2015 ACOP: The Epic 2015 APOY race and the heroes
The word 'epic' is an abused and overused term in the world of poker commentary. However, as we approach the 2015 Asia Championship of Poker (Oct. 30 - Nov. 15) it's clearly the most appropriate description for APPT Season 9's furious battle for the Asia Player of the Year (APOY) title.
Sure, records are made to be broken. But what we've witnessed this year in the APOY race would be the equivalent of beating the 100-meter dash world record by two seconds - basically obliterating all previous standards of excellence.
The single-season record for Final Tables was 10 which was set back in 2011. There are already 4 players who have eclipsed that mark with 11 or more FTs. Additionally, another 4 players have 8-9 FTs and so that four-year record could potentially get broken a half dozen times in this season alone!
The APOY Main Leaderboard displays the Top 20 ranked players. From 2009 to 2012, you could get your name on that list with 1,747 points on average. Over the last two years -- with the expansion of qualifying events -- that average has risen to 2,368. As it currently stands, you need at least 2,623 points to make the Top 20 and, again, there's still more events to come!
Entering this season, only three players had ever surpassed the 5,000-point barrier and we already have four players (with Pete Chen sitting at 4,927) who have crossed the 5k mark. The standard of yesteryears simply doesn't apply as the current Top 5 have already been successful enough to have won the APOY title in almost any other year. It's really a perfect storm where these titans have all found remarkable success in the exact same time span.
I know what you're thinking.
Yes, there are more events.
Yes, that means more opportunities for final tables and points.
But there's also a lot more players and the APOY Scoring System is intentionally brutal for accumulating points in large quantities. Trust me, these are a series of outliers all bottled up into a 12-month war of improbable outcomes. It's like finding not one, not two, but a dozen curly fries in your order of normal fries.
One thing has remained the same though. The eventual winner of the annual award has always gone to the person with the best combination of determination, skill, volume of tournaments, and a bit of luck. This season is no different. It's just unfortunate that there are so many deserving victors.
And that leads us into...
MOST LIKELY HEROES TO WIN THE 2015 ASIA PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
Here are my picks for the most likely to win the APOY.
TWO-HEADED MONSTER: PETE CHEN & KC WONG
Pete Chen and KC Wong finished last year's APOY race in first and second place respectively. Nobody has ever finished in the Top 5 in back-to-back seasons but these two are primed to do exactly that.
When Chen won the APOY crown last season, he had the second largest points total ever at 5,691 and is the closest thing to a repeat performance as the reigning Asia Player of the Year is currently ranked No. 5 with 4,927 points. The PokerStars sponsored Taiwanese pro has shattered the previous single-season record for final tables with 14 and he brings the experience of knowing how to close the deal on the biggest stage.
Chen's FT count is amazing and worth a blog on its own if not for...
...KC Wong who has accumulated an otherworldly 17 - yes, SEVENTEEN - final tables! The former-accountant-turned-poker-pro from Hong Kong is the very definition of a Silent Killer who may be sitting right next to you without you knowing. Wong is currently ranked No. 1 but he's held that top spot on two separate occasions (including last season) so we'll see if it holds this time around.
Some players would be crushed after a runner-up finish but Wong's hunger for the APOY title has only grown. He has shown a relentless level of determination in his pursuit for greatness and an unshakable quiet confidence in attaining his goal.
I've always been curious of what makes this guy tick and so I made a dive into the archives for KC Wong's Greatest Hits and came up with these three looks of his. Use this information wisely.
Here is Wong in his pleasant, yet unassuming, where the Hong Kong guy is dressed like a Hong Kong guy. All the while, he is studying his opponents and remaining quiet as to not be noticed.
I've managed to find the photographs that correctly correlate Wong with monster hands and this is what he looks like when he's trying to find a way to get all your chips into the middle.
And of course, no top player takes on the world of poker without knowing the art of the bluff. This is what Wong looks like when he's got nothing but also smells weakness from his opponent. Be sure to know when he's trying to steal a hand from you!
Honourable mention goes to Leon Hsu who is No. 8 right now and finished last year with that exact same ranking. If not for the ridiculousness of the 2015 competition his story of becoming only the second person to finish in the Top 10 in back-to-back seasons would be more impactful.
HEART OF A CHAMPION: AARON LIM & YUGUANG LI
When you do something that's never been done before people should be scared of you and that's how I've arrived at these picks.
It took nine seasons on the Asia Pacific Poker Tour to find a 2-time champion but Aaron Lim became that person after winning APPT Manila this past August. His other APPT title was in Seoul, Korea and the Aussie could very well take the field for surprise despite his current No. 11 rank. Lim's limitation is volume and surely not skill as he has historically restricted his tournament action to Main Event and High Roller events. With that being said, those are also the events that award the most points.
Mainland China has dominated the tournament fields in Macau but for the most part, those players haven't performed particularly well against the international pros that come to the ACOP. The Chinese may have found their hero in Red Bull fueled Yuguang Li who did this.
TEAM POKERSTARS PROS: CELINA LIN & BRYAN HUANG
There are three players bearing the red spade in the Top 50 - but outside the Top 20 - and while these look like long shots it bears to mention that ACOP Title Events are worth heap loads of APOY points.
Celina Lin is the highest ranked of that group at No. 28 and it certainly wouldn't be strange to see the 2-time Red Dragon winner move up the leaderboard given her success in the ACOP in previous years. Lin already has an ACOP Spadie title on her resume and made a deep run in the Main Event last year where she finished in 22nd place.
Chen An Lin and Bryan Huang are sitting at No. 48 and No. 50 respectively. Huang has the advantage of knowing exactly what it takes to mount a comeback after doing so for the 2010 title. In fact, I did a little digging for Huang's blog about his 66-point win (which is still the smallest margin of victory) to remind you all he knows how it's done.
There are just 13 Official Asia Player of the Year events remaining for this season and the epic season concludes at the 2015 ACOP beginning October 30.