WSOP 2016: Yaxi Zhu makes the final on first trip to Vegas


A final table on Vegas debut for Yaxi Zhu

There was more than one Team PokerStars Pro going for a bracelet today, but while the likes of Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Vanessa Selbst and Aditya Agarwal knew they needed to beat about 6,500 people to win the Main Event, Yaxi Zhu needed to outlast only eight more.

Zhu, the Chinese player who joined the ranks of the Red Spade last September, was at the final table of the Ladies Event with a first prize of close to $150,000 in her sights. Although it didn't go in her favour today--she lost her 18 big blind stack within 20 minutes of play resuming--her ninth place was a pretty decent result for someone on their first trip to this venue.

"Everything has been going pretty well," Zhu said this morning, scurrying to her seat on the tournament stage. "This is the fourth event I've played, but this is my first time in Vegas, so it's really good [to be at the final table]."

It's something Selbst didn't manage this time. She was one of Zhu's many victims on her run to today's competition. "She's my team-mate," Zhu said. "I hope everyone can last long--like Celina Lin, we played on the same table as well--but only nine can get to the final table."


"Only nine can get to the final table"

The Ladies Event at the World Series has been going almost as long as the tournament series itself, making its debut in 1977 as a $100 buy-in seven card stud event, and gradually increasing its buy in since then.

These days it appears on the schedule with an entry fee published as $10,000, although that's a clever trick of the light. After a number of men registered for the ladies event a few years ago, tournament organisers upped the price tenfold but offered a 90 percent discount to women. It's only $1,000 to enter if you're actually female, and the ruse has successfully deterred all those who are not welcome.

This year, 819 players showed up for the event--all of them female--and it played out in good spirits, for the most part in the Brasilia Room.

"Ladies events are always good to play, they are fun," Zhu said. "Girls say things like, 'Are you still mad at me that I bet at you with kings?' This is a girls conversation, not like at a normal poker table."


The end of the road for Yaxi Zhu

Not that Zhu can't handle the rough and tumble of a "normal" poker table. A former financial consultant, Xhu played her first major poker tournament in November 2013 and quickly found her stride. She bounced from Macau to Monaco to Melbourne to Prague to Perth and then Barcelona, picking up decent cashes along the way.

She is one of those rare players whose first ever recorded score is a tournament win--a HK$2,500 tournament at the Asia Championship of Poker--but it was her second outright victory, in a side event at EPT Prague, that earned her biggest score to date. The €120,000 prize comprises a little less than half of her total recorded winnings to date.

Zhu is riding the crest of two poker waves. The Ladies Event has attracted around 1,000 players for the past ten years, while the number of representatives from Asia, particularly China, is growing massively. Three days ago at the Rio, Yue Du, of Chongqing City, became the first Chinese player to win a World Series bracelet when he triumphed in the $5,000 no limit hold'em event.

Although Zhu fell short in her bid to become the second--eights losing to Amanda Baker's queens--she is committed to a new season on the APPT, EPT and, most likely, a shy at the Main Event here.

"I just try to play well and hopefully I can do the same as him [Yue Du]," she said.

WSOP photos by