It all comes up roses for Elliot Smith at PokerStars Championship Macau

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Elliot Smith pushes winnings past $2 million

The sun has just set on the first PokerStars Championship Main Event to be played in Macau, but it is rising ever higher on the poker career of Elliot Smith.

Smith, a 29-year-old from British Columbia, Canada, tonight became the third winner of the PokerStars Championship era, joining Christian Harder and Kenny Smaron as champs in this new tournament series. Whether it's hosted in the Bahamas, Panama or the Far East, these Championships keep heading back to North America.

Smith nabbed the chip lead late last night when there were six players left, but he was trailing heads up when he managed to negotiate an equal chop of the remaining prize money with Terry Tang, a fearless Chinese pro.

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Terry Tang: Fearless

The deal guaranteed both Smith and Tang a payday of slightly more than HK$2.5 million after the pair were the last two from a starting field of 536 in this HK$40,000 buy-in event at the PokerStars LIVE card-room in the City of Dreams.

However, any thoughts that the deal might spell a prompt end to proceedings could not be further from the truth. Smith and Tang then played a ten-and-a-half-hour heads up battle, the longest in flagship PokerStars tournament history. When Smith eventually ground down Tang, he had added an additional HK$300,000 to the top prize, as well as the prestigious trophy.

Smith's final winner's cheque was around US$370,000 and pushes his live tournament winnings past $2 million.

"I'm super, super happy," Smith said, before referencing a few huge folds to get him to the final. "I feel great about some of the spots I passed up."

The final hand took place at 1:50am local time tonight and signalled the end of a marathon final day that was divided into three distinct periods. It kicked off with a frenzy of quick eliminations, which was followed by a long period when the last two left discussed the terms of their deal.

Then they were left heads up for hour upon hour, a battle lasting more than 250 hands. Despite it being a contest between a familiar high-stakes tournament regular (Smith) and a relative unknown (Tang), neither player could push himself into a decisive lead until the clock ticked past well past midnight.

Eventually Smith broke Tang's resistance--and did it in true Macau style. Tang flopped a set of sixes. Smith rivered the nut flush with his A♦K♠--and finally the day was done.

"It was just a gruelling, gruelling battle," Smith said. "Hats off to my opponent, who played fantastic."

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Elliot Smith celebrates at the end of a gruelling battle

Six players returned to action at the PokerStars LIVE! card-room at the City of Dreams today and the table dynamic suggested things could get off to a speedy start. The two overnight leaders, Smith and Tang, each had more than double the stack of third-placed Aymon Hata, which left four men in quick need of a double up.

final_six_pscmacau_ft.jpegThe final six: Standing (l-r): Pete Chen, Elliot Smith, Avraham Oziel. Seated (l-r): Daniel Laidlaw, Terry Tang, Aymon Hata

As it happened, there wasn't a double up. It was one of the quirks of this remarkable final that every called all-in resulted in an elimination. Pete Chen ran his pocket tens into Tang's pocket jacks and lost; Hata slammed Q♦J♦ into Smith's pocket kings; and Avraham Oziel's aces couldn't hold up against sevens. It was that kind of day.

The eliminations weren't quite absolutely routine: Chen flopped a set, before Tang rivered one too. (Hand history.) Similarly, Hata flopped two-pair before Smith turned a bigger two pair. (Hand history.)

tang_resuck_pscmacau_ft.jpegSmith reacts as a re-outdraw accounts for Pete Chen (seated, left)

hata_out_pscmacau_ft.jpegFifth-place finisher Aymon Hata bids farewell

That gave a scalp each to the two overnight leaders, before Tang claimed another one when he flopped a set to beat Oziel. (Hand history.)

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The adventure ends for Avraham Oziel

Oziel, however, grinned and accepted his fate with utter joy: he got into this tournament via a $11 Spin & Go on PokerStars and therefore locked up a profit of roughly $164,740, a return on investment of 1.4 million percent. If your aces are going to be cracked, sooner in these circumstances than any other.


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Daniel Laidlaw, an Australian who lives in Macau, has seen all that the Asian game has to offer and will have been serenely unsurprised by the fireworks going off around him. But when they got three-handed, he knew his time had come. The first time he was all-in and called, his A♦T♣ was ahead of Smith's K♠5♦. But only until a five flopped. (Hand history.)

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Daniel Laidlaw's time had come

Laidlaw hit the rail in third and we had gone from six to two in about 100 minutes of play. However 100 was a significant number: it was the approximate number of big blinds each of the last two had heading into a heads-up battle that had all the makings of a titanic battle.

That, though, would have to wait because there was another matter to be settled first: a deal. With so many big blinds still in play, and the stacks so even, both players knew this could still go either way. They locked themselves away with a laptop and some tournament staff (metaphorically) to see if they could come to some agreement.

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Crunching numbers with Elliot Smith, Terry Tang and the PokerStars Macau staff

The deal negotiations took more than an hour to reach their resolution, which was only a little less than it had taken to lose four final-table players. When they emerged they had at least reached parity in their expectations. They were chopping it and leaving HK $300,000 to play for, plus the trophy.

However, this day wasn't even a third of the way through. Despite the deal, Smith and Tang took to the felt for what quickly--or, more accurately, very slowly--became an extraordinary contest.

The best way to review it is by heading to the live updates page, where every tiny swing was dutifully logged. Whenever anyone edged into a lead, it swung back to even. It brought to mind Tim Vance vs. Soren Jensen in Copenhagen, Antonio Buonanno vs. Jack Salter in Monaco and Dominik Panka vs. Mike McDonald at the PCA...if they all ran consecutively.

Eventually, Smith edged decisively ahead, and there was one more outdraw in that Macau deck. (Hand history.)

"The last hand was pretty ridiculous," Smith said. That goes for the many thousands before it too.

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Terry Tang thinks he's won it

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Tang's rail celebrates too soon

Goodnight from Macau. It's Monaco next. Join us there next month.

PokerStars Championship Macau Main Event
Dates: April 3-9, 2017
Buy in: HKD $40,000 + $2,400
Players: 536
Prize pool: HKD $20,796,800

POSNAMECOUNTRYSTATPRIZE (HKD)PRIZE (USD)
1Elliot SmithCanada $2,877,500*$370,508*
2Terry TangChina $2,577,000*$331,816*
3Daniel LaidlawAustralia $1,724,000$221,896
4Avraham OzielCanadaPokerStars Spin & Go qualifer$1,280,000$164,749
5Aymon HataGermany $950,000$122,275
6Pete ChenTaiwanLive satellite winner$705,000$90,741
7Yan LiChina $521,000$67,058
8Xuan TanChina $386,000$49,682

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Macau