2017 APOY: Big Three First Quarter Spotlight

It's hard to believe but we're already through the first quarter of the 2017 Asia Player of the Year (APOY) season (which runs from November 29, 2016 to October 29, 2017) and the leaderboard is full of familiar names.

We're going to take a look at our Big Three contenders who are all ranked in the Top Ten and sport a long track record of success.

But before we do, here are the upcoming PokerStars Asia special events:

The PokerStars LIVE Manila Super Series (Feb 27-Mar 5) and ACOP Platinum Series 17 (Mar 3-12) are either now running or about to begin.

The next major tournament on the Asian poker circuit is PokerStars Championship Macau (Mar 30-Apr 9) and the newest global poker series will surely impact the final standings in a big way.

Okay, let's take a look at our Big Three.


ALAN LAU


1 Alan Lau_2Mar17.jpgAlan Lau

First things first. PokerStars photographer Long Guan may be in the running for Poker Picture of the Year (admittedly I'm not sure this award actually exists) after capturing Alan Lau's super-excited-fist-pump-that-sends-his-glasses-flying-off-his-face moment during the recent Red Dragon event.

Before Lau considers a modeling career, he most certainly should keep doing what he's good at and that's poker.

The 29-year old Hong Kong poker pro defeated a field of 1,216 runners to slay the biggest Red Dragon in history -- punctuating a terrific Macau Poker Cup (MPC) series that saw him accumulate over HK$3.5 million in winnings. Lau also won the 10K NLH event and had a deep run in the Baby Dragon event where he finished 24th (out of 602 players).

Unsurprisingly, Lau sits atop the standings. His 4,583 points place him securely at No. 1 but there's plenty of work to do: In the past three years, the lowest winning score has been 5,691 points with an average winning scoring of 7,141 through that same time span.

With that being said, Alan Lau is not only the hottest player on the Asian poker scene at the moment but also a former APOY award winner in 2015 and understands what it takes to win.

Nobody has ever won the APOY a second time. 2014 APOY winner Pete Chen has been the closest to accomplishing the feat when finished the 2015 season as the No. 5 ranked player.


CELINA LIN


2 Celina Lin_2Mar17.jpgCelina Lin

Celina Lin also had a great MPC series alongside Lau. The Team PokerStars Pro had a runner-up finish in the Baby Dragon event while also cashing in the HK$100,000 Single Day High Roller (seventh place).

Despite never finishing any APOY season as the top ranked player, the 34-year old Shanghai native has been remarkably consistent since the APOY scoring system began in 2009: Lin owns the all-time points total at 20,518 and is the only player to crack the 20K-point mark. She has made the Top 11 four times with her best rank coming in 2009 at No. 6 -- exactly where she's ranked now.

Arguably the most impressive stat is the fact Lin has achieved Top 40 status in all but one season (2014).

Lin has made her intentions clear about the season ahead, simply stating, "I'm going for the APOY this year!"


SPARROW CHEUNG


3 Sparrow Cheung_2Mar17.jpgSparrow Cheung

If you've been following poker in Asia from the beginning then you surely know who Sparrow Cheung is.

If you haven't been following then you're understandably confused as to why a No. 10 ranked player and Pirates of the Caribbean fan is on our spotlight.

Allow me to enlighten you.

Cheung has made more final tables (44) in Official Asia Player of the Year events than anyone. The unassuming Hong Kong pro made nine final tables last season to overtake Lin (37) for the all-time record.

The 35-year old is also No. 3 amongst the all-time points leaders with 15,679 and soon may challenge Lin for the top spot in this category as well.

This season has already seen Cheung capture the MPC26 50K NLH event and cash in the Single Day High Roller (tenth place) for over HK$1.2 million in winnings.


2017 ASIA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TOP TEN RANKED PLAYERS

(as of day ending Feb 22, 2017)

1. Alan Lau (Hong Kong) -- 4,583 pts
2. Chien Fa Chou (Taiwan) -- 3,000 pts
3. Siong Boon Heng (Singapore) -- 2,648 pts
4. Juicy Li (China) -- 2,528 pts
5. Fei Han (China) -- 2,501 pts
6. Celina Lin (China) -- 2,450 pts
7. Feng Wen Chen (Taiwan) -- 2,436 pts
8. Apoorva Goel (India) -- 2,400 pts
9. Justin Chan (Hong Kong) -- 2,264 pts
10. Sparrow Cheung (Hong Kong) -- 2,260 pts

Complete standings available at www.PokerStarsLIVEMacau.com.

Fred Leung
@PokerStars in PokerStars Macau