APPT8 Manila: Thanh Ha Duong comes from behind to secure title!

A major turnaround has happened here in Manila today proving once again that it doesn't matter how big a deficit you face, there's always a chance that the cards will fall yours and not your opponent's way.

Thanh Ha Duong came into this heads up battle with just 800,000 in chips compared to PokerStars qualifier Michael Guzzardi's 4.4 million but somehow, with a little help from the poker gods, the Vietnamese player was able to turn it around and win the first Asia Pacific Poker Tour event here in Manila since 2010.

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A delighted Thanh Ha Duong, moments after sealing victory

Just four days ago, Duong was one of 260 players who had stumped up 50,000 Philippine Pesos (PHP) for the opportunity to play in this illustrious tournament. Now, on Monday evening, he is the newest champion of the APPT and the recipient of a splendid trophy as well as the first place prize money worth PHP2,910,000 and a HK$100,000 Main Event seat at the ACOP later this year.

The heads-up battle was a topsy-turvy affair although Guzzardi will no doubt feel slightly disappointed that the showdowns did generally not seem to go his way. Almost immediately into the battle, Duong three-bet and called off his stack with 7♣7♠ and found himself behind to Guzzardi's K♠K♦. It looked for all intents and purposes that this would be a lightning-quick match but after an A♠J♦A♣ flop, it was the 7♦ on the turn that made Duong a boat and he avoided both aces and kings to double up, giving himself a real chance at a comeback.

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The cards were not kind to Michael Guzzardi and he had to settle for second place

The pair continued to spar but the momentum crucially changed an hour further into the contest. Guzzardi had fired 100,000 on a K♠4♦2♦ flop before Duong check-raised to 245,000. Guzzardi moved all in for effectively 2 million in chips and the Vietnamese player quickly called off his stack with 4♣2♣ for a flopped two pair. Guzzardi needed to hit with Q♦9♦ but the A♥ turn and 6♥ river changed nothing. For the first time since late last night the Australian had lost the chip lead and now Duong had all the momentum.

Guzzardi managed to forestall what seemed to be inevitable, doubling up once with K♦4♣ against Duong's A♦5♠, somehow getting there on the river of a Q♥9♦6♦J♦T♠ board. But he was unable to continue the fightback as just 20 minutes later it was all over. Guzzardi check-raised all in on the turn of an A♣3♠5♣7♣ board. Duong made a quick call with 7♦3♦ and Guzzardi, holding A♦4♥, needed to hit an ace, deuce, four, five or six. The river missed his 16 outs coming the 8♠ and Duong had returned from the brink of oblivion to title-winner!

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The final table drew a vociferous but respectful crowd of people

Eleven players had returned for the start of the final and with Guzzardi the dominant chip leader. But the early action was all about Maria Bernadette Lina, the shortest stack coming back for the final day. The Filipino lady managed to double up twice early on and knock out the first player of the day, Hiroshi Naito. It took two hours from the 2pm start for the final table to be reached. Daniel Belov, the Day 1A chip leader was knocked out in 10th place when he lost with A♠9♠ to Guzzardi's 8♠8♦.

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Maria Bernadette Lina - 7th

With the final table featuring three Filipino players, it quickly drew a large crowd of supporters that swamped the table, loudly cheering and clapping for their compatriots with every hand they played.

Ranjeev Kanjani of India was the first player to fall, he had pocket tens but lost out to Daniel Giang's ace-king which hit an ace on the flop. Meanwhile Maria Bernadette Lina was proving particularly popular, gaining raucous shouts when she managed an early double up. However, these did not last long as soon after she lost a flip with A♠K♥ to Guzzardi's 4♣4♠ and the Filipino audience applauded Lina off disappointedly.

The elimination of the last woman in the tournament was quickly followed by two further exits. First Andreas Rauh's 4♦4♥ couldn't overcome Guzzardi's 7♦7♣ and then, in the last hand of the level, Mike Takayama followed him out of the door. Takayama held A♠9♠ on an 8♠4♠2♥ flop but Duong called the Filipino player's all-in with J♣J♦. Nothing changed on the T♦ turn and 4♦ river just five players were left.

Returning from the break saw the final table showing no signs of slowing down. Sameer Rattonsey, who had previously finalled APPT Cebu in 2012, was to suffer a bad, all in with A♣A♥ against Duong's 4♦4♠ the latter managed to flop a set and river a full house to leave just four players remaining.

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Local player Bernie Angeles had the most support from the fans

Daniel Giang was the next player to fall to Duong who picked up pocket fours once again and won a flip against Giang's queen-ten. Both of these exits were celebrated by the crowd, but not because of a dislike for those who had been eliminated. The crowd were simply happy to see the sole remaining Filipino player, Bernie Angeles, ladder up even further with hopes that the title would stay in the home country.

Every single pot that went to Angeles, large or small, was met with a resounding cheer. At one stage, Angeles got all in with A♣9♥ against Guzzardi's A♦Q♦. After the flop and turn came A♠Q♠4♠2♠ the J♠ on the river was received by perhaps the loudest cheer I've ever heard for a chopped pot.

Guzzardi's miserable luck at showdowns continued to threaten his tournament. The Australian had Duong all in with A♦Q♦ against K♠J♠ but the dealer put out a full house on the board and once more the chip leader was forced to share a pot he'd been favourite to win.

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Sameer Rattonsey - 5th

Finally, much to disappointment of the home fans, Guzzardi eliminated Angeles when both flopped pairs on a 7♥T♣6♦ board. Angeles had been holding 6♣2♦ but Guzzard's A♥T♥ stayed good after a K♠ turn and Q♣ river.

But Guzzardi's bad luck at showdowns continued into the heads-up battle and it was instead Duong who came from behind to seal a memorable victory.

When asked how he felt the final had gone, Duong paid tribute to his heads-up opponent and admitting he'd been fairly lucky with the cards. In fairness though Duong deserves great credit for being a constantly aggressive, occasionally unpredictable and often completely unreadable opponent and is certainly deserving on his victory here in Manilla.

1st: Thanh Ha Duong (Vietnam) PHP3,472,000* (~US$80,000)
2nd: Michael Guzzardi, PokerStars Qualifier (Australia) PHP 1,833,000 (~US$42,000)
3rd: Bernie Angeles (Philippines) PHP1,024,0000 (~US$23,500)
4th: Daniel Giang (Australia) PHP782,000 (~US$18,000)
5th: Sameer Rattonsey (India) PHP647,000 (~US$15,000)
6th: Mike Takayama (Philippines) PHP512,000 (~US$11,750)
7th: Andreas Rauh (United Kingdom) PHP405,000 (~US$9,300)
8th: Maria Bernadette Lina (Philippines) PHP324,000 (~US$7,500)
9th: Rajeev Kanjani (India) PHP242,000 (~US$5,500)
*includes HK$100,000 ACOP Main Event seat

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APPT8 Manila champion, Thanh Ha Duong

I'd just like to add my own personal thanks to Danny McDonagh, Fred Leung, Long Guan, the Metro Card Club and everyone who is part of the APPT here in Manila for putting a great tournament at a brand new (and popular) location. The next event for the APPT will be the Beijing Millions from the 18th to the 27th of July. You can find all the details for that event here and links to all the updates from this event here.

Thanks for reading, I hope you've enjoyed this tournament as much as I have! I'm going to leave the last words to our winner: