As I start this post, there are 54 players remaining in the Day 1b field from the starting 76. As I glanced out at their faces, a healthy mix of mainly Caucasians and Asians, I thought about how far the APPT has come since Seasons 1 and 2.
In those halcyon days of the APPT's infancy in 2007 and 2008, Americans and Australians were the backbone of the tour. Poker culture and poker fever hadn't yet taken hold in Macau or anywhere else in Asia. Even the Philippines, site of our current event and a country where gambling has roots as strong as anywhere in Asia, didn't come into its poker own until 2009.
Things look different in 2012. People who hail from Asian countries make up 60% of today's starting field. Throw in players who aren't from Asia but who have Asian heritage and that percentage jumps to close to 80%. Word is starting to get out that poker is an engaging game and that for those who work at it, there is good money to be made.
And perhaps best of all, the Asian players haven't adopted the curious tradition of playing poker wearing sunglasses. I made a sweep of the room, counting hats, hoodies and sunglasses. Of our 54 survivors to this point, 11 are wearing hats; 11 are wearing hoodies (9 of them with the hood down); but only 2 have sunglasses on their faces.
What's most interesting about the lack of sunglasses (perhaps) is that we're in a country where people could be excused for wearing them more than they would be in other places. The sun is strong and bright here in Cebu, with daytime high temperatures touching 32C (90F) most days. Assuming they show up on time (and most do), players don't rock into the tournament area until just after noon. Nobody would fault them if they wore sunglasses to the casino and then played the tournament wearing them.
But one thing I've learned in all my poker travels - five different continents and fifteen different countries - is that although the game is the same everywhere you go, it's played a little differently in each region. I guess it's not surprising that players would adapt their approach to the game based on their culture, rather than adapt their culture to the game.
Here in the Philippines, a country known the world over for the friendliness of its people, the approach is a friendly one. No hunkering down in your seat, no hiding your face under a deep hood and behind dark sunglasses.
And if you want a little roast pig to go with your aces, we can make that happen for you. Because that's poker in the Philippines in 2012.