Mainland China is not exactly a hotbed of legal casino gambling. But that didn’t stop it from hosting one of the largest poker tournaments in history, the Beijing Millions.
The first-ever Pokerstars Asia-Pacific Poker Tour Beijing Millions poker tournament was the largest tournament ever held outside of the US. 2,732 people entered, beating the previous non-US record of 2,570 in 2013 in the Grosvenor United Kingdom Poker Tour.
The tournament was treated as a coming out part of Chinese poker rooms. While all forms of gambling are prohibited there, the authorities are eager to bring in foreign investment whenever possible. Some see it as a potentially large market for poker.
APPT President Danny McDonagh was ecstatic about the success of the tournament, seeing it as a watershed moment for the APPT: “This result greatly exceeded our wildest expectations. It’s been a historical week. Not just for the record itself but how it may change the future for poker in China.”
High-stakes poker in the land of gambling prohibition
The 10-day poker extravaganza was organized by the Beijing Sports Competitions Administration Center, a local branch of government. Which is ironic, because Chinese gambling laws ban all forms of gambling and betting, including poker.
How could the authorities reconcile that with a blanket ban on gambling? The tournament was held in a closed environment, and while cash poker games and tournaments are banned in China, it is still legal to play in no-real-money games.