, only Dafa has Thai language “software”. This same software also supports both Traditional and Simplified Chinese and several additional languages. You can check them out www.dafapoker.com where you’ll find Asia’s top online poker site.

Asian Bookies Helping the Boom

A number of the popular Asian casinos are now making a push in the Asian poker market. One example is newcomer to the Asian market Haydock Entertainment who operates www.bodog88.com. They recently purchased the Bodog Poker Network. These two sites are where you can find some of the softest poker games online due to their inexperienced players that find the virtual felt from integrated casino and sports betting products.

Final Thoughts on Asian Poker Book

While Asians were traditionally exposed to other card games not fitting the term poker as we know it, many are now taking a serious interest in Texas Hold’em. As far back as 2005 there was talk that major gambling booms of the future would come from the Asian market. While in the past we were not quite ready, I think all signs are pointing to suggest that boom is just starting now. If you want a chance at making some good money, there is no time like now to start learning all you can about the most popular poker games played online. To make the most money it’s important to get in while the games are still soft.