It's been an incredible two weeks of poker here in Macau, the final days of which have been highlighted by the $100,000 (HKD) buy-in Asia Championship of Poker Main Event. And the ending -- with Xing Zhou of China defeating Hong Kong's Ying Kit Chan heads-up in final hand in which both players literally went all in blind, was a true head-spinner of a conclusion that was weirdly fitting for the gambling-loving culture which we have come to visit here in Macau.
Let's look back at the week and final day...
It took four days for the field of 184 entrants from all over the world to play down to a final nine, and another five hours or so for the final nine to play down to two.
Michael Kanaan of Australia entered the final day with the chip lead, although for most of the day it was Zhou sitting atop the counts after having moved up and into first position early on Sunday.
Day 5 didn't go as planned for Chinese Taipei's Henry Wang, with the two short stacks -- Jacques Zaicik and Alan Sass -- both doubling through Wang to make him the table's short stack after an hour of play.
Soon Wang was forced to take his chances by shoving his less-than-10-big-blind stack with Q♣4♠ and hoping to improve versus the Aussie Andrew Hinrichsen's A♥T♥. No help came for Wang, and they were down to eight.
That's about the time the Xing Zhou express began rolling in earnest.
Zhou first knocked out the U.K. player Tom Alner in eighth. Behind to start the hand with A♣5♣ against Alner's A♠K♠, Zhou would river an eight-high straight to claim the pot and knockout.
And soon after that Zhou was using J♠T♠ to better the Aussie Andrew Hinrichsen's pocket nines, turning a jack to reduce the field to six.
Japan's Tsugunari Toma appeared ready to challenge Zhou early on, having built up a stack of nearly 1.4 million himself when Zhou led with about 2 million. But Toma suffered a few hits, including a double-up by Alan Sass through him when Sass rivered an ace with A♣Q♣ versus Toma's pocket kings that crippled Toma, and Chan took the last of Toma's stack shortly thereafter.
Zhou's lead kept increasing, and while Sass was well behind the leader he appeared poised to mount a comeback until the American took Q♠Q♥ up against Zhou's A♠K♣ and lost the race when an ace appeared among the community cards.
The 60-year-old Jacques Zaicik of France was the next to go in fourth, his A♠K♦ failing to improve versus Zhou's 9♦9♠.
Then came a dramatic all-in between Australia's Michael Kanaan and Zhou in which Kanaan held 8♦8♠ and Zhou K♥K♠. An eight flopped to get Kanaan a set, but a king spiked on the turn and Zhou's hand proved best.
Down to two, Zhou had about an 8-to-1 chip lead to start heads-up play against Chan, but the latter managed a double-up and chipped up some more to reach the dinner break at only a 2-to-1 advantage.
Zhou maintained the lead over the next couple of hours, then Chan grabbed it for a period, then Zhou took it back. It was shortly after that, more than six hours after they'd begun their battle, that they together made the remarkable decision to chop the remaining prize pool despite their uneven stacks.
And not only that, but they'd go all in blind to determine which of the two would be getting the ACOP Main Event trophy!
For the record's sake, the final hands were T♦6♣ for Zhou and 7♠5♦ for Chan, with the board of 9♦8♠3♦5♠7♥ giving Zhou the winning straight to beat Chan's two pair.
But the final moments of the ACOP Main Event will be remembered not for two players engaged in conflict, but for their decision to avoid conflict any further.
And here's Lynn Gilmartin with the winner...
2012 Asia Championship of Poker Main Event final table results (*reflects two-way deal):
1st: Xing Zhou (China) -- $3,547,500 (HKD); $454,807 (USD)*
2nd: Ying Kit Chan (Hong Kong) -- $3,547,500 (HKD); $457,807 (USD)*
3rd: Michael Kanaan (Australia) -- $1,731,000 (HKD); $221,923 (USD)
4th: Jacques Zaicik (France) -- $1,384,000 (HKD); $177,436 (USD)
5th: Alan Sass (United States) -- $1,125,000 (HKD); $144,231 (USD)
6th: Tsugunari Toma (Japan) -- $952,000 (HKD); $122,051 (USD)
7th: Andrew Hinrichsen (Australia) -- $779,000 (HKD); $99,872 (USD)
8th: Tom Alner (U.K.) -- $606,000 (HKD); $77,792 (USD)
9th: Henry Wang (Chinese Taipei) -- $432,700 (HKD); $55.474 (USD)
The celebration continues -- ACOP Main Event begins today!
Commerce and cards in Macau
Team PokerStars came to play
The ACOP, a new tradition for poker in Asia
Main Event Day 1 concludes, Yue Hin Lam leads
ACOP Main Event party continues into Day 2
Poker Gangnam style
Nakabo looks to fashion a comeback
Players dealt a welcome club
Asia Team Pros battling for ACOP title
Following the leaders
Gaw grabs lead to end Day 2 in ACOP Main Event
ACOP Main Event gets serious, Day 3 awaits
PokerStars Macau gives back
Countries collide in Million Dollar Challenge
Sass amasses, passes field with 45 left
The winning women in Macau
33 remain at Day 3 dinner break in ACOP Main Event
Hinrichsen hangs on, Kanaan captures lead
Torres, Lin fall; 27 remain in ACOP Main Event
Bubble bursts; Kanaan, Gaw lead with 22 left at ACOP Main Event
Finding a final table; Day 4 of ACOP Main Event awaits
A spot of bother
18 remain in Main Event; "High Rollers" underway
Ying Kit Chan nudges into lead; 16 left ACOP Main Event
Compagno, Lam, Lin out; Alner vaults to top
Wu (13th), Watson (12th) out; Kanaan up
Huynh, Gaw out; final table reached at ACOP Main Event
Kanaan leads final nine at ACOP Main Event
2012 ACOP stories end today; Kanaan leads Main Event final table
ACOP Main Event final table player profiles
Zhou zooms up, comebacks for short stacks
Wang first to fall at ACOP Main Event final table
Eight remain in ACOP Main Event, Zhou in command
Zhou mows down Alner, Hinrichsen; 6 remain
Toma tumbles in sixth
Queens fail Sass, four remain
Zhou claims two more, Zaicik (4th) and Kanaan (3rd)
Yit Kit Chan closes gap with leader Zhou in ACOP Main Event heads-up
Zhou still leads heads-up in ME; Sekiya clinches Asia POY
Zhou-Chan heads-up battle continues
Advantage Ying Kit Chan
Zhou defeats Chan in (literal) blind-vs.-blind hand!
Also, as the Main Event lasted long enough for us to see the conclusion of the $250,000 (HKD) "High Rollers" event, we can report those results here as well:
2012 Asia Championship of Poker "High Rollers" results:
1st: Jonathan Karamalikis (Australia) -- $3,707,000 (HKD); $475,256 (USD)
2nd: Jeff Rossiter (Australia) -- $2,224,000 (HKD); $285,128 (USD)
3rd: Chunlei Zhou (China) -- $1,483,000 (HKD); $190,128 (USD)
4th: Joseph Cheong (Canada) -- $1,112,000 (HKD); $142,564 (USD)
5th: David Steicke (Hong Kong) -- $740,400 (HKD); $94,923 (USD)
Thanks to Hong Kong portrait photographer Kenneth Lim for all of the great photos over the past week.
Signing off now from Macau, where it's been a tremendous visit filled with good times, great people, and some memorable poker. Good night from Asia!
Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.