EPT10 Grand Final: The EPT welcomes Juicy and Yaxi
Numbers are up at the Grand Final this week, both in the Super High Roller and the Main Event. Plenty of people can take slivers of credit for the buoyant field size, but Garry Gates, the PokerStars VIP Host, deserves a particular pat on the back.
Gates is the man responsible for welcoming to the EPT the huge contingent of Asian players, who continue to enjoy their stay in Monaco. They were, of course, prevalent throughout the big €100,000 shebang, but there is still an eastern flavour in the tournament room today as the Main Event edges towards its half-way point.
There were 16 players in the starting field from either China, Hong Kong or Malaysia, an increase of approximately infinity on last year's number. This time last season, there were precisely zero players from those countries at the Grand Final, and the number remained consistent through all six days of competition.
It's different this time, and ten of the contingent were still involved at the start of Day 2, including Rono Lo, who made the final table of the Super High Roller, and his son Isaac, who has been acting as an interpreter all week.
Winfred Yu, perhaps the best known poker face originating in China, is running up a stack, and Hao Tian, who made the final table of the only APPT event won by a Chinese player, was last seen approaching 200,000 in chips, which is in the top ten per cent.
Much continues to be written in poker dispatches about the gender disparity in the game, and it is difficult to argue against the fact that this remains a male-dominated pastime. But there is certainly hope that as the game begins to welcome more players from Asia, more women will also come.
There are always many more women around the poker tables of the far east than there are in the supposedly more established poker nations -- just look at Celina Lin and Vivian Im, the Team PokerStars Pro duo, for example -- and Sixiao "Juicy" Li and Yaxi Zhu are showing their skills in Monaco this week.
Li is especially well known at the tables of Macau and beyond and made the final table of an APPT event in Seoul this time last year. She won her seat to the EPT Grand Final on PokerStars, and her friend Zhu came with her.
Zhu is actually managing to outdo her better known friend and is on a roll in Monaco, having finished second in the women's event earlier in the week, then won her seat to the Main Event in a super satellite.
Li was recently sent to the rail, but Zhu battles on with more than 150,000.
Speaking of players on the rail, Chun Lei Zhou, who thrilled throughout the Super High Roller, was eliminated on Day 1 of the Main Event, but is still paying particularly close attention to the progress of Phil Ivey.
Zhou is perhaps best known online as samrostan, where he is a regular at the nosebleeds. He certainly loves action, and was recently seen on Ivey's shoulder agitating for a game of Open Face Chinese. It takes a lot to keep Ivey away from some juicy side action -- the kind Zhou is probably very happy to give -- but Ivey has a stack of about 200,000 to worry about in the main event, and is sticking with the two-card variety of the game at the moment.
Ivey did seem tempted, it must be said. With Zhou still breathing down his neck, Ivey turned to Barry Greenstein on a neighbouring table and told him about the potential for some OFC. "It's good to know who the hustlers are," Greenstein said, although it wasn't obvious about whom he was talking.