“From the beginning of heads-up to the end, I always thought I would win,” China’s Yugiang Li said after being crowned the MPC22 Red Dragon champion.
Li felt this confidence despite beginning heads-up with a huge chip disadvantage.
And it was this self-assured attitude and an overall cool demeanour that helped Li ultimately defeat fellow Chinese player Yunye Lu.
For winning the esteemed Red Dragon title Li pocketed HK$1,848,000 (~US$240,000). That score smashes Li’s previous largest result of just under HK$100,000.
Perhaps more importantly, the victory means that Li also gets to take home the best looking and most revered trophy in poker.
Several hours before Li was crowned the champion, there were eight others all hoping to be the last player standing. Of course there can only be one conqueror.
This is the story of the fallen and the journey of Li’s victory:
It started with four eliminations during the first level of the final table.
It was just a few minutes into the day when the most prominent player at the final table, David Steicke, got his chips in preflop with A♥K♣ against Takuya Yamashita’s Q♦9♦. It was a good spot for Steicke to double, but instead a roller coaster board of 9♣8♣2♠A♣9♥ gave Yamashita the lead on the flop and on the river to send Steicke home in 9th place collecting HK$174,000.
Just moments after Steicke was eliminated and Xiaodong Lin joined him on the rail. Lin got his stack in with 8♣8♠ and unfortunately ran into the A♠A♥ of Yuguang Li. No help and Lin was home in 8th for a HK$204,500 score.
The next player to quickly hit the rail was Fan Xu. He got his short stack in with 9♥9♣ and needed help against Yunye Li’s J♠J♦. By the time a turn had been dealt on a 8♣2♠5♥J♥ board, Xu was drawing dead and was sent packing in 7th place with HK$235,000 for his time.
Shortly thereafter, Eileen Wang was eliminated in 6th place. Wang had been the short stack for the entire final table and ultimately found herself all in with A♠J♠ against Yi Won Lee’s 9♥9♦. Wang flopped a flush draw but with bricks on the turn and river, she was eliminated with HK$281,612 for her time.
It was expected that the action would slow down at this point, but Japan’s Takuya Yamashita ensured that would not be the case when he six-bet all in for just under 4 million after Yunye Lu had five-bet to 1.2 million. Yu instantly called to put Yamashita at risk with his A♦A♠ against Yamashita’s K♦9♥.
The 5♦J♥6♥6♠A♥ board was no good to Yamashita and so he had turned a 65 big blind stack into a 5th place finish in just one hand. Yamashita took home HK$384,000 for that effort which is added to the HK$658,000 he claimed for finishing third in last August’s Red Dragon.
Following Yamashita’s elimination Lu had a monster chip lead and it was looking like he was going to be hard to stop. However, it was at this point that Yuguang Li started to build some momentum – especially when he dealt the fatal blow to Korea’s Yi Won Lee. It was an all in preflop situation with Lee’s A♣Q♥ not able to trump Li’s 9♦9♥. For the 4th place finish Lee pocketed HK$563,000 and with that it was down to three.
The final table continued to march on at a quick pace and once Yifan Zhang was eliminated in 3rd place, the Red Dragon had reached heads-up in under three hours of play. Zhang was sent home with a HK$783,000 score when his Q♥J♣ couldn’t compete against Lu’s K♦10♦.
When heads-up kicked off Yunye Lu had a monster chip lead over Yuguan Li with his more than 11 million in chips up against less than 4 million.
Li, however, chipped away and brought it to just about even before the players stopped the tournament to discuss the numbers. With an ICM deal struck and HK$150,000 and an ACOP Main Event seat set aside for the eventual winner.
The heads-up battle ultimately took just over four and a half hours to draw to a close with the climactic conclusion seeing Yunye Lu deemed the runner-up after a one-two punch from Yuguang Li.
The first hand saw Lu get very aggressive on the turn of a 5♦K♦3♣2♣ board. He shoved for just under 6 million in chips effective with blinds at 60,000/120,000 and after having check-raised on the flop. Li snap-called on the turn and tabled K♣2♥ for two pair, while Lu had his hand caught in the cookie jar with Q♣9♥ for just queen high. The 7♦ river couldn’t help Lu who was drawing dead and with that, he was left with just over two big blinds.
The next hand and Lu would get his tiny stack in with A♦2♥ against Li’s 10♣4♥ and despite finding a pair of twos in the window of a 2♦8♣4♦5♣K♠ board, Li had the better pair and enough to send Lu home as the runner-up and crown himself the Red Dragon champion!
Congratulations to Yuguang Li on his magnificent victory!
Prior to the final table beginning Li told us about his dream to win a big tournament like this so he could travel the circuit and keep playing more poker.
See you on the circuit, sir.
MPC22 Red Dragon – Final Table Results
Prize pool: HK$10,339,812 (~US$1,330,000)
Places paid: 117
1st: Yuguang Li – $1,848,000* (includes ACOP Main Event seat)
2nd: Yunye Lu – $1,645,000*
3rd: Yifan Zhang – $783,000
4th: Yi Won Lee – $563,000
5th: Takuya Yamashita – $384,000
6th: Eileen Wang – $281,612
7th: Fan Xu – $235,000
8th: Xiaodong Lin – $204,500
9th: David Steicke – $174,000
* denotes heads-up deal
We must also congratulate Danny McDonagh, Rex Cheong, Fred Leung and the rest of the PokerStars LIVE Macau team for hosting such a world-class tournament. There aren’t many events in the world at this buy-in level with almost 1,000 unique entrants and the team must be commended for that.
The Red Dragon Main Event might be over, but that’s not the end of the 22nd edition of the Macau Poker Cup. Be sure to join us from 3:00pm on Saturday as we will be at PokerStars LIVE Macau to see who wins the HK$80,000 High Roller!