Continuing from our last special where we spoke about the Stay and Play options in India for poker, this time we look beyond our shores at the island nation (it consists of 7,107 islands) of the Philippines. In the past few years, the Philippines has been frequented by many Indian players who traveled there to participate in big ticket tournament events hosted by the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) and the Asian Poker Tour (APT). In the past couple of years, Manila has become a much sought after poker destination due to ease of language as most locals speak English well, its vibrant nightlife, economical staying options and of course plenty of poker action.
In addition to the country’s major casinos, there are dozens of dedicated poker halls found throughout Philippines. At last count there were well over 25 card clubs, the highest concentration of which is unsurprisingly, in the capital city of Manila. A short flight from here is the lovely island of Cebu which has also played host to the above mentioned tours. These casinos and poker halls are run by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). PAGCOR is government owned and controlled, and holds a monopoly over most gambling in Philippines. There are many poker clubs inside PAGCOR’s 42 casinos which are called “onsite” locations. Because there are no laws about how many table games a casino can offer many of these poker rooms are quite large. There are also many dozens of standalone poker rooms called “offsite” locations. These are privately owned but are strictly regulated by PAGCOR.
In all PAGCOR owned or licensed poker clubs the game offered is mostly No Limit Hold’em (NLHE). This is available 24/7/365 in cash game format and there is no shortage of scheduled multi-table tournaments. You can also find some other games such as Omaha or on occasion Open faced Chinese Poker. One nice thing about having PAGCOR as the governing body is the rules are the same at each casino. For example the rake is uniform. It is 10% of the pot capped at 300 in P25/P50 games, 400 in P50/P100 games and 500 in P100/P200. It is not possible for the casino to legally charge more rake than this. Of this rake, 50% is tax that goes to the government. In onsite locations 30% goes to the cardroom and 20% to PAGCOR. In offsite locations 37.5% goes to the cardroom and 12.5% to PAGCOR. The difference is because onsite operators benefit from traffic the casino brings.
While the rake might seem high it does keep the game well regulated and also many casinos have a no tip policy. One of the largest with this policy is Resorts World in Manila. Not having to tip does help in offsetting the high price of rake. There are also loyalty promotions at many card rooms. For example Metro Card Club (Ortigas) is open 24/7 and has 30 tables. Several times per year they host PHP 1 million guaranteed freerolls for loyal players. In these it is possible to win cash or luxury prizes such as cars.
For the purpose of this article which is primarily for first timers visiting the Phippines for poker, we’re going to keep it simple with a focus on the places where one catch a game and staying options nearby. These are the afore-mentioned Resorts World Manila, Metro Card Club and the newly opened Solaire Resort and Casino.
Resorts World Manila, Pasay
A stone’s throw away from Terminal 3 of the Nino Aquino International airport, Resorts World Manila (RWM) is located in Pasay and is probably the preferred choice for most casino and poker lovers. It is a massive entertainment complex housing a casino, numerous bars and restaurants, shopping arcades, clubs and even a movie theatre.
The poker room at the RWM started operations in early 2010 and currently has just under 10 tables in the room. Typically 6-7 of these are operational on most days with Php 50-100 being the lowest blind levels on offer. Minimum buy-in starts from Php 5000. Being set up in a luxurious casino, it is not surprising that the RWM poker room’s minimum stakes for play are significantly higher than the Php 10-20 that many poker rooms in the Philippines offer. Most nights, though, the stakes go much higher as there are plenty of high-rollers from Hong Kong, China, Korea, and other countries playing in the poker room, filling up three to five tables late at night until early into the next morning. There are weekly tournaments on offer along with special tournament series like the APT and others which also take place several times a year.
Playing well will win you a lot at the RWM poker room, but playing often also helps, too. Regular players at the poker room can accumulate points through the RWM casino’s loyalty program, which offers perks such as complimentary meals and free parking. Poker-specific promotions, such as bad beat jackpots and free chip bonuses are available and such promotions keep changing through the year.
The RWM Poker Room is located within the Non-smoking section of the 2F Gaming Area.
Resorts World Manila, Newport Boulevard, Newport City, Pasay 1309, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 (2) 908-888831
The good part about playing poker in the RWM is that it is an integrated resort meaning that aside from the casino, clubs, shopping, theatre and restaurants, there are 3 hotel properties within this complex. Two of these are luxury options while the third is more budget-friendly. There are hotels which are also located a short cab ride away so you can be closer to the heart of the city and cab it to the venue if you like but beware on occasion Manila traffic can be an absolute nightmare with 20 minute rides taking up to a couple of hours even.
Luxury – Maxim’s, Marriott
Intermediate – Remington Suites, Heritage Hotel, Midas Hotel, Mabuhay Manor
Economy – Kabayan Hotel Pasay, Sarasota Residential Condos, Copacabana Apartment Hotel
Metro Card Club, Ortigas
Undoubtedly the pioneer of poker in the Philippines, the Metro Card Club (or Metro as the locals call it) is the largest and most dynamic card room in the country. Open 24 hours daily, this 36 table facility is almost always full and caters to all types of bankrolls. Metro offers fast action tables with a wide variety of cash games from lower stakes of PHP10/20 and PHP25/50 to higher stakes of PHP50/100 and PHP100/200-500. Rake is 10% as mandated by PAGCOR with caps ranging from Php 200-500 depending on stakes. Daily tournaments are also available with guaranteed cash prizes ranging from PHP40,000 to PHP200,000. The dealers here are lightning quick and almost always flawless in their job which makes for a smooth running enjoyable game.
However, one of the things that sets Metro apart from all the other card rooms is its continued rewarding of frequent patrons. Several times a year Metro hosts a PHP1 million guaranteed freeroll with hefty cash prizes and cars to the winners. Aside from these specials, the Metro Club has also played host to the Filipino Poker Tour and more recently the Asia Pacific Poker Tour back in July.
The only downside to playing at the Metro is that you cannot or rather should not stay too far away else Manila’s notorious traffic can cause havoc to one’s timings especially if you are in a hurry to make it in time for a tournament. That said, there are plenty of hotels in and around which are a short cab ride or even walk away. The upside to this location is that it is centered within a rather lively arcade where there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants where one can spend time at away from the felt.
As mentioned it is better to stay close to this venue in case you wish to play poker on a regular basis over a period of time. Fortunately there are plenty of options which cater to every budget in this area. There are also a couple malls in the area like the SM Mega Mall where one can buy everything from basics to luxury items.
Luxury – EDSA Shangrila Manila, Marco Polo Ortigas, Oakwood Premier
Intermediate – Crowne Plaza Galleria Hotel, Discovery Suites, Linden Suites, Holiday Inn
Economy – Malayan Plaza, BSA Twin Tower, Goldland Millenia Suites
Solaire, Paranaque City
Solaire Resort & Casino is a resort complex which includes a five-star hotel with 488 rooms; it was the first casino and hotel to be located in the Entertainment City complex along the Bay City area of Parañaque City, Philippines. The poker room started operations in December 2013 and the primary focus of the management is the high roller action. Keeping that in mind the stakes offered in this room mirror those at the RWM with Solaire Poker Room spreading games from 50-100 blinds and up. This is not a ‘room’ per se but more of a large cordoned area off the VIP section.
The Solaire Poker Room has this table together on a daily basis – populated by walk-ins – with a waitlist that consistently stretches so far, it forms a 100-200 table. The 500-1000 table, once regarded as a nosebleed stake very rarely seen in the above-ground Philippine Poker circuit, has a quorum on a nightly basis. The games regularly form – whether it be Holdem, Omaha, or Badugi – and typically evolve into a double-straddled 500-1000-2000-4000 game by the morning. Players can reserve seats here by calling 2 hours in advance and make a phone reservations and there open seat paging for players who are already in the poker room area.
Solaire indeed has the biggest poker game in town, and has imposed upon the local poker industry a game-changing standard that rivals the action in Macau. And the latest news has served to make that a more concrete impression with the Solaire signed a five-year partnership deal with the World Poker Tour to host the country’s first-ever World Poker Tour National series, a 12-day poker festival built around a 13-event schedule.
1 Asean Avenue Entertainment City Tambo, Paranaque City 1701 Philippines
+63 916 656 1111
Located in Paranaque City about 10 kms west of Resorts World, the Solaire is a bit isolated from most high end hotels as players prefer to stay within the Solaire itself. However there are options nonetheless which are a short cab ride away. Considering its proximity to the RWM complex, the hotels mentioned there can also be considered as viable options. Also the 10th biggest mall in the world i.e. SM Mall of Asia also is close by with a whole bunch of options for shopping, restaurants and other entertainment.
Luxury – Solaire Resort and Casino, Dusit Thani, Sofitel Phillipine Plaza
Intermediate – Traders Hotel, Midas Hotel, Heritage Hotel Manila
Economy – DG Grami Hotel, Oyester Plaza, Manila Airport Hotel
PokerStars LIVE Manila,City of Dreams
On 14 December 2014, PokerStars launched a branded, live poker room at City of Dreams Manila, the new integrated casino resort that is poised to become a premier leisure and entertainment destination in the Philippines. PokerStars LIVE Manila follows Macau to become the second PokerStars live poker room operating in Asia. It made its debut on December 14 with a sneak preview and is now officially open and offering a range of tournaments and cash games. The newest poker room in Asia started off with five tournament tables and 10 cash game tables at Php 25/50 and Php 50/100 limits, which is approximately the equivalent to $0.50/$1 and $1/$2 limits.
Located on Level 2 of the casino floor, PokerStars LIVE Manila aside from cash games and its own tournament schedule, which will also be expandable for special events such as the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Manila Poker Festival. Tournaments are now running every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a variety of special events planned for 2015 including the Manila Megastack Series and an Asia-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Season 9 stop from July 31 to Aug. 9, 2015.
City of Dreams, Level 2, Casino, Diosdado Macapagal Blvd, Parañaque, Manila, Philippines
+63 2663 9888
Like Solaire, the City of Dreams is also located in Paranaque City about 10 kms west of Resorts World and is operated by Crown Melco, owners of Crown Casinos. With the emeregence of this areaHowever there are options nonetheless which are a short cab ride away. Considering its proximity to the RWM complex, the hotels mentioned there can also be considered as viable options. Also the 10th biggest mall in the world i.e. SM Mall of Asia also is close by with a whole bunch of options for shopping, restaurants and other entertainment.
Luxury – City of Dreams, Crown Casino and Hotel, Solaire Resort and Casino, Dusit Thani, Sofitel Phillipine Plaza
Intermediate – Traders Hotel, Midas Hotel, Heritage Hotel Manila
Economy – DG Grami Hotel, Oyester Plaza, Manila Airport Hotel
Getting to Manila
Most major airlines from Indian metros fly daily to Manila with a stopover at either HongKong, Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur depending on the airline. Flight tickets start from ~INR 35,000 onwards.
A visa is required to enter the Philippines however those who hold a valid US or UK visa may also enter the country using that.
There is a cab stand right outside Nino Acquino International Airport from where you can catch a cab to your destination. Make sure you take a metered taxi. Airport metered taxis are colored yellow, and have the right to stop and pick up passengers and line up the porte cochere area as you step out of the arrival hall. Each departing taxi is registered by a despatcher. The base fare is Php 70.
A Passenger Terminal Fee (Airport Tax) of Php 550 is payable on departure for all passengers aged 2 years and over travelling with a ticket issued outside of the Philippines.
Read about Stay and Play options in India – HERE
Read about Stay and Play options in Macau – HERE
Image courtesy: Asian Poker Tour, RWM, Solaire, Metro Club, PokerStars LIVE Manila