The World Series of Poker has arrived and within the coming weeks players from all around the globe will descend upon the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. This particular series is expected to be the grandest of WSOP poker events – and one not to be missed – with the series celebrating its 50th year. The festival runs a total of fifty days from May 28 to July 16. 89 coveted bracelets are on the table. The US$10,000 Main Event gets underway on July 3.
The past few years, the series has seen an influx of players from the Asian region. Several have been successful in clasping the shiny strap. Last year China’s Wei Guo Liang and Philippines’s Mike Takayama captured bracelets for the first time. These winners along with other Asian top performers are expected to attend this year’s games. Hong Kong will also storm in with 30 players strong. Listed below are just some of the players to watch for at the upcoming series.
1 – Michael Soyza
Christopher Michael Soyza is currently ranked 8th in the GPI standings. Last year was a tremendous year for the Malaysian pro earning 10 five-figure scores and 5 six-figure scores to take top rank at GPI Asia 2018. This year the deep runs continue. Among his multiple payouts include a huge victory at the Triton Poker Super High Roller series in Jeju, Korea. Sozya won the HK$500,000 No Limit Hold’em Six Handed event to pocket his first-ever million worth US$1,420,581. He followed that up with a Super High Roller title at APPT Incheon for US$157,164. He will arrive at the series with much bigger hopes, and unlike his previous visits, he will likely be seen at High Roller events.
2 – Daniel Tang
Consistently ranked as one of the highest in GPI Asia, Hong Kong pro Daniel Tang is another player that reached major heights this year. After closing out 2018 in 4th at the EPT Prague €10,300 No Limit Hold’em High Roller, he earned three five-figure payouts, one six-figure, and earlier this month, his first-ever seven figures. His largest payout was US$ 1.8 million for 2nd place at the HK$1,000,000 Triton Poker Super High Roller Series Main Event in Montenegro. As for his WSOP achievements, Tang’s closest run to the gold was an 8th place finish in 2016 at the US$1500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout. He also finished in a respectable 31st place at last year’s Main Event.
3 – Kitty Kuo
Based in Las Vegas, Taiwanese pro Hui Chen-Kuo “Kitty” is the leading lady of Asia with over US$2 Million in live earnings. Kuo has produced a long list of achievements since her career began over a decade ago but has yet to capture a major victory. She did get close last year finishing 4th at the Aussie Millions A$25K Challenge and 2nd at the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic. Seen attending the WSOP for several years, Kuo’s deepest run was in 2015 where she finished 4th at the US$2500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout.
4 – Pete Chen
One of the strongest players coming from Taiwan is Pete Chen and is undoubtedly a major contender for a bracelet. Last year Chen was crowned WPT Asia Player of the Year. In 2014 he won the PokerStars Asia POY. His long list of achievements include victories at WPT 2017 Main Event (Beijing), 2018 EPT Barcelona €5,200 No Limit Hold’em Turbo and €2,150 Hyper Turbo. This year he has already posted 33 cashes. Among the most profitable were: 3rd place at APT Taiwan Championships Event and 4th at EPT Sochi High Roller. At the world stage, Chen consistently pumps in multiple deep runs. His deepest was 2nd at US$5,000 No Limit Hold’em in 2017.
5 – Iori Yogo
Another strong season brewing for Iori Yogo in the Asian circuit. This year the Japanese pro topped the APT Philippines 2019 charts with two victories and the Player of the Series title. Every summer, Yogo puts in huge volume in Las Vegas playing a variety of events not just at the WSOP. In 2014, he got close to a bracelet finishing 3rd at the US$1,000 Pot Limit Omaha event. Last year he took 8th at the US$1500 Eight Game Mix. Playing mixed games is a good way to go if he intends to capture a title. These events tend to draw smaller fields thus increasing his chances for a bracelet.
6 – Marc Rivera
Recognized in the Philippines as one of the best of the best, cash game specialist Marc Rivera rose to stardom in 2018 after winning the APPT Manila National Event. This earned him a Platinum Pass to the historic US$25,000 PSPC PokerStars Players Championship event in the Bahamas where he reached a huge milestone by finishing 3rd over 1039 players. He pocketed over US$2.1 Million to catapult to the top of the Philippines All Time Money List. He has also since become a Metro Team Pro. Rivera only has a few deep runs at the WSOP, he will be looking to better his 457th place Main Event finish posted back in 2017.
In addition to Rivera, several Filipino pros to also watch for are Takayama who brought home the first-ever WSOP bracelet for the country last year and Lester Edoc who finished 9th at the Little One for One Drop. Both players finished 2nd and 3rd respectively at the PPPoker World Championship Main Event in February.
7 – Nipun Java
Nipun Java hails from India but resides mainly in the USA. He is the only Asian player to boast of two WSOP bracelets both won in 2017. He does have a WSOP Circuit ring for his victory in 2014 at the Main Event held in Los Angeles. Java is ranked 2nd in India’s All Time Money List with over US$2.5 Million in live earnings.
Other pro players from India to keep a close watch on are Aditya Agarwal and Aditya Sushant. For the former, Agarwal, year after year he produces multiple deep runs at the series. Last year he placed in 7 events with his furthest at the Monster Stack in 27th place. 2017 saw him cash in 11 events with a 9th finish at the US$1500 No Limit Hold’em.
As for Sushant, he teamed up with Java in 2017 to bring India their first gold(s). They won the US$1000 No Limit Hold’em Tag Team event. That year saw him cash in ten events which included an 8th place at the US$1500 No Limit Hold’em. Although he only cashed three times at the series last year, he was one of the strongest Asian performers at the Little One for One Drop where he ended in 11th place.
8 – Yang Zhang
Yang Zhang is a strong contender to bring home a gold for China. He is an APPT Main Event champion having bagged the title back in 2014 in Beijing. Impressively, he returned the following year and nearly took it again falling short by one spot. Zhang cashed in 11 WSOP events last year however his deepest finish was 8th place in 2016 at the US$888 No Limit Hold’em Crazy Eights 8-Handed event.
Also to watch for from China are WSOP winner Wei Guo Liang who championed the 2018 Little One for One Drop and Xixiang Luo whose deepest run was 10th place at the 2017 US$10K No Limit Hold’em 6-Handed Championship.
9 – Thi Xoa Nguyen
Thi Xoa Nguyen’s young poker career has seen her cash in various events around the world. Hailing from Vietnam, she made headlines early this year for folding a full house at the historic PSPC in January where she finished 153rd.
Her best run yet was 2nd place at €2200 No No Limit Hold’em in 2017 PokerStars Championship Prague. She cashed 4 times at the WSOP 2017.
Bonus: Samad Razavi
Not carrying an Asian flag but a well know figure from the circuit is UK’s Samad Razavi. He is a quadruple APT Player of the Year title-holder with a very extensive list of achievements earned all over Asia. Last year, Razavi shipped his largest career payout of US$724,756 for his runner-up finish at the WSOP US$1500 Millionaire Maker that saw 7,361 entries. Razavi also ran deep at the WSOP 2015 finishing 4th out of 989 at the US$3,000 No Limit Hold’em event.
Article by Tricia David