Vietnam’s Future as a Live Poker Destination in Doubt

16 May 2024
Jonathan Raab 16 May 2024
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  • Future of Live Poker in Vietnam in Doubt as WPT event cancelled
  • Third live poker event in Vietnam cancelled within 6 months
  • Crowne Poker Club Hanoi invents player tax on winnings

Poker Events Cancelled in Vietnam
Future of Live Poker in Vietnam Under Threat
WPT is the third event in Vietnam to be cancelled within 6 months, putting the country's future as a poker destination in doubt

Poker is a popular pastime in Vietnam and the country has hosted many poker events over the years, however the future of live poker in Vietnam is now in question. The Crown Poker Club in Hanoi announced that the upcoming WPT Passport to the World Championship event due to take place in May 2024 has been cancelled. The festival was due to include a WPT Prime Championship, as well as awarding ten packages to the WPT World Championship at Wynn, Las Vegas, in December. The club cited technical reasons as the explanation, but gave little further detail regarding what that meant. Players who have pre-booked their seats into events will be refunded.

Poker Event Cancellations

Live poker has flourished in Vietnam for the last decade, with the World Poker Tour and the Asian Poker Tour making frequent stops in the southeast Asian country. However the continued presence of live poker in Vietnam took a severe hit in December 2023, when the APTs Hanoi Billions main event was cancelled by the authorities while it was still in progress. Information about the reason for the cancellation was not free-flowing but there have been suggestions that it was due to the event not fully complying with local gambling laws. In April 2024 another event that was planned to take place, the Top Joy Poker Tour, was cancelled, seemingly for the same sort of reason.

Uncertain Future for Live Poker in Vietnam

Now that the WPT has also faced the same fate, the future of further international events seems in doubt. While operators of local events are likely to continue to risk further shutdowns and continue to run events, it seems unlikely that the WPT or the APT will want to dip their toes into Vietnamese poker waters for quite some time. International players will now be unwilling to risk planning trips to Vietnam, given the high chance of last minute (or even mid-event) cancellation. 

Consumer confidence also took a hit due to the Crowne Poker Club’s 10% tax on player winnings, which was charged at some of the events at the club. It later transpired that there is no such tax on player winnings in Vietnam and that this was simply a cash grab by the venue to use it to pay costs and bolster their profits. Despite the club announcing in April 2024 that they will no longer apply this player tax, it is probably too little, too late, to save the club's reputation. A venue that has invented a fake tax to profit from its customers should not be trusted to run further major international events. If the WPT or the APT decide to return to Vietnam in future, they will need a new, more trustworthy venue to restore player confidence or they will run the risk of further damage to their brands.

History of Live Poker in Vietnam

It all began in 2014 when the World Poker Tour held the high stakes WPT Dragon Series event at the Crowne Plaza in Da Nang, but that was a relatively small affair, with only ten entrants. Over the next few years a number of small scale events took place in Vietnam but in 2018 the Asian Poker League held the first big field poker tournament ever staged in the country, with 864 players in the main event, which had a buy-in of ₫ 10,000,000 + 1,000,000 (equivalent to just over $400 at the time).

Soon afterwards, the WPT held its first large-scale event in Vietnam at the Pro Poker Club in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), attracting 679 players for its ₫ 22,000,000 main event.  For the next three years this venue became the main focus for poker events in Vietnam with both the WPT and the Asian Poker League holding several events at the club between 2018 and 2020. The Asian Poker Tour also held its first event in the country here in January 2020, however the club did not reopen after COVID lockdown and from then on, poker events in Vietnam moved to new venues in Hanoi.

Since 2020, several poker tours and events have taken place in Vietnam. The WPT and APT both resumed events in Vietnam in 2022 and several other operators also hosted events in the country, including the Vietnamese Series of Poker, the Triton Poker Series, Poker Dream and the Vietnam Poker League. 

Vietnamese Poker Winners

Vietnamese poker players and players of Vietnamese descent have made a significant impact on the world of poker, wither several tasting success at the upper echelons of the game of poker. Scotty Nguyen and Qui Nguyen are former WSOP Main Event Champions and there are many other poker players from Vietnam or of Vietnamese origin, who have made big waves in the game. These include David Pham, Liz Liu, Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen, Mimi Tran and Vinny Vinh.

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