This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of World Gaming magazine.
In the midst of this hectic period for poker across Asia-Pacific came one of the region’s biggest annual events with the APPT’s season-ending Asia Championship of Poker in Macau. Having seen huge fields assemble earlier in the year for the Macau Poker Cup and APPT Macau, Railbird Ronny was on hand to witness another phenomenal tournament series.
Having seen record numbers flood into the PokerStars LIVE Macau poker room at City of Dreams throughout 2014, expectation was high that the trend would continue for Macau’s flagship Asia Championship of Poker tournament series in late October and early November.
Having attracted 203 players 12 months ago, opinions were divided on how many they could expect this time around with some ambitiously predicting a field of 300.
APPT President Danny McDonagh was more circumspect, telling Railbird Ronny he would be happy with 250, but incredibly the 300 dream almost became reality with 291 players forking out the hefty HK$100,000 entry.
The record ACOP field represented a staggering increase of 43 percent on 2013 with the HK$27 million prize pool smashing the HK$15 million guarantee.
Rest assured, within five years ACOP will become the preeminent annual poker tournament series in the Southern Hemisphere – even if it still has some way to go to surpass the record 780 players who contested the 2008 Aussie Millions.
Complementing the player numbers was the sheer quality of the field for this year’s ACOP Main Event which included three former WSOP Main Event champions in Joe Hachem, Jonathan Duhamel and Greg Merson. There were also another 10 WSOP bracelet winners on hand – Eugene Katchalov, Bertrand Grospellier, David Kitai, Philip Gruissem, Kevin Song, Jackie Glazier, Jared Graham, Andy Hinrichsen, Rory Young and 2014 Big One for One Drop winner Daniel Colman – alongside other notables such as Dan Smith, Shawn Buchanan, Mike McDonald, Sorel Mizzi, Tobias Reinkemeier, Isaac Haxton and Liv Boeree.
And of course there was the strong local contingent boasting the likes of Celina Lin, Bryan Huang and Vivian Im.
With just a single opening day flight enough to accommodate the 291 starters, 172 players returned on Day 2 and 62 on the all-important Day 3 when the money bubble was due to burst. With the top 31 players making the money, a number of notables fell agonisingly short on Day 3 including Colman, Salter, Dan Smith and Billy “The Croc” Argyros, although there were just as many big names among the 24 survivors heading into Day 4 including 2010 WSOP November Niner Joseph Cheong, Terrence Chan, Mizzi, Lin and Raiden Kan.
The big story, however, was the run of 2013 ACOP Main Event champion Sunny Jung who found himself chip leader once again by the time the final table was set and on track to do the unthinkable by defending his title.
Standing in his way were Cheong, Kan and 2014 Aussie Millions winner Ami Barer but as each one of them fell by the wayside on the final day, Jung again found himself heads-up for the title and holding a commanding 2 to 1 chip lead over Canada’s Gabriel Le Jossec. In the end it was an unfortunate cooler that turned the momentum in Le Jossec’s favour.
With the latter holding J2 and Jung 95 on a 592J board, the money went in with both players holding two-pair but the Canadian’s better hand dominating to move him into the chip lead.
The final hand also proved an unlucky one for Jung as he got it in with Q6 on a Q65 flop – only for Le Jossec to show up with pocket 5s! No help came on the turn or river and Le Jossec was crowned champion of the biggest ever ACOP Main Event, taking home a life changing HK$6.3 million in the process.
As it turned out however, this wasn’t the biggest prize awarded in the PokerStars LIVE Macau room during ACOP. A few days before the Main Event got underway, 52 of the world’s best high stakes players gathered to battle it out in the Macau Billionaire Poker HK$500,000 Super High Roller event.
The presence of 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey was enough to create a buzz throughout the room while the rebuy format not only ensured plenty of action but a spiralling prize pool that quickly broke records. The 52 entrants combined to add another 50 rebuys between them – the final prize pool of HK$48.47 million an all-time ACOP record.
The final table of eight players would all make the money and a guaranteed pay day of HK$2.4 million, although their eyes were firmly set on the HK$14 million first prize. Not surprisingly, there was more than a little poker pedigree at the final table which boasted the likes of Cheong, three-time bracelet winner Kitai, 2013 EPT Grand Final winner Stephen O’Dwyer and High Roller specialist Colman whose incredible 2014 had already seen him produce three seven-figure scores and a total of US$21 million (HK$163 million) in prize money – including his infamous US$15 million win when he took out the Big One for One Drop at the WSOP.
Colman would be one of the first to fall at this final table in seventh and it was eventually left to O’Dwyer and heads-up specialist Ryan Fee to play it out for the title. Much like Jung in the Main Event, O’Dwyer held a 2 to 1 chip lead as heads-up play began but in this case he was able to take maximum advantage to secure a memorable victory.
The 2014 ACOP series included a total of 14 events, with the other result of note being Fabian Quoss’ win in the HK$250,000 High Roller for almost HK$5.3 million.