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As far as life stories go, they don’t come more colorful than Paul Phua’s, the billionaire businessman with a passion for poker rising through the ranks to become one of the most powerful men in Macau.
Wei Seng "Paul" Phua was born in Borneo, Malaysia back in 1964 and rose from poor beginnings through the construction industry and Kuala Lumpur backstreet gambling houses to running the world’s biggest bookmakers IBCBet.
It’s clear he moves in the highest circles, playing the nosebleed stakes in Macau along with Ivey, Dwan and a host of other big name pros – and Phua holds his own, a hard worker at the game he loves.
He had to work hard, as back in the mid-noughties he was just another rich whale, allegedly blowing millions along with business partner and fellow poker convert Richard Yong. According to English-Chinese bookmaker Tom Hall:
“Paul and Richard were the biggest whales in the world. They were losing $30 million to $100 million every year on baccarat. I said, 'Hey, you guys should try poker. You can play other players, instead of losing to the house'.”
In Brett Forrest’s incredibly detailed ESPN account of Phua’s dealings, he writes:
"They didn't know how to play. In Macau, there was no one to teach them. Phua and Yong gathered a small group of associates for regular games, these experienced gamblers teaching themselves this new game as they went along."
With 2011 and the Black Friday shockwaves which hit the poker world, the biggest pros were looking for new pastures – and Phua with Yong offered them untold riches and adventures in the Far East, not only leading to their own games improving but also offering business opportunities in the poker staking world.
Now, several years on, in tournament play, Paul Phua has over $4.5million in earnings – although every penny is from the Super High Rollers (from as far afield as London and Melbourne to Monte Carlo and Manila) taking down his first-ever tournament cash for £1million ($1,621,297) at London’s Aspers Casino in 2012 in the £100k buy-in event.
Whatever people might think of his business background and connections, his love for poker is evident, and the new Paul Phua Poker website and school is testament to his desire to explain the game at all levels to all players.
Video content interviews with Ivey, Dwan, Colman and others gives an insight into how the best players in the world think, while rules, strategy and general information fills out an increasingly popular hub for those interested in the game.
Phua is and will likely always remain one of the most interesting people ever to have graced the game of poker.
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Big:T;he first part of this article focused on some of the big television names who took some time off from their busy schedules and came down to Las Vegas to enjoy in one of their favorite pastimes
This week we see an Asian businessman introducing us to Malaysia’s newest young talent - Wai Kin Yong.
Winfred Yu may not be a household name in the west, but he wields a lot of influence and plays a mighty game of poker in the nosebleed games.
His relatively new website provides lots of information for poker players to improve their game and Paul Phua continues with that theme by sitting down with Phil Ivey.