[2 of 4] Top live poker achievements by Asia players in 2023


The year 2023 may well have been the busiest year of live poker for Asian players. While many outshined, Somuchpoker has picked 20 players for our top performers list. We previously posted the first five. Here is the second batch of Asian aces.

Punnat Punsri – Thailand

photo 2022 11 19 11 06 28
Punnat Punsri

It was still Thai high for the Bangkok prodigy’s ascent in the poker world, extending last year’s success with an early championship at the PokerGO Tour series. Punnat Punsri kicked off the year taking down Event #7 of the PokerGO Cup, Las Vegas combining a runner-up finish at Event #2 for a total cash of $ 459,400.

This opening salvo lit the fuse for a dynamite year marked by a career highlight win at the biggest and richest tournament in Asian Poker Tour history in Taiwan. Punsri battled through a highly competitive field of 1,434 to be the first owner of the newly designed APT Taiwan Main Event trophy. He pocketed $364,300 and pushed his live career winnings past the $5 million dollar mark. But Punsri was just warming up.

Punsri had 2 table finishes at the Triton Super High Roller Series Cyprus cashing a massive $ 1,928,000. Though, the gold bracelet was again elusive at the 54th World Series of Poker, Punsri still finished in the Top 10 with a modest (by his standards) $228,000 purse.

The Thai master would however find a spicy ending to the year at the high-stakes events with two final table finishes in as many Triton events. First at the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series London where Punsri finished 3rd and binked a career high cash of $3,107,000. Then capping off his series run at the Triton Super High Roller Series Monte Carlo placing 4th and scooping up an additional $1,068,000. By the end of the year, Punsri would amass a whopping $8,196,102, almost double his earnings last year and breaking the 8-figure mark with more than $12 Million in career live earnings.

Dao Minh Phu – Vietnam

Dao Minh Phu

For someone who had only been posting cashes three years ago, Vietnamese Dao Minh Phu’s 2023 season was nothing short of phenomenal. The 42-year-old newbie had been exclusively playing on home soil when he would break into the poker’s elite in March with a triumph at the 2023 Triton Super High Roller Series Vietnam. Phu snatched the $50,000 No Limit Hold-em – 8-Handed Event by beating the more seasoned pros and topping a showdown with fellow newcomer Biao Ding. Phu made history for himself and his country by being the first Vietnamese to win a Triton SHRS title. It was Phu’s maiden appearance at the event and his cash of $1,670,000 was also a career high.

Even more remarkable was the fact that prior to the win, Phu had only accumulated less than $100,000 dollars in career winnings. He finished the Triton Hoi An event picking up $301,000 more at the NLH -Turbo Event. This injected more confidence into Phu’s skills at the felt as he ventured outside home soil for the first time in May, with deep runs at the Triton SHRS Kyrenia, featuring 2 combined cashes of $172,200. He then set out to the Triton SHRS London where Phu would narrowly miss a second title when he finished runner up to WSOP bracelet winner Ole Schemion from Germany. Nevertheless, Phu banked a hefty $915,000 pushing him to number 1 in the Vietnam All Time Money List.

Nozomu Shimizu – Japan

nozomu shimuzu wsop
Nozomu Shimizu – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

A breakout year for yet another rising star. This time from the land of the rising sun. Japan’s Nozomu Shimizu outshone his compatriots with a year of milestones coming from a very quiet 2022. Shimizu’s stellar season featured his Top 5 career cashes, three titles and an impressive run at the 54th World Series of Poker Las Vegas.

Win number 1 came at the European Poker Tour Monte Carlo capturing the Hyper Turbo Knockout Freezeout Event and banking $ 99,151. Wins number 2 & 3 were back-to-back table takedowns at the Asian Poker Tour’s year-ender APT Hanoi Billions. Shimizu first claimed the record-breaking Super High Roller event scooping up $162,226 then returning to outclass a powerhouse final table for his second win at the Superstar Challenge cashing $223,766.

But most significant in his year was Shimizu’s performance at the WSOP 2023 Las Vegas where he finished 3rd, three times making him one of only two Asians with the most table cashes in the year’s largest and most prized annual festival. He accrued a total of $736,649 to inch closer towards $1.8 Million in total live earnings which quickly bumped him up the Top 10 of the Japan All Time Money List.

Edwin Dela Cruz – Philippines

4 Edwin Dela Cruz
Edwin Dela Cruz

Filipino poker player Edwin “Hit D’ Heat” Dela Cruz did turn up the temp on his career this 2023. It was a year of firsts for Dela Cruz with a maiden title at the inaugural U Series of Poker: Poker2U Taiwan Series. It was also a perfect post-Valentine gift for Dela Cruz whose love for the game earned him his first near six-figure pay-out of $98,340. Until then, a career high. He emerged from a massive 1,043-player field to become the first ever USOP live festival event winner.

Dela Cruz then rode the momentum to Vietnam for a second victory at another USOP event in Hanoi taking the Megastack Buy event and a cash of $16,203. Though his sweetest win of the year came on home soil at the Poker Dream Manila Main Event when Dela Cruz thrilled his countrymen by beating Italy’s Alessandro Taranto in a grueling three-hour duel. The Filipino bagged his third win of the year together with a Golden Dream Trophy and a career best prize money of $99,400 topping an earlier record he achieved just 3 months earlier.  A smoking hot year indeed for “Hit D’ Heat”.

Ting Yi Tsai (Eric Tsai) – Taiwan

Eric Tsai

For poker vlogger and pro-player Ting Yi “Eric” Tsai, one of his missions is to create more awareness for the card game that is seeing a post-Covid boom in Asia. Targeting mainly his own countrymen in Taiwan, Tsai’s all-Chinese language channel SixPoker YouTube has 128K followers to prove the game’s growing popularity. It also helps that he would, on occasion, raise the Taiwanese flag and perform well himself.

Tsai did that this year and may soon add more followers to his social media accounts, having finished strong at the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event in Rozvadov. He finished runner-up to Austrian Max Neugebauer and banked a career-high cash of $951,252. The Taiwanese was just a bluff away from being the first Asian-based poker player to win a WSOP golden bracelet. This was his best performance to date and definitely a highlight to upload on his vlog together with significant cash ins at the WSOP Las Vegas and wins in the $1,100 No Limit Hold’em UltimateStack event at The Venetian and the World Poker Tour Prime Taiwan Mini High Roller Warm Up event.

Tsai is reported to have plans to dedicate more time to his YouTube channel in 2024. With his international performance this year, he may want to think going multi-language.


[1 of 4] Top live poker achievements by Asia players in 2023 – five of 20 players

*Article by Mike Alcazaren

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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