Poker in Asia

History of Poker in Asia

Gambling has always been a big part of the Asian culture –in certain countries anyway. However, poker as we know it has only recently caught fire across Asia, surprising when you consider China is credited with having created the first playing cards –which seems to make a lot of sense when you consider they invented paper!

That said, many Asian immigrants to the US have gone on to have incredibly successful poker careers including a slew of Vietnamese players as well as players from mainland China and other Asian nations. This is not a new phenomenon either, as players like Men “the Master” Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, Johnny Chan, Chau Giang, David Chiu, Mimi Tran, JJ Liu, and John Juanda are considered amongst the best poker players of all time.

Now that poker has infiltrated the country it’s really unsurprising that poker has caught on so quickly in most Asian countries after the Internet spread the game around the globe; considering countries like Vietnam and China are renowned for their deep gambling culture.

Nowadays, Asia is quickly becoming a prime spot for high-stakes poker, with the games in the Macau casinos renowned for being some of the biggest in the world. It seems that other than Japan, poker has become one of the games of choice in Asian culture. You’ll even find major poker tours making stops on Asian locales, including the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), which hosts one of the hottest stops of any poker tour each year in Macau.

Famous Asian Poker Players

There is no shortage of well-known poker players from Asia—as you can see from above—and for many years poker players were almost exclusively American or Asian.

How successful have Asian immigrants been in poker? This statistic should sum up it quite nicely: Johnny Chan, Men Nguyen, John Juanda, and Scotty Nguyen, have 27 WSOP bracelets between them. Canada has 27 bracelets, the UK has 25 bracelets! Just four Asian players have more WSOP bracelets than any country other than the US!

One country I haven’t spoken about yet is Japan, basically because Japan doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of poker players! They do have one however, long-time pro Yosh Nakano, who is by far the most well-known Japanese poker player –although this is like being the valedictorian of summer school, considering he can’t even crack into the following list.

Here is a look at the top Asian poker players as well as some of their accomplishments:

Johnny Chan Poker Johnny Chan

  • 10-time WSOP bracelet winner
  • 2-time WSOP Main Event winner
  • 1987 and 1988 Main Event champion, PLUS Chan was the runner-up in 1989!
  • Over $8.5 million in career tournament earnings
  • Long-time high-stakes cash-game player
  • Became a folk hero in the poker world after cameo in Rounders
  • Poker Hall of Fame member


Scotty Nguyen Poker Scotty Nguyen

  • 5-time WSOP bracelet winner
  • WSOP Main Event Champion in 1998
  • 2008 $50k HORSE Champion
  • Nick-name the Prince of Poker
  • One of the best-known poker players in the world


John Juanda Poker John Juanda

  • $11.8 million n career tournament earnings
  • Member of Team Full Tilt Poker Pro
  • 2008 WSOP Europe Main Event winner
  • 2006 Aussie Millions Champion
  • Five-time WSOP bracelet winner


Men The Master Nguyen Men Nguyen

  • Most prolific tournament player of all-time
  • Seven-time WSOP bracelet winner
  • Over 70 cashes at the WSOP tourneys over the years
  • One of the biggest backers in poker history


Men The Master Nguyen Chau Giang

  • One of the best high-stakes cash game pros in poker history
  • Three-time WSOP bracelet winner
  • High stakes cash player that is aregular in “The Big Game” in Las Vegas
  • Over $3.7 million in career tournament earnings


Online Poker in Asia

Online poker is just starting to take hold in Asia, but as the Internet connects the world in every possible way, even China has jumped on the online poker bandwagon. With a player pool of billions of players you’re unlikely to find a game without players from Asia in the coming years –an unheard of thought considering just a few years ago you were as likely to encounter an online poker player from Asia as from Antarctica.

Most Asian poker players have flocked to the big boys in online poker, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Party Poker. As the three largest, and most well-established rooms these sites have, to this point, monopolized the online poker market in Asia. Although sites like PKR Poker and Lock Poker have been making major pushes into the Asian market in the past year.

Here is a look at the Top 3 online poker sites in Asia:

pokerstars PokerStars

  • Over 50,000 players online at any given time
  • Team PokerStars Asia: Bryan Huang, Celina Lin, and Raymond Wu
  • Considered the most reputable online poker site in the world

party poker Party Poker

  • Over 10,000 players online at any given time
  • 2nd largest online poker room behind PokerStars
  • Awesome promotions every month adds extra value

pkr poker PKR Poker – NOW CLOSED

  • Up and coming independent online poker site
  • Only site using realistic 3-D graphics
  • Sponsors numerous poker tournaments in Asia including the APT tournament in Macau


Where to play poker in Asia

Finding a casino in China and Vietnam doesn’t take much work –in fact you’d probably have a harder time AVOIDING a gaming establishment in major cities than finding one! The big spot for Asian gambling is now located in Macau, where mega-casinos have been popping up over the past decade, with Macau now playing host to bigger poker games than Vegas, Paris, or London!

In Asian casinos you want to make sure you are following the rules, whether its guidelines on how you place your bets, bringing the proper identification, and even wearing the proper attire.

Poker laws in Asia

Poker laws for both brick & mortar casinos, home games, and online poker vary depending on what country you are in, but typically you’ll find poker laws fairly lax in China and Vietnam, and a little stricter in Japan.

If you find yourself hosting a home game you’ll want to make sure you are on the right side of the law, and the first step in accomplishing this is to make sure the house is not making money or gaining an edge in the game.

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