Earlier today I broke down the final table of this HK$100,000 High Roller tournament, separating the finalists into groups. The woman who would go on to win this event, for HK$3.87 million and the shiny gold trophy, was pegged as a "wildcard".
That's because we knew absolutely nothing about her. Just who was Sosia Jiang? What did she do for a living? How would she handle the likes of Nick Petrangelo and Dan Smith, both of whom had also made this final table?
Jiang - a complete unknown to almost everyone before the start of this event - had only a few recorded live cashes, to a total of around $25,000. And yet this Championship High Roller newbie has just beaten a table composed of seasoned High Roller veterans, breakout players, and local stars, to become the first female player to win a flagship PokerStars event since Vicky Coren's second EPT title in 2014.
"I'm what the industry calls a 'fun player'," Jiang said after her victory. "Some years ago I used to work in investment banking in Hong Kong, playing poker casually. The private games were very good, so I didn't even need to come to Macau. I've been on and off poker for years, sometimes playing tournaments here and there. Then I moved back to New Zealand and became a secondary school teacher.
"I played casually when I wasn't working. This year I needed a break so I took some time off, and I've been playing more. I went to the Aussie Millions and now Macau."
What a decision that's turned out to be. She's now more than half a million US dollars richer.
When the eight players returned this afternoon, it was Raghav Bansal who held the lead. Four hours later and he was heads up against Jiang, albeit with an almost nine to one chip deficit. Bansal, from New Delhi, India, has more than $400,000 in live earnings, so is no stranger to big final tables. He had a runner-up result in the Macau Poker Cup for $137,587 in February this year. But he'd have to settle for second place again here today.
He managed one double up before finally meeting his demise. Jiang opened the button and Bansal jammed for 900,000 with pocket deuces, which was called. Jiang had the queen-ten offsuit, and a dramatic queen on the river gave her a bigger pair. The two shook hands, and this fast-paced tournament came to an end. For his efforts, Bansal received HK$2.61 million - roughly US$339,000 - making this his largest career score to date.
Back to the beginning
It wasn't long into the day when we lost our first player. Xixiang Luo came in as the short stack, and has had a great week here in Macau, having already won two side events for more than $50,000. His eighth-place finish today eclipsed that for HK$470,000 (roughly US$57,560), after his three-bet all-in with pocket nines was called by Troy Quenneville who held ace-jack. An ace in the window got the job done.
Not long after that we lost Russia's Sergey Lebedev, whose pocket jacks couldn't crack Jiang's pocket aces. Lebedev is still searching for his first big live title, which we're sure will only be a matter of time. As a consolation, he banked HK$652,000 (around US$84,760).
Dan Smith needs no introduction, but he does need a bust-out story. The American lost a bunch of his chips to Bansal when he had to fold to a suspected nut flush, and shortly after lost a few more after getting all his chips in with the T♥T♣ against Jiang's Q♣J♠ on a J♥T♠9♠ board. However, the turn and river were both spades, giving Jiang a runner-runner flush. Smith collected HK$895,000 (~US$116,350).
The two wildcards clashed for the next elimination. Jiang opened to 54,000, and Ben Lai had that exact amount in front of him. He called all-in with the J♠8♠ while Bansal called too. The action checked all the way on an A♠Q♦9♦2♥J♣ board, and Jiang's A♥K♥ was best. Not much is known about Lai other than the fact he only had $3,000 in cashes up until last night. Today he's won HK$1.17 million (~US$152,100).
One man we know plenty about is Nick Petrangelo. He was the chip leader after Day 1, and finished in the top four counts last night. He ended up finishing in fourth here today too, so his starting stack translated to his finishing prize. The High Roller veteran had already won more than half a million US bucks this week, and now adds HK$1.465 million (~US$234,000) after running his A♣5♣ into Jiang's A♥A♠ and failing to hit.
Finally we lost one of the breakout players of this Championship, Troy Quenneville, before heads-up play began. He had a deep run in the Super High Roller but busted before the money - still, not bad for his SHR debut. He went even further today, eventually finishing in third when he was knocked out by eventual champ Jiang.
She limped from the small blind and Quenneville decided to check and see a flop. It fell A♦Q♠5♠ and Jiang bet 30,000, which Quenneville called to see a T♣ turn. Jiang didn't slow down, making it 250,000 this time. Call. The 8♠ completed the board and Jiang shoved, putting Quenneville at risk. Quenneville called off his 1.6 million stack with the K♥J♥ for a broadway straight, but Jiang had the A♠T♠ for the nut flush.
That brought them down to two, and with the amount of chips Jiang now had in front of her, it was a very tall mountain that Bansal needed to climb. In the end, Jiang proved insurmountable. "You played like a boss!" Bansal told her after the match was over.
"This is the first time I've won a tournament so it's great, feels good!" Jiang told us afterwards. "If I'm gonna run good then it's better to do it at a High Roller."
She'll never be referred to as a wildcard ever again. From here on out, Jiang will be known as a PokerStars Championship High Roller champion.
PokerStars Championship Macau $100K High Roller
Dates: April 7-9, 2017
Buy in: HK$100,000 + $3,000
Entries: 180 (inc. 42 re-entries)
Prize pool: HK$17,460,000
|5||Ben Lai||Hong Kong||$1,170,000|
For all the payouts, click here.
Jack Stanton is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.