Haixia Zhang is the winner of the 2014 Ladies No-Limit Hold'em Championship at the World Series of Poker. She topped a sizable field of 793 players and earned her first major tournament victory. This tourney was certainly a big one to win, since first place paid $153,470. Zhang also collected her first gold bracelet -- the game's most coveted prize.
Remarkably, Zhang's supreme moment of triumph happened only because of disappointment on the day just before the Ladies Championship began. Zhang actually came to this year's WSOP to play in the Monster Stack tournament, the poker madhouse true to its name, which drew 7,862 players. Just about everything went wrong for Zhang in that event. She busted on the first day, which turned out to be a good thing. With some free time still to go on her trip away from her home in Los Gatos, CA, Zhang decided to "go for it," as she described things, and entered the Ladies Championship. Three days later, she was the lone player sitting at the final table, enjoying a moment of stunned disbelief, along with several cheering friends and supporters gathered around her.
"I'm in complete awe. It's unreal," Zhang said moments afterward. "I'm just glad to be here, let alone win it."
Zhang's victory was unforeseen for several reasons. This marked her first time to cash in a WSOP event, although she had previous finished in-the-money twice at Harveys Lake Tahoe on the WSOP Circuit. Moreover, Zhang was down to four big blinds at one point during the tournament, seemingly destined for a respectable finish, but not exactly the same as winning a WSOP gold bracelet. However, Zhang picked up steam about midway through the final table and decimated everyone in her path over the final 90 minutes en route to the victory.
"I thought I played well, but I also got lucky in some spots," Zhang said. "There was one hand right before it ended when I made the straight and [Aoki] had two pair. That was a big turning point."
On that final fateful hand, Zhang A-J up against her opponent's K-T. The final board showed K-Q-6-T-3, giving Zhang the biggest pot of the tournament. The match ended about ten minutes later.
"Everybody that made the last few tables, I totally respected their play," Zhang said. "I thought they all played really solid."
Zhang is a business owner. She owns and operates a staffing company which supplies labor to companies throughout Southern California. She is married and has two children.
"I'm a business owner and a mom, and I really don't play poker that much," Zhang said. "But I definitely will be coming back next year."
Mikiyo Aoki, from Bozeman, MT finished as the runner-up. She appeared destined for victory during much of the final table action. In fact, Aoki arrived at the final table with nearly one-third of the total chips in play. Her victory seemed to be in the cards, but Zhang proved to be too strong in heads-up play, resulting in a nice consolation prize for Aoki of $94,800. Like Zhang, this marked Aoki's first time to cash in a WSOP event.
The Ladies Championship was initially created to welcome participation in the game and celebrate women in poker. First offered at the 1978 WSOP, the annual event has been a springboard for many females into a game, past and present. However, this competition for women has also evolved into so much more than just a poker tournament, since many associated events surrounding "Ladies Weekend" take place around Las Vegas.
The $1,000 buy-in Ladies No Limit Hold’em Championship played at the Rio in Las Vegas generated a $713,700 prize pool. The top 81 finishers made the money. Some of the notables who cashed include Christina Lindley (80th), Dee Dozier (74th), Melanie Weisner (26th), and Xuan Liu (11th).
Here are the final table results from the Ladies No Limit Hold’em Championship:
1st: Haixia Zhang- $153,4702nd: Mikiyo Aoki - $94,8003rd: Meikat Siu - $61,1144th: Elizabeth Montizanti - $44,7705th: Pat Landis - $33,2796th: Persia Bonella - $25,0727th: Kendra Wray - $19,1208th: Stacey Sullivan - $14,7529th: Patricia Cahill - $11,504