Update on Asian players at the 2021 WSOP 

The 52nd annual World Series of Poker may be a long trek for players in Asia, and even longer for those that have to park at a third country before being allowed entry into the United States, however that hasn’t deterred the die-hards from making the pilgrimage. After four weeks of games completed at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino, the Asian force has increased and has made their presence known by producing some fantastic results both live and online. Here’s a look at the top performers. 

Bracelet winners Pete Chen and Carlos Chang

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The first Asian player to win a bracelet in this series was Taiwanese pro Yen Han “Pete” Chen at Online Event #3: $400 NL Hold’em Ultra Deepstack. Chen bested a field of 1,023 entries to pocket the US$ 82,560 first prize. This was his first ever bracelet, one he had been hunting down since 2015. Chen currently has five festival cashes amounting to US$ 99,842. He is the highest ranked Asian player in the leaderboards – 16th in the WSOP Player of the Year race and 6th at the No Limits Velo leaderboard. Aside from this milestone victory, Chen also shipped the highly popular Wynn Classic Mystery Bounty event for a whopping US$ 289,193 payout. 

Carlos Chang, Photo Credit – WSOP

Following in Chen’s footsteps was fellow countryman Carlos Chang who outlasted 895 players at Event #41: $2,500 Freezeout No Limit Hold’em. This earned Chang his first gold bracelet and a career high payout of US$ 364,589. Prior to the win, Chang was haunted by the three final tables he reached in past years. Having finally nailed it, the frustration has lifted. He became the second Asian player in this series to capture the coveted gold. 

Japanese bracelet winner Kazuki Ikeuchi snaps the runner up streak

Kazuki Ikeuchi, Photo Credit – WSOP

Japanese player Kazuki “hyahhoo3” Ikeuchi has come very close to the gold three times in his career, finishing runner up in 2018, 2019, and at the 2021 Online games. Returning to the scene this year, he hoped to snap that curse, and after three cashes, he finally snatched the gold on his fourth deep run. Ikeuchi shipped the $1,000 NL Hold’em Championship event at series online platform, defeating a field of 854 entries. For his victory, he earned his first ever gold bracelet and a cool US$ 152,797. Ikeuchi became the fourth player from his country to ever win the gold. He now has 52 WSOP cashes and over US$ 1.2 Million in series earnings. 

James Chen and Kosei Ichinose stopped at victory’s doorstep

James Chen, Photo Credit – WSOP

Aside from the three bracelet winners, two players have come close with runner up finishes. Back in 2019, James Chen became the first player from Taiwan to bring home a bracelet after his victory at the WSOP Europe €250K Super High Roller event. Early this month, Chen hoped to lock up his second bracelet at Event #19: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship however was stopped by Anthony Zinno for a runner up finish. 

For Japanese pro Kosei Ichinose, the closest he came to the gold prior to this series was at the 2020 Online [International] Limit Hold’em Championship event where he placed 4th. At the ongoing series, he hoped to better that score with a shiny bling to match, however was denied in second place at Event #44: 6-Handed Limit Hold’em. Despite the loss, Ichinose earned US$ 67,796, which was his largest WSOP career payout to date. 

Mike Takayama, Ting Yi “Eric” Tsai, and Suren Jaesh Balachandran top heats

Mike Takayama, Photo Credit – WSOP

On his first ever visit to the annual series in 2018, Philippine pro Mike Takayama won the $1,000 NL Hold’em Super Turbo Bounty, becoming the first player from his country to win a gold bracelet. Since then, he has returned to Las Vegas every year looking to pair it up. As one of the first Asians at the scene this year, Takayama came out blasting at Event #4: $500 The Reunion NL Hold’em topping the counts at Day 1C. He eventually placed 299 out of 2,648 entries for US$ 2,590. 

In a similar story, well known live tournament player from Taiwan, Ting Yi “Eric” Tsai, was on his series debut this year and quickly made the headlines. Tsai emerged as frontrunner at the end of Day 3 of Event #25: $5,000 6-Handed No Limit Hold’em with six players remaining out of 578 entries. He went on to finish in 4th place for an impressvie US$ 161,756 payout. Currently Tsai has cashed at six events in this series. 

Another first timer this year is Singapore’s Suren Jaesh Balachandran who came into radar when he topped Day 3 of Event #30: $1,500 MONSTER STACK No Limit Hold’em Freezeout with 24 remaining out of 3,520 players. Balachandran went on to reach the final table, departing in 10th place for a sizable US$ 51,286 payout. 

Korean pros in action

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Sung Joo Hyun, Photo Credit – World Poker Tour

During the past weeks, Korean players have trickled in and many have gone deep at various events. Since the start of the year, bracelet winner Sung Joo Hyun has been tearing up Sin City and hoped to keep that fire burning at the series. At Event #41: $2,500 No Limit Hold’em Freezeout, his hunt for a second gold nearly came to fruition however was denied in 6th place and walked away US$ 64,864 richer. Another bracelet winner from Korea collecting scores was Sejin Park who has already cashed at five events. His deepest run was 13th place at Event #43: $1,000 DOUBLE STACK No Limit Hold’em for US$ 29,602. 

Korean pro Yohwan Lim aka ex-gamer “BoxeR” has already produced a better result than his previous visit in 2019. Lim placed 18th out of 720 players at Event #13: $3,000 Freezeout No Limit Hold’em for US$ 12,795. For Daewoong Song, his series debut has turned up two cashes so far. His deepest was 19th out of 2,778 entries at Event #33: $800 8-Handed NL Hold’em Deepstack for US$ 10,526. Among the other well known Korean players earning some returns were Seungmook Jung, Hwany Lee, Jeonggyu Cho, Steve Yea, Sang Yeon Hwang, Jinho Hong, Soo Jo Kim, Seongsu Kong, and bracelet winners Jiyoung Kim and Sean Yu

Jungwoong Park goes deep for Hong Kong

Only a handful of players from Hong Kong have cashed at the series; producing the best results was Jungwoong Park who placed 3rd out of 1,572 entries at Event #24: $600 Pot Limit Omaha Deepstack 8-Handed. He pocketed US$ 57,349 for his largest career score. A few days later, Park ran well again at another PLO event with a 24th finish out of 1,069 for US$ 5,726. 

India yet to make headlines

A good number of players from India have converged at the Rio with more expected in the coming days. Already in action were Dhaval Mudgal, Arsh Grover, Kunal Patni, Neel Joshi, and bracelet winners Abhinav Iyer and Nipun Java, however the only one that has produced a noteworthy result was unknown player Manan Bhandari who reached the final table of Event #28: $1,000 Pot Limit Omaha 8-Handed. Bhandari finished 7th out of 1,069 for US$ 22,787. 

Japanese players in full force

Japan powers in with the largest Asian contingent as evidenced by the number of nationals both known and unknown cashing at nearly every heavily fielded event. Other than Kazuki Ikeuchi and Kosei Ichinose, one of the first at the scene was bracelet winner Naoya Kihara who just missed the final table of Event #7: $1,500 Dealer’s Choice 6-Handed, placing 8th out of 307 entries for US$ 7,307. Other well known Japanese players heating up the felt were Jun Obara, Tamon Nakamura, Yuka Asaka, and Shota Hirao

Stick with us at Somuchpoker as we continue to bring updates on Asian players at the ongoing series. 

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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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