We interviewed the Hong Kong Poker Players Association (HKPPA), a platform for poker players (mainly based in HK and Asia) to connect with each other. They provide updates on the poker scene and campaign for the rights for their members. The HKPPA is a registered limited company - check them out on Facebook here and here.
Congratulations on your successful launch – how many members does HKPPA currently have?
We have around 300 members at the time of writing, in under a month since starting up in mid 2015. We aim to have 1,000 members in a year's time.
There are so many talented players in Hong Kong, and the HKPPA aims to make sure their achievements are well publicised.
HKPPA Chairman Sparrow Cheung
Speaking of success, we heard you had quite a run in Macau in July – tell us about it!
During the PokerStars ACOP Platinum Series in July:
So tell us what’s your main goal in operating a poker school in Hong Kong?
Our main goal is to improve the poker knowledge and standard of players in Asia, becoming more competitive in the worldwide big poker tourneys.
We also wish to popularise poker in HK, as a mental sports hobby and a social activity among friends.
Chairman Sparrow Cheung, vice chairman Alan Lau, and vice chairman Jason Lo at PokerStars ACOP
What poker topics do you teach?
We are offering courses for NLHE and PLO games for players of different levels. We are also offering 1 on 1 tuition on topics such as GTO play, Pineapple Open Face Chinese, hyper turbos, satellites, etc.
We use PowerPoint presentations and some on table practice to explain the game theory, mathematics, and some practical knowledge such as live tells, which are applicable in both live and online games.
We expect our students can become a +ev player in the game, after completing our intermediate course.
Our poker exam consists of 5 poker hand scenarios and members have to analyse and explain how they will act accordingly. One example question is: In the stone bubble stage, middle position loose table chip leader opens to 2BB, you have 9BB picking up AK on the button, what is your decision?
What’s the cost of tuition? Can non-HK persons join?
HKPPA is open for any nationality, same for our poker school. Tuition costs are still under consideration and we will update the public once confirmed.
Exam day at the HKPPA's poker school
What languages are the classes in?
Cantonese, English and Mandarin depending on the students and demand.
Do you have plans to expand elsewhere (e.g. Taiwan, Mainland China)?
Our base is in HK at the moment. However, we have special packages and arrangements for students travelling from different countries to Hong Kong.
What’s the perception of Poker in Hong Kong? How does that perception differ from Mahjong?
Mahjong is a traditional Chinese social activity in HK and Texas Holdem is obviously an international social activity - it's been growing rapidly in popularity in HK over the past few years.
What percentage of HK people know about poker (estimate)?
In terms of demographics, we think a good proportion of people between the age of 18 and 50 to know the rules of Holdem, I guess that would account to about 10% of the population of Hong Kong.
Unwinding after exams
Aside from the school, what activities do you provide for members?
We are going to hold poker exams periodically before big tournaments in Macau, and stake the top 3 participants up to 50% in the coming tournament. The first poker exam will be held on 22 Aug.
We are also negotiating benefits for members such as freeroll satellite for tournament entries from poker organisation, extra award points from casinos, discounts in hotels and air/ferry tickets.
In addition, we provide most updated poker information including tournament schedules of major tournaments in Asia, Australia, Europe and the rest of the world.
Finally, we provide live reporting for members taking part in poker events around the world.
What charities do you support?
We are planning to hold charity tourneys for some private groups. It's still under negotiation and we will update the public once confirmed.
The HKPPA Academy Team
In your opinion – who is better at poker – the Chinese or Japanese? Any plans for competitions?
Poker started to become popular in Japan many years ago. However, since many Chinese started playing poker 3 years ago, they improved rapidly. I would say Japanese players overall are more experienced, but Chinese players have high potential nowadays which is unexpected.
Are there any other topics or points you’d like to make?
We at HKPPA believe that poker is a game of skills as well as a social activity that can be played with or without money. Unlike table games that are mathematically unbeatable, poker is a peer-to-peer game, not unlike Mahjong, that requires a lot of time and effort to study. HKPPA aims to shorten this learning process.
Also, Hong Kong faces the same problem in legality as other Asian countries. We believe one day, the poker will gain enough critical mass that the authority will have to take the game seriously. HKPPA will be the go-to place for both the general public, as well as the authority for impartial information about the game.
What’s your biggest fear in starting HKPPA?
Of course the first stage and fear in starting HKPPA is the number of members.
The outcome exceeded our expectation. We got over 200 members in a week and over 300 members within the first month.
How would you define success?
When HKPPA is known by most of the HK people, and when most of the poker players in HK joined HKPPA, and when HKPPA is known by all poker players in Asia, we succeed and are capable to provide wider range of services for our members.
How will your school differ from other big name poker schools (GrinderSchool, Deuces Cracked, etc)?
They are online coaching and we are live poker school.
With poker teacher 'face to face' coaching and answering any questions raised during the lesson, together with some live role plays for students, we expect our poker school more effective and valuable to the students.
At the HKPPA Poker School
Where did you get the idea for the HKPPA?
Many years ago, just after Macau started to have poker games, when there were not so many poker players in Hong Kong, our chairman Sparrow Cheung registered HKPPA as a society with a few poker players.
However, due to the lack of members at that time, HKPPA was discontinued. 2 years ago, Sparrow Cheung opened a Facebook group 'HK Poker Hand Discussion Station'.
Players started to recognise the importance of poker information gathering and technical discussion, Sparrow Cheung then gathered with our vice-chairmen Alan Lau and Jason Lo to start up HKPPA again, aiming to provide services for and enhance the competitiveness of poker players in Asia.
Tell us how you got started playing poker?
Similar story as most of the poker players, we started playing poker as a social activity for networking.
Then started winning money and eventually become a professional today.
Modelling the HKKPA Apparel
No HK person has ever final-tabled the WSOP Main event – do you think HKPPA can change that?
Of course we have confidence in the poker players in Hong Kong.
With the help of HKPPA, poker players exchange information and improve their poker skills together.
We expect our members final tabling the WSOP main event is only a matter of time.
What percentage of HKPPA members are men?
Around 80% of our members are men. It's a lower percentage than expected. We've seen a growing number of female poker players in recent years.
As you mention HKPPA is a platform for poker players across Asia as well as HK - what benefits could say an online grinder in Thailand (one of the most popular destinations for them) gain from joining?
They can gain from the discounts in hotels and air tickets in Asia we are bargaining for. They can also gain from the most updated poker information including tournament schedules of major tournaments we provide in planning their poker tour.
In addition, we are offering special package for foreigners travelling to HK for our poker courses.
The HKPPA Youtube Channel
Semi-related topic, how's the live poker in Macau?
During the past 2 years, many Chinese start to know and play poker games. As a result, big casinos in Macau such as Wynn, Venetian and City of Dreams start their poker rooms in order to attract more players.
Wynn mainly runs HKD25/50 to 100/200 NLH games. Sometimes PLO games and bigger games such as 300/600, 500/1000 or higher. Wynn mainly targets for high stake players or players who love variance.
Venetian is run by Pokerking Club. Similar to Wynn, it runs HKD25/50 to HKD100/200 NLH games. Venetian mainly targets for lower stake players who want to lower the variance.
City of Dreams focuses more on tournaments held by PokerStars. It also runs 25/50 and 50/100 NLH during Stars' monthly big MTTs. City of Dreams mainly target for MTT players.
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