Australia has been very friendly to Malaysian poker players.
Before 2013 you would have been hard pressed to name a Malaysian with a big tournament score. Then Mervin Chan claimed seven figures when he won the Aussie Millions and from there, more and more Malaysians have been playing poker in this region.
Now, at the 2014 WSOP APAC, Malaysia has a new hero and he goes by name Junzhong Loo.
For his victory in Event 2: $2,200 No Limit Hold’em, Loo picked up $107,500 and will now go down in history as the first-ever Malaysian WSOP gold bracelet winner.
When asked after his victory if he is a professional poker player, 27-year old Loo responded, “kind of”, but that he is “trying to move away from poker.”
Naturally you would think that a bracelet would change a player’s mind. But for Loo it’s the exact opposite.
“Actually, I told myself that I can’t give up poker until I win a bracelet,” Loo continued. “So I really worked hard for the last three months and was hoping to get lucky and win one.”
And win a bracelet he did.
The odds weren’t in Malaysia’s favour at the start of the final table. Like the first event of the WSOP APAC, Event 2 was quite an Australian affair. Loo did have one fellow countryman at the table in Aik-Chuan Nee and the odds of a bracelet ultimately skewed heavily towards Malaysia once the two were heads up for the gold.
Watch the final table in its entirety.
“I’ve played a lot with Aik-Chuan, so it takes away the stress, because I would be happy for him if he wins,” Loo said. “But of course, I still wanted to win. I’ve played a lot with him. Actually, I kind of got him into poker and taught him how to play.”
And so the master defeated the apprentice.
Loo began as one of 215 total entrants in this three-day WSOP APAC tournament, fighting it out for a piece of a $430,000 prize pool.
There were ultimately just 31 survivors on the opening day of the event. When the players returned the next day some of the shared goals were simple: First and foremost, to make it into the money. Secondly, to find a spot at the final table.
Aik-Chuan Nee would fulfill both of these goals and even played a part in 23 others making the money as he sent Macau-regular Steven Zhou to the rail as the bubble boy.
There were a few prominent players who made the money and were gunning for a spot at the final nine, including 2012 November Niner Russell Thomas and two-time WSOP bracelet winner Dan Heimiller. Thomas ended up being the first in-the-money elimination in 24th place, while Heimiller made it closer, but could only manage 11th place.
Once Heimiller was out the door, the ten remaining players combined for the “unofficial” final table and the plan was to stop for the day once one more player was eliminated.
But things didn’t go to plan.
Just a short while after ten-handed play began Aik-Chuan Nee complained that he was feeling sick with apparent tight chest pains and clear anxiety. WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel organised some medical help for Nee and at the sympathetic agreement of Nee’s opponents, play was called off for the night.
When the final table returned, Nee looked like he was healthy and ready to play. He even quickly moved into the chip lead, first eliminating Fred Chaptini in tenth place to set the official final table and then quickly sending both Michael O’Grady and Feng Zhou home in ninth and eighth place respectively.
Nee continued his strong run into four-handed play as he eventually sent Peco Stojanovski home in fifth place during a dramatic hand that saw Stojanovski’s full house defeated by Nee’s straight flush.
It’s hard to overcome a man who is playing well and running good enough to trump a player’s full house, but that’s what Junzhong Loo would eventually do as he overcame his fellow Malaysian Aik-Chuan Nee to win his, and his country’s, first bracelet
Here are the final table results from the $2,200 buy-in No- Limit Hold’em:
1st: Junzhong Loo - $107,500
2nd: Aik-Chuan Nee - $66,444
3rd: Luke Spano - $48,358
4th: Martin Kozlov - $35,763
5th: Peco Stojanovski - $26,862
6th: Sam Ngai - $20,490
7th: Sam Ruha - $15,867
8th: Feng Zhou - $12,470
9th: Michael O’Grady - $9,946