MPC21: Hu Liu leads eclectic final nine

Five days ago 808 players sat at the felt of PokerStars LIVE Macau with the same dream. Only nine of those still have a chance of that dream coming true and in the end there can be only one champion of the MPC21 Red Dragon Main Event.

Will it be the lone Japanese player at the final table? The online pro from Malaysia? The Taiwanese young gun who has taken PokerStars LIVE Macau by storm? An Aussie expat living in China? The experience of a Vietnamese poker veteran? Or will one of the four Chinese players continue their country's domination of Macau poker?

If chip counts are the best way to measure the likely hood of winning a poker tournament, then the answer to those questions is: China. Not only is almost half the final table from China, the overwhelming chip leader Liu Hu also hails from there. Hu will start the final nine with 3,155,000 in chips, which is more than double his nearest competitor Mathew Ryan.


Hu Liu's chip stack doesn't distract his opponents nearly as much as his v-neck

If you think there is more to winning a final table than starting with the chip lead, then perhaps the answer as to who wins is related more to experience. If that's the case, then the safest bet would be either Peter Chen or John Q. Hoang.

Chen, from Taiwan, is one of the new young guns of Macau poker. He's made five final tables at PokerStars LIVE Macau in 2014 alone, including finishing 5th in the most recent APPT Macau. Making the Red Dragon final table sees Chen burst into the lead on the Asia Player of the Year leader board and, as he would very well know, a win will make him very hard to catch.

Hoang, on the other hand, may not be as young as Chen, but that just means he is even more experienced. A career spanning decades has seen Hoang amass more than US$2.2 million in tournament results, which includes three WSOP final table appearances. Hoang is certainly the most experienced of the final nine and he will be looking to use that against his opponents and go all the way to adding yet another big result to his decorated resume.


John Hoang will be hard to beat at the final table

There are certainly arguments as to why Hoang, Chen or Hu are the favourites to win the Red Dragon, but players like Takuya Yamashita, Wai Leong Chan, Zhenru Xie and Chen Wang have proven themselves as fierce competitors over the last few days and won't be going down without a fight.

Clearly at this point it is uncertain who is going to win the tournament. You just can't ever know. Anything can happen. One thing that is certain though is that the champion will be one of the nine players we have just mentioned. It simply can't be one of the 37 players who were eliminated on Day 3. Those players might not be able to win the tournament, but at the very least we can honour them by telling a bit of their story.

The story of Day 3 starts with 46 players, and as you already know, ends with the nine-handed final table. The first player to be eliminated on the day was Alan Lau. He got all his chips in preflop holding A♥A♠ and that hand was cracked by Q♥9♥. This kind of bad beat story would become the theme for the day.

There were 14 eliminations in the first two hours of play and that sort of rate of attrition would keep up until we reached the final table around six and half hours into the day.

Some of those to hit the rail during those first two hours of play include the UK's Martin Gait (44th), Vietnam's Nang Nguyen (38th), France's Jean Pierre Didier (36th) and Malaysia's Wai Wong (33rd).

Perhaps one of the turning points of Day 3 was when Zheng Mao Lin and Kenny Leong hit the rail in equal 27th place. Leong was deeply involved in a quest to win his second Red Dragon title after having won the inaugural tournament back in 2008, but ultimately fell short.


Kenny Leong will always have that first Red Dragon

When play eventually got down to the final two tables India's Kunaal Chandra was the chip leader and he would stay the leader for much of the late part of the evening.

However, his story wouldn't have a happy ending, but will get to that soon.

Firstly we will tell you all about how Mathew Ryan and Liu Hu dominated their tables. Ryan couldn't put a foot wrong, finding all the right cards he needed as he cracked Juicy Li's pocket kings with ace-jack and cracked Katsuya Muranaka's pocket queens with ace-jack. Hu also won a race to send home high roller specialist Winfred Yu in 14th place.


Winfred Yu fell just short of making the final table

At this point it was looking like Ryan would end up as the final table chip leader. Liu Hu had other ideas. This is also when Kunaal Chandra's story started to be not so happy. You see, Chandra was still crusining at this point. He wasn't the chip leader any more, but he thought he would be when he held Q♦Q♠ and had Liu at risk preflop holding J♦J♠.

Then Liu hit quads, Chandra would end up being eliminated a few hands later and Liu would go on to finish as the final table chip leader. Not everyone can have a happy ending.

MPC21 Red Dragon - Final Table Lineup
Seat 1: Takuya Yamashita (Japan) - 1,220,000
Seat 2: Wai Leong Chan (Malaysia) - 445,000
Seat 3: Enming Zhang (China) - 735,000
Seat 4: Zhenru Xie (China) - 1,275,000
Seat 5: Chen Wang (China) - 1,140,000
Seat 6: Pete Yen Han Chen (Chinese Taipei) - 1,250,000
Seat 7: John Q Hoang (Vietnam) - 980,000
Seat 8: Hu Liu (China) - 3,155,000
Seat 9: Mathew Ryan (Australia) - 1,765,000

One of the above nine players will win the MPC21 Red Dragon title. Doing so will mean a HK$1,667,000 top prize, a 'Slyde' 'Titanium' design watch that has a retail value of CNY 52,800 (approximately USD $8,480) and a piece of Macau poker history.

The final table will begin at 2:00pm local time on Wednesday and before the final nine return to the felt, you can learn a little more about them by checking out the MPC21 Red Dragon player profiles. Don't forget that the PokerStarsBlog will be the best place to find out how it all plays out and who is crowned the champion.

Joshua Bell
@PokerStars in PokerStars Macau