Amaya Tapping Growing Asian Poker Market

March 18th, 2015 | by Brian Corlisse
PokerStars Asia

PokerStars entree into the Asian market is now entering a more aggressive phase. (Image: PokerStars)

Amaya Inc., owner of Rational Group subsidiaries PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, has announced a series of initiatives to grow the game in Asia.

While the company’s US fate is still uncertain, the world’s largest online poker network is looking to expand its reach into Asia, most specifically China and Japan.

Following the success of PokerStars’ 9th Anniversary Sunday Million tournament that attracted more than 50,000 players, the biggest player pool since 2011, Amaya has good reason to believe that now is the time to increase its presence worldwide.

The final table of the online event consisted of nine players from nine different countries, continued proof of the game’s global popularity. With Asia-Pacific nations hinting at relaxing their currently strict gambling laws, the decision to target these countries seems to be a smart decision on the part of PokerStars.

Nanjing Millions

PokerStars China tournaments

Tournaments in mainland China continue to increase in popularity. (Image: Corbis)

Earth’s most populated country paired with poker’s most populated network: it’s not too good to be true any longer, as PokerStars heads back to the People’s Republic of China for the Nanjing Millions in mid-April. The six-day Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) event will be held at the Wutaishan Sports Centre with a CNÂ¥1 million ($160,558) guaranteed main event.

The tournament will be sanctioned by the Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association and held in conjunction with Beijing’s Star Poker Club. The Olympic venue is a 62,000-seat stadium, meaning there will be ample room for the huge turnout organizers are expecting.

In a press release Eric Hollreiser, head of corporate communications for PokerStars, says the venue “…will give the growing number of Chinese poker players a fantastic opportunity to test their skills.”

Players can obtain entries to the ¥3,000 ($482) main event through a $55 Mega Satellite on March 22nd.

Global Sponsorships

PokerStars also revealed this week its signing of Japanese model and celebrity Yuiko Matsukawa.

The 24-year-old brand ambassador is widely known for her risqué social media photos, but she has also recently taken a liking to the game of poker, competing in the Macau Poker Cup in January, a stop on the APPT. Her signing further signals PokerStars’ efforts to support the growth of poker in Asian countries.

Japan’s first-ever World Series of Poker bracelet winner Naoya Kihara became a Team Asia pro following his 2012 $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Six-Handed title.

The network’s panel of celebrities and pros has become an international affair as of late. Currently, Team SportStars includes the likes of Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, Swedish skier Marcus Hellner, and Holland field hockey Olympic gold medalist Fatima Moreira de Melo.

As far as the pros go, Team PokerStars is the Nike of the felt. From poker’s all-time money leader Daniel Negreanu to Chris Moneymaker to Jason Somerville, PokerStars has the biggest marquee names in the business.

Banned But Permitted?

Although gambling is illegal in China except in special administrative regions like Macau, the country has one of the largest online betting markets in the world.

Permitting the APPT and PokerStars to hold such an event shows that China might soon loosen its current gambling laws. The same goes for Japan. While gambling is generally considered a criminal activity in the Asian country, PokerStars’ move to bring Matsukawa on board shows it’s hoping the government can develop gambling laws that satisfy both citizens and legislators.


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