The Dirty Ice Cream Cup (DICC) is returning to Metro Card Club on March 15-20, 2012 and what better way to get the lowdown on it than to go to the man behind the tournament, Neil Arce. Every year, Arce holds the DICC to help celebrate his birthday and the tournament has been constantly growing with bigger fields and prize pool guarantees with every running.
Arce has an impressive poker resume behind him. He shot to fame in 2009 when he took out the APT Philippines title for USD $185,000 and later grabbed a PokerStars sponsorship. He has since backed it up with some big cashes in Asian High Roller events including a 4th place at APPT Macau 2009 for USD $84,223 and a 2nd place in the 2011 Macau Poker Cup one for USD $50,868.
But Arce isn’t just a poker player, he also has business interests including piece of the action at the venue for the DICC – Metro Card Club – the biggest poker room in the Philippines. Towards the end of last year, there was a rumour floating around that Arce had sold off his share in Metro and other changes were afoot at the club.
We’ll let Arce tell you whether any of it was true…
The DICC basically started when poker wasn’t too big here in the Philippines around six years ago. It was in my house actually. I just invited people for a poker tournament for my birthday. This was when there was no poker at all in the country except for home games. So we did a tournament at my house with no rake and a group of 50 people and that’s how it started. Then once we started at Metro we just had a small tournament and then every year it increased and we started putting in guarantees. It went up to PHP 3 million and now PHP 5 million. It has become a really big event in the country now.
Yeah I have noticed that the prize pool guarantees have been going up each year. Is that going to continue?
Hopefully. It always depends on the market though.
The buy-in this time is also bigger, PHP 10k instead of PHP 5k, what’s the reason behind this change and what effect do you think that will have?
We have moved the guarantee from three to five million so we wanted the competition to be a bit heavier, have people to play more seriously and work for it. Even though we have doubled the buy-in we are giving more free seats everywhere. We’re giving out seats on TV, Twitter, the internet and on radio shows. So there are a lot of ways to win seats.
And we are giving out a lot of seats on satellites. It’s double the amount of seats we gave last time. We are spending more on this tournament than we did last time. I don’t even think more than a hundred people will buy-in as walk-ins because of the amount of satellite tournaments and free seats we are giving out everywhere.
Yeah you guys have been giving away a lot seats in your daily tournaments, but we have seen some players post on forums their concerns that the prize pools were being taken away too much by the seats. Would you like to comment on that?
You know, whatever anyone does, whether it’s good or bad, there are going to be some players complaining. And I understand that. That’s why instead of lessening the seats we do more guarantees. Did you see that? We’re giving out more money now. I understand the player complaints but we are spending more money than last time.
I’ve recently heard a rumour that Metro Card Club has undergone a few changes recently and that you had actually sold your share in the club. Is that right?
No, that’s not true at all. Those are just rumours. It’s funny, I took a two-month vacation. I played poker from January to October six times a week and half of November and I just felt a bit burnt out. At the time, I think I needed a break and that I wasn’t playing well so I took seven trips out of Manila. Basically I was on vacation for two months and the rumours started spreading. It was really funny.
Along with those rumours we also heard that Wally Sombero was going to take over things at Metro…
We take advice from Wally all the time. He is one of my mentors and we gave Wally a room in the Metro. But everything is still the same, nobody else is taking over. We have always asked Wally for advice – he knows a lot of stuff – but as far as paperwork and decisions being made it is still the same.
Has Empire Poker Club’s closing impacted positively on you guys? Because you were in strong competition with them for a while there, weren’t you?
You can quote me on this – it was never a ‘strong competition’. It’s still the same. They never really hit us, actually. They tried but never did.
April is going to be a huge month for tournament poker in the Philippines with APT Philippines and APPT Cebu, are you looking forward to them?
APPT I will go for sure but APT we’ll see. I have a lot of different businesses besides poker.
Can you tell me a bit more about those?
Let’s just focus on poker.
Okay, well you’re also in Macau a lot playing poker – what’s your take on the PokerStars Macau situation with them having to move out of Casino Grand Lisboa?
PokerStars will be PokerStars. They are the biggest and they will be the biggest for a long time. I don’t think it’s going to hurt them. Wherever they transfer, people are going to follow so it’s more of a loss for Grand Lisboa rather than PokerStars.
Do you ever stay in Macau for longer and sit down on big cash games there?
You know what, I play cash games in the Philippines almost every day so when I’m in Macau I play the tournament and then I relax. It’s a sort of a vacation for me. I would rather just stay away from the cash games and enjoy my vacation.
Who would you rate as some of the top players in the Philippines?
You know, the competition in the Philippines is very tight now. There are a lot of good players. But, you know, I have no names in mind. Honestly, literally a lot of the players are on par and basically it’s down to focus and the will to win during that tournament. For me, heart is very important. Luck is there but heart during that tournament makes a difference.
Are you expecting any big players in the DICC?
If international players play I will be very happy but more than anything else I just want everybody to have fun. We started this business to have fun and the Metro is all about fun. Most poker rooms in this country are in it to try to make money but we are here because we want everybody to have fun. We are still having fun and that will keep us going.
During the DICC if only two players play and they will have fun, then I’d rather that than 1000 players play and just complain about the tournament. Plus it’s my birthday and we are all supposed to have fun!
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