Poker, by its very nature, throws up surprises at every turn. And we’ve just seen a pretty huge one here at the PokerStars LIVE card-room at the City of Dreams Casino, where the latest champion on the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) is a 52-year-old coffee shop worker from Beijing, who only took up the game two years ago.
That, at least, is what Jian Guo Sun told us yesterday when he made his way to the final table of the HK$25,000 main event, but the way he carved through the final table today to be crowned champion made it seem like he knew a lot more about this game than he was letting on.
Sun won HK$2,149,600, beating 533 players, after cutting a heads up deal with Bernard Vu at a little after 8pm. It was the end of a rapid-fire final table, bossed for the first half by the British player Alex Ward and then, after a pivotal hand between the two, finished off by Sun. He sat in stony-faced silence for the best part of four days, flying very much under the radar. But then he got his chips and became an all-action, big-pot-playing, excitable maniac. And then he was the champion.
Ward was the man expected to be hoisting aloft the trophy tonight. He had 45 percent of the chips in play when they headed to a seven-handed final table. But he was only one of the players to pay off Sun when he found a big hand, and Sun is now shining all the way back to Beijing.
When they resumed today, the imbalance in stacks was pretty stark. They sat down behind the following stacks and with expectation that it would start at a fair pace.
Seat 1) Jiayi Jin, China – 465,000
Seat 2) Weijian Xie, China – 1,215,000
Seat 3) Ying Fu, China – 1,105,000
Seat 4) Zhiyi Feng, China – 685,000
Seat 5) Jian Guo Sun, China – 1,055,000
Seat 6) Alex Ward, United Kingdom – 4,715,000
Seat 7) Bernard Vu, France – 1,420,000
That expectation soon became reality. The final table was only three hands old when the first player was all-in. That was the short-stacked Jiayi Jin, but he got his shove through. However, when the second-shortest player, Zhiyi Feng, tried to repeat the trick on the next hand, he wasn’t so fortunate.
Ward, sitting in the big blind, found Q♦Q♥ and made a quick call for a fraction of his stack. Feng’s A♦2♠ needed help, and although the flop brought two aces, there was also a queen nestled between them. The turn and river were both blanks, and Feng was toast before he had even finished his first can of energy drink.
That took Ward’s stack beyond 5 million, and kept him firmly in control of the final. It seemed only a case of when, not it, he’d get it done–and, of course, in what order the others would perish. But that was complacency…
As it happened, it was Weijian Xie who went out next. He found pocket queens, which was an overpair to the flop of J♦6♦9♣. But he got all of his chips in against Vu, who had plenty of equity with his Q♦10♦. And the 8♣ fell on the turn to bust Xie.
Xie was the eighth Chinese player in succession to be knocked out, and the next two were Chinese too: Jin, who had successfully laddered up with his short stack, and then Ying Fu, who tried a huge bluff against Ward, failed, and got picked off soon after.
To be specific, Jin’s elimination came about at the hand of Fu. He couldn’t get A♦6♦ to beat Fu’s A♥9♣. But very soon after, Fu had a dominated ace when he was all-in and he couldn’t outdraw Ward’s A♣J♣ with his A♥J♦. They took HK$519,000 and HK$755,000 for fifth and fourth respectively.
It meant that by the time we took the first break of the day, only three players remained, and Ward’s stack of 6.5 million was nearly double the size of the others’ combined.
But, folks, this is poker. And there is nothing ever set in stone. Although Ward had enjoyed nothing but plain sailing for the best part of two days, he soon entered very choppy waters.
After about an hour of three-handed play, they took a brief bathroom break and Vu in particular came back with a different strategy. Sitting to Ward’s left, he started to play back at the chip leader and halt Ward’s dominance. Sun seemed content to leave them to it for the most part, but when his opportunity came, he seized it with both hands.
Arguably the tournament-defining pot occurred after Sun limped his small blind and then called Ward’s raise. They saw a flop of 7♦K♣6♥ and Sun check-called Ward’s bet of 160,000. Sun again check-called Ward’s 350,000 bet on the 7♠ turn, but after the 4♣ river, Sun shoved.
He also then started whooping and cheering, breaking a fairly icy facade behind which he had hidden for most of the tournament. Ward didn’t know what to make of the sudden outburst, but ended up calling the 1.5 million shove, eventually being shown the 7♥ in Sun’s hand.
It put Sun into the lead, put Ward on the ropes and he wouldn’t recover. After dwindling to his last 1.3 million chips, Ward got them in with an open-ended straight draw. It missed and Vu’s high card prevailed. Ward will have to make do with $1,002,000 for third place. Put it this way: he would have taken that at the beginning of the week.
Vu had the slight chip lead when he went heads up with Sun. They immediately agreed an ICM deal and set about playing for an additional HK$140,000 and a HK$100,000 seat at the ACOP main event.
Vu said that he had been preparing for this moment for many months, playing every night on PokerStars and honing his game for this trip to Macau. But little could have prepared him for this crazy heads-up battle. It didn’t take long until Sun found top pair on a jack-high board and Vu found middle pair. It all went in and that was that.
“I never thought I could win it,” Sun said.
Vu picked up HK$2,065,000, but Sun is the champion, beaming his way back to Beijing. Look back on our live coverage to see how it all panned out.
APPT10 Macau Main Event
Date: May 25-29, 2016
Buy-in: $25,000 ($23,000+$2,000)
Total prize pool: $11,891,230
1 – Jian Guo Sun China $2,149,660*
2 – Bernard Vu France $2,065,000*
3 – Alex Ward United Kingdom $1,002,000
4 – Ying Fu China $755,000
5 – Jiayi Jin China $519,000
6 – Weijian Xie China $413,000
7 – Zhiyi Feng China $336,000
8 – Kan He China $283,000
9 – Yuan Li China $236,000
*Denotes heads up deal.
All payouts in HKD.