When one hears the names Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher, they're almost as common as water and ice. The two names are so synonymous with poker one expects them to be in attendance at any major poker event. Linda and Jan are currently trying to free up their busy schedules to allow traveling and actual poker-playing time. They just returned from a promotional trip to Singapore, and I recently sat down with the duo to hear about their latest trip as poker ambassadors.
Linda began, "We were invited to Singapore by Vince Lau, who used to be based here in the U.S. and was associated with the Bicycle Club and the Regency Casino. He's now in Singapore trying to educate the people and the government about the differences between poker the card game, and gambling games in casinos. Jan and I went over first, last November, to act as consultants to help Vince in his poker project. When Vince once again asked us to return and participate as the main speakers at a informational poker forum, we were delighted to return to Singapore and have the opportunity to speak about poker. Vince is presently the first and only operator of a poker room, Singapore American Poker Club, which the government closely scrutinized and approved after a long six-month process. The only licenses that will be granted in Singapore will belong to the two casinos now being built, one by Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the other by Genting International. These are slated to open in early 2010."
A look at the process one must go through to obtain a governmental "exemption" to open a card room reveals a very thorough and intense investigation into one's past. If you think you'll apply and receive an approval or rejection in three to six weeks, think again. This process can take up to six months. Anyone wishing to host a poker event must go through this same process, so plan ahead. If you are fortunate enough to be able to host a poker forum, you are restricted to no advertising in the public mainstream and you cannot promote the game to anyone other than members of your own club or forum.
Linda and Jan spoke at the Asian Poker Forum, a media event, to answer questions about poker and the professional aspects of players and the industry at large.
Linda and Jan at the Asian Poker Forum
Linda said, "Vince was concerned that poker should be offered in these two new casinos, so he asked us to speak honestly about the game to help educate the media, public and government officials who were there in attendance. We spoke of how poker can enhance your life and was a game of skill rather than luck, and it was well received by the attendees. As a result we've been invited back to speak again at future poker forums."
Jan added, "The Singapore government will be thumbheavy on any decisions made concerning the new casinos. One aspect still to be determined is if locals will be permitted to play in these casinos. It was first determined that only the tourists would be allowed to enter casinos, via their passports, and it would be the mainstream visitors bringing in much-needed tourist dollars. Without question, this industry will be bringing 10,000 jobs to Singapore of which 7,500 have been designated for Singaporeans, but whether or not locals will be patrons or not is still to be determined. Training is an ongoing project as well. Dealer schools must be set up and staffed; equipment, time and money also must be put into place for startup so that the card rooms will be ready for opening."
The media at the event was overwhelming. Knowing absolutely nothing about poker except what they have seen on television, the Asian media was very curious about the professional lifestyle of poker players.
Linda said, "We did many interviews with the media and were on the local news stations and in the newspapers. There is such a curiosity of poker so we were very excited to talk about it. We tried to keep our information centered on a single aspect of poker being a part of your life and not your whole life. One of the concerns of the Singapore government is that their citizens become or remain well-rounded citizens and not be consumed by gambling as a result of the coming industry. So we kept our interviews very basic, fun and informational about poker."
Jan added, "Many of the curious media questions were, 'How much can you make playing poker? And how much is the most you've ever won at once?' The results in asking these questions and printing our answers turned out to be a problem. The media being less knowledgeable of poker and poker terms lost the correct answers to their questions when they were translated to print. There is that (language) barrier to overcome, but once the country and its people are educated about poker the ease of understanding poker will come."
I asked Linda and Jan if the media had any questions concerning women poker players since, obviously, they are successful professional players.
Jan answered, laughing, "They really only wanted to know if women were easily bluffed. But also they were surprised to see women there at the event to speak about poker."
Linda added, "They also wanted to know if we thought Asians had the ability to become great poker players, knowing that several in the United States are already very successful and have become professional players. Of course, we confirmed what they probably already knew, that several Vietnamese players and other Asians have done very well in poker."
Overall, the trip seems to have been a very successful educational trip for Linda and Jan, two globetrotting poker ambassadors who share a passion and love for the game. We applaud them for their efforts to take poker to all corners of the world, educating players, governments and developers along the way on what a small deck of cards can do.