Poker travel guide for Taipei, Taiwan
- Worth going to Taipei for poker
- About Taipei, Taiwan
- Visas for Taiwan
- How to get to Taipei
- Airport to downtown Taipei
- Where to stay
- Get around: Walk, Taxi, Uber and MRT subway
- Stay near the poker room or not?
- Cash or tournaments in Taipei?
- Poker cash games in Taipei
- Poker tournaments in Taipei
- Taxation on poker earnings in Taiwan
- Poker rooms in Taipei City
- Currency and banking
- Awesome things to do on your day off
- Food and drink
- Eating at night
- Nightlife and things to do
- Foreigner friendly
- Adult entertainment
- Smoking cigarettes
- Nearby countries
Worth going to Taipei for poker
Easy yes for live tournament players. Easy no for cash game only players.
About Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is the modern capital city of the island of Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China. Most of the world recognize Taiwan as a province of China, however Taiwan operates as an independent country with its own laws, government, education and military. Taipei is a cosmopolitan city but Chinese culture prevails. Taipei is politically split into Taipei and New Taipei City, but basically one big city.
Visas for Taiwan
Your visa requirement will depend on the country of your passport. Many countries are visa free for 90 days. Check out this page on Wikipedia. At the time of writing, these countries are visa free: Australia, European Union, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, the USA.
How to get to Taipei
You fly to Taipei from all major airports in the world. The international airport is called Taoyuan, pronounce Ta-ow-yu-en. It’s a town to the west of Taipei. From Taoyuan, you come into Taipei by taxi, high-speed rail or metrorail. Also there are various bus services. The metrorail (MRT) is the most convenient and not expensive.
Airport to downtown Taipei
Getting from the airport to downtown Taipei is very easy and possible 24hrs.
Option 1: Take a metered taxi. Taxis are clean and safe. Typically the fare is about NTD1500 or less, and sometimes its a set fare. Rarely would a taxi rip you off in Taiwan. Have the address ready to show the driver in Chinese writing or English writing. They work well with written addresses.
Option 2: Take the MRT, which is a newly built train line that goes to the Taipei Main Station. The ride takes about 30-60 minutes. There is signage in the airport directing you to the station. On walking to the station, there is a stand for buying tickets (actually a plastic coin – just like a poker chip!) quickly and easily using credit card. The same stand also sells packages for prepaid cards for the Taipei Metro, the subway that gets you around Taipei, or you could buy that later. The MRT is cheap and fast. From the main station, you can try to navigate the local MRT to get to your hotel, or you could hop in a taxi, which will cost under US$10.
Option 3: From the airport, take one of many large buses to Taipei Main Station. They leave every 15 min or so and are cheap. Get off at Taipei Main Station though, not at an earlier stop. From the main station, you can try to navigate the local MRT to get to your hotel, or you could hop in a taxi, which will cost under US$10.
Option 4: Uber (no grab as of 2019). Uber is very handy to avoid needing to speak Chinese with taxi drivers.
Where to stay
There are hundreds of hotels in Taipei. Use Agoda or booking.com to find one you like. Don’t worry too much about being close to the poker room because the Taxi service is cheap and convenient. I find the hotel rooms very small. Airbnb has plenty of rooms that offer better value.
Get around: Walk, Taxi, Uber and MRT subway
Taipei is a pleasant walking city: flat, footpaths, traffic lights. The taxi service is excellent but best you have the address written in Chinese. Some drivers speak English, but not well. Alternatively, use Uber which is usually the same price as a taxi and sometimes cheaper.
Also, there is the MRT, a subway system that is very advanced cheap and reliable. Use a prepaid top-up card or cash for tickets.
Airbnb is very common in Taipei now and most hosts do an excellent job. Many hosts are foreigners or locals who have an interest in travel themselves. If their Airbnb posting is in English they will have enough English to help you out. The apartments do range in quality because the average Taipei apartment is convenient but furnished below Western standards. Typically the rooms are smaller, tiled floors, small kitchenettes, weak showers and hard beds. Some apartments are better fitted out for Western likings though. I much prefer airbnb over hotel rooms because hotel rooms in Taipei are really small.
Stay near the poker room or not?
You can easily find a room within walking distance of the poker rooms. However, if you find something you like a bit further away, know that taxis are everywhere, cheap and efficient. A 5-10 minute taxi ride will cost you a few dollars only, so don’t feel compelled to stay right near the poker room.
Cash or tournaments in Taipei?
Tournament poker is taking off in Taipei as of 2019 and is legal so you run no risk at the poker rooms. My understanding is that some rooms offer disguised cash games using point systems. There are no legal cash games in Taiwan although I’ve heard of many underground cash games, probably connected with the underworld.
Poker cash games in Taipei
Cash games are illegal in Taiwan and I don’t know of any promoted games. I guess there are many underground games, but be aware that Taipei is a well-policed city.
Poker tournaments in Taipei
There are 3 kinds of tournaments you can play:
Daily poker tournaments in Taipei: Daily tournaments are low buy-in, fast structured events, with buy-ins of TWD1000 to TWD4000 (US$30 to US$100 more or less).
Local poker tournaments series in Taipei: The poker rooms in Taipei will have tournament series from time to time which offer buy-ins to suit the local players, say up to TWD10000. Mostly these are advertising on Facebook pages, and nearly only in Chinese.
Regional poker tours in Taipei: Taipei has become a hotspot for regional and global poker tours including Asian Poker Tour, World Poker Tour, Asia Poker League and others.
So, travel to Taipei during one of the larger tours and then check out what daily and local series are running to fill in some of your downtime.
Taxation on poker earnings in Taiwan
For tournaments no tax is removed by the room from your winnings when you cash out after a tournament ITM.
Poker rooms in Taipei City
This map shows the main poker rooms in Taipei.
CTP Chinese Texas Poker Association
CTP is the room that is booming for regional poker tournaments, including Asian Poker Tour, HKPPA, CTP Championships, Poker King Cup, World Poker Tour, Pokerstars etc.
I love playing at CTP for so many reasons. The place a large dedicated basement poker room although I hear rooms of moving to a larger location in 2020. All they do is poker tournaments, every day. You’ll find it easily just across the road from the Taipei Arena. By the way, the Association has about 9 other branches around the country.
Address: B1F., No.32, Sec. 3, Bade Rd., Songshan Dist., Taipei City 105
For taxi: Ctpclub華人德州撲克競技: 松山區八德路三段32號B1, Taipei, Taiwan 105
Contact Number: 02-2577-0051
(This information is current as of December 2019 and likely to change in 2020.)
CTP holds most of the major touring poker tournaments. Personally I’ve enjoyed playing the APT a few times and Poker King Cup. Every series is a success with guarantees met and terrific player turnout. The field is a mix of locals, expats and travelling players such as myself. The atmosphere is enthusiastic, competitive and generally fun.
They run daily tournaments, NLH and Omaha) at buy-ins under US$100. They have their own series called Taiwan Millions Tournament TMT; larger series called CTP Championships a couple of times per year and then host the regional and international circuit tours regularly. One touch that I haven’t seen elsewhere is during the APT, they continue to run their dailies at night, so you can jump into a small tourney to have fun and wind down.
The dealers are fast, hardworking and improving month on month with experience. Most of the staff speak enough English to make you comfortable however most arrangements are in Chinese and banter is usually Chinese. When a foreigner is at the table, the dealers usually announce in English too and definitely will if you ask. The room staff are excellent; registration is fast (bring Taiwan dollars cash) and the room well maintained and well lit. They allow any food to be brought inside for eating and drinking while you play.
Neighbouring the room are convenient stores with all kinds of food and drinks, hot and cold and a couple of terrific cafes. There are hundreds of restaurants in the area too.
Within walking distance is the Ace 8 poker room. Aside from daily tournaments, events for members include: Super Seasonal Tournament, Monthly Tournament, Mega Stack Series, Classic Series, and Poker King Series. They have up to 15 tables.
ACE8 offers online poker tournaments and joint hosting online events with other brands: online MTT, Live Game and Satellite Ticket In addition, Newcomers’ Games, SNG Tournaments and High Stakes Tournaments are held regularly.
APPA Asia Pacific Poker Association
APPA are a supporter of growing tournament poker in Taiwan. They seem less English-friendly than other places. I think they run mostly low buy-in tournaments.
Poker King runs small nightly poker tournaments and the occasional medium staked tournament.
Address: 大同區延平北路三段三號2樓 Taipei, Taiwan 103
Currency and banking
Taiwan uses the New Taiwan Dollar, which is NTD. TWD is the Taiwan Dollar and means and is the same thing. There is no connection to the Chinese Yuan, also called the Renminbi.
There are ATMs everywhere that accept cards from all over the world and work reliably. I’ve been able to withdraw around US$1000 each transaction with no problem. Money exchange is readily available at banks.
Taiwan has the same electrical standard as the US and Canada: 110V, 60Hz AC. Electrical sockets have two vertical slots. If you bring appliances from Europe, Australia or Southeast Asia, you’ll need an adaptor or transformer.
Taipei is one of the safest cities in the world in my opinion. Probably the most dangerous thing in Taipei is you! There are no scams, no hustlers, no shortchanging, no random violence. Drugged or intoxicated people are hard to find. Even pet dogs seemed better behaved than in my country. On the roads, drivers follow the rules and there are signalled crossings everywhere. Just watch out for fast moving vehicles and cross at marked intersections only.
Taiwan has excellent internet: fast, reliable and cheap. For mobile internet, pick up a prepaid tourist SIM at the airport. The main provider is ChungHwa Telecom. Most coffee shops, hotels and apartments have free wifi too.
Awesome things to do on your day off
Coffee Shops – Taipei is full of themed and classy coffee shops, great for reading or surfing the web.
Cinemas – high quality cinema with most movies in their original language: English, Japanese etc.
Bathhouse – near the poker rooms is a 24 hour bathhouse with jacuzzi, steam rooms and massage.
Hot Springs – the mountains around Taipei are blessed with natural hot springs. Nothing melts away bad beat tilt like a bubbling steaming outdoor bath. Beitou is on the MRT line and easy to get to with a public outdoor bath and many hotel baths. Wulai is a bus or taxi ride into the mountains; an aboriginal village and favourite getaway for locals too. Definitely worth a day trip or overnight.
Yangminshan – the mountains north of Taipei with walks, hot springs, hotels, restaurants, views and fresh air.
Zoo – not enough monkeys at poker, go see more at the zoo.
Maokong – take the MRT to the zoo, then there is an amazing Gondola over the mountains landing you at Maokong, a mountain top village famous for tea growing and tea-based cuisine. Great views and atmosphere.
Taipei 101 – go up the tallest building and look around.
Jazz – Several jazz joints. Bluenote is real classy for a show and dinner
Night Markets – more of a girl thing, but Taipei is littered with nightmarkets for oily foods and trashy widgets.
Food and drink
Taipei has become a food lovers mecca. Every street downtown is lined with restaurants and eateries. You’ll find all kinds of Taiwan food, Chinese food, American fast food, Japanese food and other international cuisine. Prices range from NT50 for some snack foods up to Western prices but generally meals are good value. All kinds of beverages are available and milk tea and bubble tea are local specialities.
If you are after a quality steak meal, try God Beef, a chain restaurant of imported beef; it will satisfy. For a Japanese curry, in the lane just behind CTP poker room is Hey Curry.
Here’s a guide to get you going: https://www.eater.com/maps/best-taipei-restaurants
Eating at night
After around 10pm, most restaurants are shut for the night, especially near the poker rooms. Convenience stores are open and offer all kinds of snacks and meals, but if you are after a sit-down meal, hope in a taxi and try these:
Coffee (and tea) are very popular and the entire city is resplendent with coffee shops from major chains like Starbucks, Ikari, and Mr Brown to speciality boutique coffee shops. Right next door to CTP Poker room is my favourite Ueshima coffee shop which serves up good brew, freshly made sandwiches and toasties and a quiet jazzy working atmosphere.
Mandarin is spoken by most people on the island. That’s the standard variation of Chinese. Taiwanese is a dialect of Chinese that the large majority of people also speak. Many people, especially those in business and academia speak English and certainly can read and write it. There are other dialects of Chinese too spoken by various ethnic groups. People in the service industry, in shops and restaurants may or may not speak some English depending on how touristy the place is. Try writing in English to help get your message across.
Taipei has four seasons, so you’ll need different clothes depending on the season. Bring jackets and pants for December through to March.
No true poker player can do without massage. Good news: Taiwan has excellent and affordable massage all over the city. Just walk around town and look for the two feet sign, or Google maps massage. Prices start at around NT800 per hour, with classier places at about NT1600 per hour. Basically there are 3 types: foot massage, dry body massage and oil body massage. Minor warning however, they take their massage seriously and will work hard on your body with a no pain no gain attitude.
Nightlife and things to do
Nightlife is well blogged:
Taipei is refreshingly open to tourists from all countries and backgrounds. Service staff are usually courteous and patient with tourists and will often go out of their way to help you as best they can. Oftentimes, if you are struggling with communicating or paying for example, a local will voluntarily lend a hand.
Taipei can meet your off-the-felt needs. Mostly there are drinking bars and karaoke places with hostesses, but they are not cheap. On the seedy side of things is Taipei’s red light district on Linsen North Road in Zhongshan District. Many hotels, massage parlors, KTV bars, and piano bars in the area are festooned with signs.
This site may be useful.
Taipei has a thriving gay scene. I don’t know about a gay poker player niche however. Try this guide: https://www.gaytaipei4u.com/guide/
I would consider Taiwanese girls curious yet conservative. Many are interested in foreign men, especially white men, but would be too shy to approach or date. The average Taiwan girl is looking for a serious boyfriend with a traditional courting path: meet, friends, date, go serious, engage, marry, family kind of thing. There are some girls who want a different adventure. Consider two categories, young curious girls and open-minded career women. Young curious girls are on dating sites mostly, and the open-minded career women are on dating sites and in various bars and clubs. One challenge as a poker player however, people in Taipei generally are busy working, studying and caring for family, so there spare time for dating is low priority and scarce. For dating, try Tinder, OKcupid, dateinasia.
Alcohol and tobacco are legal and plentiful but other recreational drugs are illegal. Furthermore, using other recreational drugs is frowned upon by most people in this hardworking and diligent society. You will find it difficult to obtain your vice without a known local contact.
Most places have no smoking indoors, but I believe smoking on the roadside is permitted.
You ought to consider these nearby locations on your poker travels: Manila (1 hour flight), Ho Chi Minh (2.5 hr flight), Hanoi, Japan, South Korea (cash games), Phnom Penh (cash games) and Bangkok.