INCHEON CITY, Korea – Coming into the Asian Poker Tour (APT) Korea Incheon 2022, expectations that poker’s rebirth would be sustained after the tour’s recent successes in Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan where the prize pools expanded exponentially from the original set guarantees but some also feared that the renaissance could be reaching a saturation point and that the numbers from the last stop in Taipei City might not be topped at the Paradise City Hotel and Casino here.
If the rebirth is indeed hitting a saturation point, it sure didn’t happen in Incheon.
In fact, 2,899 total entries were tallied over the twenty events that were played with ridiculous attendances marked in the Main Event with 486 (beating the 2019 total of 263), the Mystery Bounty (264), the Monster Stack (207) and even the events that drew average crowds in the past such as the Deep Stack Turbo (DST) which churned out a combined 363 entries in the two tiffs, the Super Deep Stack Turbo (S-DST) with 173, and even one of the single-day NLH tourneys that produced 171.
But the biggest number is the total prize pool that jumped from the original KRW400M (US$281,718) to a staggering KRW2,970,722,000 (US$2,092,427) with the Main Event alone more than doubling it with an astounding KRW942,840,000 (US$665,785).
The total prize pool was the APT’s largest of the year.
The staging was also not devoid of international flavor as 33 nations converged for the competition but Japan stood out as the country that clobbered the opposition, winning ten of the twenty events as well as having the Player of the Series (POS) in Kono Reiji who was perhaps the most consistent performer in the big events with his win in the Mystery Bounty and his third place finish in the Main Event.
The Netherlands’ Martijn Gerrits, however, emerged as the most consistent overall as he was the only player to have bagged two titles and suddenly took down second place in the POS after flying below the radar all leg long.
Another headliner was the number of unique entries that descended upon this venue with 855 players never having played in the APT.
That includes Main Event champion Farhad Aghayev, who prior to playing here had only one live cash and several online. By besting the immense field, he not only claimed his first ever title and the biggest haul of his career but also put the country of Azerbaijan on the proverbial poker map and served notice that–like Chris Moneymaker before him–truly “anyone can win”.
In about 18 days, the eyes of the poker world will shift its attention to Manila as the third installment of APT Philippines 2022 will commence starting the 15th of November.
But the nine days in Incheon will go down in the annals as the stop that solidifies the notion of the alleged saturation point being a figment of those whose faith in the poker rebirth being of a fatalistic perception. Incheon has proven that it is even gaining momentum.