MPC21: Zhenru Xie brings the Red Dragon back to China

China have dominated poker in Macau over the last few years. Not surprising considering its proximity to the 'Vegas of the East'. In many ways it's just a pure numbers game with China often making up 50% or more of the tournament field. It's for this reason that it's somewhat surprising that we haven't had a Chinese Red Dragon winner since Team PokerStars Pro Celina Lin claimed her second in 2012.

Until now, as China's Zhenru Xie has just won the MPC21 Red Dragon Main Event.

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Winning gave Zhenru the strength to hold up that beautifully heavy trophy

The odds were always in China's favour leading into the MPC21 Red Dragon final table. Four of the nine participants were from China. The overwhelming chip leader was among those four. Once again, it was a game of odds.

Then, one by one, all the players from China started falling to the rail.

Eventually, when just four players remained, the odds were all of a sudden skewed in the other direction. It was China Vs. Taiwan Vs. Japan Vs. Australia. Odds were now against China to add another title to their country's very large trophy cabinet.

First Taiwan fell. Then Japan. Now all China needed to do was watch Australia fall.

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Zhenru Xie and Mathew Ryan shake hands before their battle

However, Australia had something to fight for - in 20 editions of the Red Dragon, an Aussie has never won the Red Dragon. The hopes of the nation were on Mathew Ryan.

He chipped away, became a big chip leader and it was looking like we would be crowning the first Australian Red Dragon champion.

Then, in two hands, the tables turned.

China had won.

The man to put another tick in China's 'W' column... Zhenru Xie.

There were plenty of key hands and big moments at the final table that ensured Xie was able to win the title, the HK$1,667,000 top prize, a Slyde 'Titanium' design watch worth CNY 52,800 (approximately USD $8,480) and the immortal Red Dragon trophy.

But if I had to put my finger on the main reason Xie won, it had to be because of his railbirds. Not only did they outnumber all the other competitor's rail, but their passion was unmatched by any others.

Especially that of Xie's wife Fei.

It is not an exaggeration at all to say that Fei had her fingers tightly crossed for the entire final table. As a poker blogger from the West who doesn't speak the language, I may not have understood what she was shouting between hands, but I knew that crossed fingers meant she was hoping and wishing for her husband to get lucky when he needed to.

It worked.

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Fei wouldn't even stop crossing her fingers to celebrate

For Xie to get where he is right now, two things had to happen:

1. His wife Fei had to make her knuckles white in a desperate plea for good fortune.
2. Eight players had to be eliminated from the tournament.

The first elimination at the final table would see Wai Leong Chan, the start-of-day short stack, move all in preflop holding King-Queen, which ran into Pete Chen's A♥K♣. The board ran out 5♠6♥J♦9♦A♦ and with that, Chan was sent home in 9th place, collecting HK$135,600.

Leong had only lasted a few minutes at the final table and Emning Zhang wouldn't last much longer. It was a 2♥6♣5♦ flop that would see the demise of Enming Zhang. He got all his chips in holding 3♥2♦ for a pair of twos and a straight draw, while he was coming up against the chip leader Hu Liu's set of fives. No help came on the turn or river and Zhang was sent home in 8th place for a HK$175,000 score.

Then, just moments later, Vietnamese pro John Hoang was eliminated when he got into a preflop raising war holding Q♦Q♠ and ran into Yamashita's K♦K♠. Hoang picked up HK$232,000 for the 7th place finish and with that the final table was down to just six players within 25 minutes.

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John Hoang was eliminated in 7th place

While the rate of attrition wouldn't continue at this pace for the remainder of the final table, it still wouldn't take long to get to heads-up. There were, however, plenty of fireworks before we got to that point.

First Chen Wang was eliminated in 6th place collecting HK$290,000. Chen was unlucky when was in the small blind with A♣T♦ against Pete Chen's A♥2♦ and wasn't able to stay ahead when Chen hit a pair of deuces.

Then, just a short while after five-handed play began, the chip leader Hu Liu gifted a massive pot to Takuya Yamashita when he shoved with just ace-high on a low flop and ran into Yamashita's set of fours. This hand would make Yamashita the chip leader, but Yamashita's lead didn't last for long though, as he first doubled Liu up and then doubled up the eventual champion.

At this point Liu had been playing the 'all or nothing' style of poker, getting in 10, 15, 20, 30 big blinds in preflop. Two cards was all he needed. While that strategy was quite effective that one time he woke up with pocket kings, it didn't work when he did the same thing with A♦8♠ and ran into Xie's A♥K♠. That was the end of Liu as he picked up HK$350,000 for the 5th place finish.

Pete Chen had been the quite achiever at the final table up to this point, but his quest for the title came to an end in 4th place. Chen's final hand saw him all in preflop holding 3♠3♦ and he was unable to improve against Ryan's 9♦9♥. Chen couldn't be too upset about his finish. Not only did he take home HK$491,000, he also picked up enough Asia Player of the Year points to storm into the top position on the leader board.

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Pete Chen leaves the tournament in 4th place

If anyone could come away from the final table thinking they deserved to win (other than Zhenru Xie, of course) it was Yamashita. On several occasions Yamashita had the best hand and had players at risk. Not only did he have his Q♣Q♥ cracked by J♦7♦ and his A♠A♦ cracked by A♣J♣ in all in situations, he also had a superiour holding on his final hand. It was just that this time he didn't have enough chips to sustain the beat as his A♣8♣ would fall to Xie's J♥9♦ to see Yamashita eliminated in 3rd place for a HK$658,000 result.

Following Yamashita's elimination, Xie would begin heads-up with a slight chip lead over his opponent in Ryan. However, that wouldn't last long as Ryan stormed into the lead and looked like becoming the champion.

Then Ryan got aggressive holding K♦8♥ on the turn of a 8♠3♠3♥A♣K♥ board and ran into Xie's A♦3♣, and suddenly the tables had turned. Ryan was down to 900,000 and had a ten-to-one chip deficit. Eventually Ryan shoved the button with J♦4♠ and Xie called with 7♠2♠. The board ran out 9♣8♥7♥A♥5♣ and it was all over. For his runner-up finish Ryan, an Aussie living in China, picked up HK$1,100,000.

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Xie Zhenru embraces his wife after winning

Congratulations must go out to China's Zhenru Xie. He won the third-largest Red Dragon, receiving HK$1,667,000, along with a Slyde 'Titanium' design watch worth CNY 52,800 (approximately USD $8,480) and the best looking trophy in poker, the Red Dragon.

MPC21 Red Dragon - final table results
Players: 808
Total prize pool: HK$7,837,600
Places paid: 108
1st: Zhenru Xie (China) - HK$1,667,000
2nd: Mathew Ryan (Australia) - HK$1,100,000
3rd: Takuya Yamashita (Japan) - HK$658,000
4th: Pete Yen Han Chen (Chinese Taipei) - HK$491,000
5th: Hu Liu (China) - HK$350,000
6th: Chen Wang (China) - HK$290,000
7th: John Quoc Tuan Hoang (Vietnam) - HK$232,000
8th: Enming Zhang (China) - HK$175,000
9th: Wai Leong Chan (Malaysia) - HK$135,600

Click here for full MPC21 prize pool and payouts

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Zhenru Xie, winner of the MPC21 Red Dragon

Zhenru Xie is not the only one who deserves recognition here at MPC21. We must also congratulate Danny McDonagh, Fred Leung and all the team at PokerStars LIVE Macau for yet again exceeding expectations. Saying that this was the third largest Red Dragon is underselling the tournament. You see, the Red Dragon is held twice a year and both of the larger Red Dragons were held in January, which is a prime time for poker in this region. This edition of the Red Dragon is easily the largest of its kind to be held in the August date slot. PokerStars LIVE Macau just proves time and time again that there is still plenty of growth to be had for poker in Asia.

Maybe the reason McDonagh and his team have been so successful in Macau is that the players just seem to have so much fun in the tournaments here. Not only in the main events like the Red Dragon, but also in the fun promotions and events that PokerStars LIVE Macau hosts all year round.

Take, for instance, the 'Flipout' tournament that is being held right now directly following the completion of the MPC21 Red Dragon final table. It's a live version of the Full Tilt tournament that sees players automatically all in preflop in a shootout-style event.

The players here love it. They are all screaming for their seven-deuce and nine-four to hold up. They are jumping up and down and cheering for their friends and even for their opponents when they hit runner-runner cards to make a flush and win their Flipout table. Maybe it's the culture of Baccarat in Macau that makes the players enjoy this event so much, but regardless of why they enjoy it, this is what poker is all about... Having fun. There needs to be more fun in poker and that's what PokerStars LIVE Macau try to provide.

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It's not often there is this much excitement around a poker table

That's all from us here at the PokerStarsBlog. I would like to take this opportunity to thank McDonagh, Leung and all the rest of the PokerStars LIVE Macau team. Once again they have been brilliant hosts. A big thanks also to Kenneth Lim and Long Guan for all their expert photography and company on the tournament floor throughout the week. You can check out their work at Kenneth Lim Photography.

The next tournament here at PokerStars LIVE Macau is the ACOP Platinum VI series which runs at from September 25th-28th. Then, after that, this region's biggest tournament, the Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP), takes place from October 24th - November 9th. There are satellites into the ACOP running at PokerStars around the clock, so be sure to check that out and maybe we will see you here in October. Thanks for tuning in!

Joshua Bell
@PokerStars in Asia Pacific Poker Tour