2016ACOP: APOY Spotlight - The Best in Asia

Since 2009, PokerStars has recognised the Asia Player of the Year (APOY) based on the top ranked player on the APOY Leaderboard. This season, the Regional Asia Player of the Year was introduced to rank the best players from six different regions.

As it does every year, the 2016 Asia Championship of Poker (October 28 - November 13) attracts the best players in the world to PokerStars LIVE Macau. The Far East's richest poker festival is nearly always the difference maker for the annual awards - where the winners rise to the top while those who shy from the challenge miss out on the hardware.

Let's take a look at our contenders as we approach the 2016 ACOP start date. [Standings as of October 20, 2016]

OVERALL APOY LEADERBOARD
1. Jack En-ching Wu (Taiwan) - 8,842 points
2. Wayne Wei Yi Zhang (China) - 7,866
3. Linh Tran (Canada) - 4,913
4. Alvan Zheng (China) - 4,800
5. Tom Alner (UK) - 4,780

Each year, the APOY award winner gets immortalized by having their name etched into the Asia Player of the Year legacy trophy (pictured below). That name will either be Taiwan's Jack Wu or China's Wayne Zhang.

The two poker pros are so far ahead of the rest of the field, opposing players mind as well wear t-shirts bearing white flags.

It's a real shame that there has to be a loser between these two champions who are both having historically great seasons. Both Wu and Zhang have surpassed Shaq Lin's single-season record for points (6,278) which has stood for five years.

Last year, KC Wong set a single-season record for final tables (18) and Wu has already beaten that mark with 19 thus far.

As this epic battle rages on, the impossible 10,000-point barrier might actually be possible. The two heroes have been on a 10-month game of leapfrog for the No. 1 ranking. At this point, Wu is the favourite since he current owns the top spot but he'd be extremely foolish to let his guard down now.


1 Asia Player of the Year legacy trophy.JPG


REGIONAL APOY LEADERBOARDS
Here are the current leaders and favourites to go down in history as their region's first ever award winner.

GROUP 1: CHINA
1. Wayne Wei Yi Zhang - 7,866
2. Alvan Yifan Zheng - 4,800
3. Quan Zhou - 4,500

GROUP 2: TAIWAN
1. Jack En-ching Wu - 8,842
2. Bruno Tzhu Chieh Lo--3,845
3. Pete Chen - 3,395

While Zhang and Wu battle it out for the top award, they're sure-fire bets to win their respective regional groups of China and Taiwan.

It's got to be weird for someone like Alvan Zheng who's having a remarkable season under normal circumstances. Yet despite claiming two titles this year - including the Macau Millions Main Event - he probably needs not one, but two miracles to win the Regional APOY.


2 Wayne Zhang.jpgWayne Zhang


3 Jack Wu.jpgJack Wu


GROUP 3: HONG KONG - MACAU
1. Ion Sang Song (Macau) - 4,231
2. Ben Lai (HK) - 3,981
3. Derx Kwok Chun Lai (HK) - 3,238

Ion Sang Song recently won the ACOP Platinum Series XV title to take over the top position and is now battling against probability: There are roughly ten times as many players from HK as there are from Macau. The 55-year old also doesn't play events outside Macau meaning he has been scoring at a higher rate than his competition.

But the Group 3 winner is far from over. Ben Lai is only 250 points behind and Derx Lai - the back-to-back Baby Dragon event winner - is within a thousand points. Also lurking is reigning Asia Player of the Year Alan Lau (2,916 points) who has a PokerStars sponsorship into the ACOP Main Event and likely to play more APOY qualifying events than those currently ahead of him.


4 Ion Sang Song.jpgIon Sang Song

GROUP 4: INDIA
1. Nikhil Dangayach - 1,525
2. Shiva Kapavarapu - 600
3. Dhaval Mudgal - 583

India is a an interesting case right now and that's mostly because the current top three players are likely to be idle the rest of the season. That leaves the door wide open for Bansal Raghav (420 points) who is expected to compete in the ACOP. Team PokerStars Pro Aditya Agarwal has yet to score in Asia this season but a good run could win him the Indian crown.


5 Aditya Agarwal.jpgAditya Agarwal

GROUP 5: JAPAN
1. Takashi Ogura - 2,925
2. Tetsuya Tsuchikawa - 1,884
3. Daiki Iijima - 1.726

Takashi Ogura leads his nation after two final table appearances in the Red Dragon (third place) and MPC25 High Roller (seventh place).

While Ogura certainly has the credentials to take home the award (he's third on Japan's all-time money list), he does have veteran Tetsuya Tsuchikawa within striking distance.


6 Takashi Ogura.jpgTakashi Ogura


GROUP 6: PHILIPPINES
1. Joven Huerto - 3,182
2. Mike Takayama - 3,009
3. Jessie Leonarez - 2,482

All Top 3 players in the Philippines group made the final table in the APPT Manila Main Event but its Joven Huerto who currently leads by sheer consistency with eight final table appearances this season.

However, Mike Takayama (8th on the Philippines all-time money list) is just 173 points behind and very much a threat for the No. 1 spot.

It's yet to be seen which Filipinos will make the journey to Macau but there is still the PokerStars LIVE Manila ₱1 Million Guarantee (October 24-30) that takes place prior to the ACOP and could very well determine the final standings.


7 Joven Huerto.jpgJoven Huerto

Fred Leung
@PokerStars in Asia Pacific Poker Tour