GDAM Day 3: Niklas Heinecker becomes latest German wizard to crush High Roller, wins $4.5m

Speaking in the commentary booth this afternoon, Mike McDonald was amused by what he said was some extreme underselling in the final table player profile of Niklas Heinecker.

"He's probably one of the top five poker players in the world," McDonald said. "And they're focusing on one 70th-place finish at the World Series."

McDonald may know Heinecker by his online name ragen70, which has become one of the most feared sights at the high stakes cash game tables of the cyber-world. But before this week, Heinecker, who is 28, has not been especially well known on the live tournament scene, as evidenced by the focus on the small cash at the World Series about six years ago.

But McDonald need worry no more, for whenever the name of Niklas Heinecker is mentioned from here on, he will also be described as the 2013 GuangDong Asia Millions champion, a title that also brings with it a cheque for $34,600,000 HKD, or $4,464,516 USD. That's the second-largest first prize given in a poker tournament outside Las Vegas and caps an extraordinary three days in the Asian gambling capital of Macau.


Niklas Heinecker: A trophy to match his talent

Heinecker also becomes the latest German wizard to take down a high roller event at a major poker festival, following in the footsteps of Tobias Reinkemeier, Philipp Gruissem, Igor Kurganov and Max Altergott. It's strongly rumoured that each of those had a piece of Heinecker's action here, and the German poker economy grows ever stronger.

"I made a lot of people happy," Heinecker said as he collected his trophy, referencing those friends and investors, camped on the rail.

But this clearly meant a good deal more than just that to Heinecker, who admitted that even someone of his pedigree can't really feel comfortable playing for such enormous stakes. "Of course, this is just sick," he said. "This is by far the biggest day of my poker career...I don't think this is business as usual for anyone, and not for me definitely. It's far from what I'm used to. It's a really big thing."

The total prize pool for the event weighed in at HKD $119,375,000, which is approximately US $15.4m. It was enough to lure some of the game's leading exponents away from Las Vegas for at least a week, and offered the chance for the ever growing contingent of Asian high stakes players to test their advancing skills against the best of the best.

By the time we reached a final, two of the local players had made the money: Anson Tsang and Zheng Tang, and they would be facing off against some of the very best. In addition to the eventual champion Heinecker, there were top players from all corners of the poker playing world.


Niklas Heinecker, left, congratulates Zheng Tang on the latter's fourth-place finish


Anson Tsang: Hong Kong's finest

The full line-up at the start of play today was as follows:

Seat 1: Igor Kurganov, 25 - London, UK - 18,400,000 chips
Seat 2: Pratyush Buddiga, 24 - Colorado Springs, USA - 13,075,000 chips
Seat 3: Jeff Rossiter, 23 - Melbourne, Australia - 12,825,000 chips
Seat 4: Anson Tsang, 30 - Hong Kong - 5,750,000 chips
Seat 5: Sorel Mizzi, 27 - Toronto, Canada - 28,300,000 chips
Seat 6: Niklas Heinecker, 28 - Hamburg, Germany - 15,275,000 chips
Seat 7: Isaac Haxton, 27 - Syracuse, NY, USA - Team PokerStars Online - 7,075,000 chips
Seat 8: Zheng Tang, 46 - Shanghai, China - 24,300,000 chips

The structure of the tournament was deliberately designed to resemble a turbo event. If you're bank-rolled enough to play a tournament of this kind as an amateur, it is because you have a life away from the tables that is far too hectic to be able to hang around a casino very long.

It meant that despite the massive sums of money at stake, the final stages played out in a smash-and-grab style. Pretty much any pot throughout the three-hour final table would be for the chip lead, and the loser would likely be eliminated. If you want to know the particulars, then scroll through our blow-by-blow coverage.

Each of Mizzi, Rossiter, Kurganov and Heinecker would have the chip lead at some point during the day, and each of Tang, Tsang and Haxton would sense an opportunity to soar into contention despite their short stacks. Only Pratyush Buddiga never really got to sample much of the final table fun. The first significant pot sent him to the rail in eighth.


Sorel Mizzi swept up in the action, before busting in third


Igor Kurganov takes his leave

Scroll to the bottom of this page to see how they all ended up.

That brings to a close this exceptional tournament, which was designed essentially to test the appetite in these parts for tournaments like this, and to ascertain whether the top pros could be tempted to ante up.

As with most things touched by the Red Spade, it was an enormous success. We will be back for sure.


Team Online's Isaac Haxton: another million dollar day

The APPT begins at PokerStars Live at the City of Dreams next week, and PokerStars Blog will be here for that. Be sure to join us, but in the meantime start working on your travel plans to Asia. This is going to be the must-visit poker destination over the coming decade. Mark my words.

Congratulations to Niklas Heinecker, more than $4m richer tonight.


Niklas Heinecker, champion

2013 GuangDong Ltd Asia Millions

Date: June 5-7, 2013
Buy in: HKD $1,000,000
Players: 71
Rebuys: 54
Prize pool: HKD $119,375,000

1 - Niklas Heinecker, Germany, $34,600,000 HKD ($4,464,516 USD)
2 - Jeff Rossiter, Australia, $24,500,000 ($3,161,290)
3 - Sorel Mizzi, Canada, $16,100,000 ($2,077,419)
4 - Zheng Tang, China, $12,525,000 ($1,616,129)
5 - Isaac Haxton, USA, Team Online, $10,200,000 ($1,316,129)
6 - Igor Kurganov, Germany, $8,300,000 ($1,070,968)
7 - Anson Tsang, Hong Kong, $7,150,000 ($922,581)
8 - Pratyush Buddiga, USA, $6,000,000 ($774,194)

Photos by Kenneth Lim

Howard Swains
@howardswains in PokerStars Macau