California Mother Haixia Zhang Wins 2014 Ladies Championship

Haixia Zhang wins the 2014 Ladies Championship and captured her first win in a WSOP bracelet event. (Drew Amato Photo)

Haixia Zhang wins the 2014 Ladies Championship and captured her first win in a WSOP bracelet event. (Drew Amato Photo)

The $10,000 Ladies Championship of the 2014 World Series of Poker came to a shining close around 5:00 pm (PST) as Haixia Zhang won her first WSOP gold bracelet for $153,470 and became just the second female bracelet winner of the series.

Zhang was in total shock after winning the event; Mother of two kids, she only plays poker for fun. Her and her husband run a staffing company that her husband has owned for 14-15 years.

Her and her family normally come out to Vegas for a week in the summer, but not for poker; she said this year was different. “I came here to play. Last two years, we were vacationing and my husband would say ‘go play’. This year I said I’m playing. I’m scheduling a trip and I’m going to play.”

Zhang had a rough close of the day on Saturday evening, where she was down to just four big blinds at one point. “I lost my chips with jacks. someone with eights shoved and hit a set on the flop and they took all my chips. I was down to four big blinds last night when we were down to five or six tables.” But yet she made her way back up; she said she “had the cards a couple of times. I had to made a couple of hero calls. Pushed people around a bit. I text my husband. I have four big blinds. think I’ll be done very soon. Stay tuned. But no, I wasn’t nervous. I was just going to play my game.”

Coming into the day, Zhang had an average chip stack, wedged in the middle of the pack. Here were the players and their seat draw and chip counts as they began the final table this afternoon:

  1. Persia Bonella – 128,000
  2. Meikat Siu – 460,000
  3. Elizabeth Montizanti – 184,000
  4. Stacey Sullivan – 64,000
  5. Pat Landis – 219,000
  6. Haixia Zhang – 311,000
  7. Patricia Cahill – 66,000
  8. Mikiyo Aoki – 742,000
  9. Kendra Wray – 214,000

The day was off to a slightly late start due to the opening ceremony of the Big One For One Drop. Right in the middle of introductions and player chip counts, the floor was forced to pause and let the poet finish his speech before continuing with the starting line-up. By 1:15 pm (PST), the first official shuffle up and deal of the final table was heard, with only seven minutes remaining in level 19 to kick off the afternoon.

All of the ladies that took their seats in the Amazon Room feature table this afternoon were guaranteed a minimum of $11,504,  but are much more focused on winning that gold bracelet and the $153,470 that comes along with it. Mikiyo Aoki led the way with a dominant chip lead over the other ladies; Aoki had bagged up 742,000 chips, over-stacking her next closest opponent by over 250,000 chips.

The first all in and call would take place about 15 minutes into the event; short-stacked Patricia Cahill pushed her last 66,000 chips into the middle of the table and turned over the A 5 . She would be called by Aoki who was holding the lucky ladies themselves, Q Q. The flop came out Q 3 K giving Aoki a set and leaving Cahill needed some help; the J gave Cahill a chance at staying alive with a straight draw, and sure enough, fate was on her side as the T fell and her tournament life was elongated.

Two eliminations came back to back just 15 minutes later, and in the blink of an eye, the two shortest stacks were out of the tournament, leaving just 7 ladies in the field. Haixia Zhang raised  and Cahill shoved her remaining chips in from the button; Zhang made the call, flipping over the K K. Cahill tuned over the A 8, leaving her drawing for some help; the board ran out 4 5 6 9 J giving no help to Cahill, who would finish in ninth place for $11,504.

Stacey Sullivan would push her small stack of chips in right after Cahill exited the stage, leaving Persia Bonella to call her from the big blind. Sullivan was behind with her A J when Bonella turned over the A K, and it failed to improve as the board offered no help, giving Bonella a set as it showed K 4 K 9 Q. Sullivan would walk away with $14,752 and finish in eighth place.

What seemed like just a few moments later, another player had decided to bring an end to their tournament life.  Zhang raised Aoki called, and Kendra Wray put her remaining chips at risk, opting to go all in.  Zhang decided to raise, allowing Aoki to make the decision to fold. Wray turned over A J and was surprised to see that she was ahead when Zhang turned over the A 9. The flop remained good for Wray as it led the K 8 6, but the turn put her in jeopardy as the 9 gave Zhang a pair, and the 3 would send Wray to the rails with $19,120 in seventh place.

Pat Landis, who is better known as Daniel Negreanu’s personal assistant, tweeted about her return for the final table:

Another big hand was played a short time later that erupted in huge cheers and screams from Landis’ fans. Landis was running a race against Zhang, holding a pair of eights. Zhang would flop the nut flush with her A Q when the T 3 K was revealed. Landis was in serious trouble, and needed a runner-runner to stay in the game. The 3 came on the turn giving Landis a small amount of hope, but nothing compared to the excitement when the 8 was turned over on the river. Landis’ group of friends jumped up and down, waving their signs in the air as Landis doubled up with the full house and extended her stay in the tournament.

After the ladies returned from their first break of the day, they had twenty minutes of slow play and little action. Finally, a three-way pot would be played between Bonella, Meikat Siu, and Aoki; the flop would come out 4 6 6, leaving Aoki to check, Bonella to bet, and Siu to raise; Aoki would then fold, Bonella shoved, and Sui called. Bonella flipped over A 4 and Siu revealed the K Q giving Bonella the lead with a pair of fours, but the Q came on the turn switching the lead to Siu. When the K was shown on the river, Bonella collected her $25,072 for her sixth place finish.

Just two hands later, Landis would be dropping the ball and pushing the rest of her chips into the middle. Aoki would make the call, flipping over [10c] [10s] putting Landis in danger with her 6 6. As the board ran out 9 7 2 4 8, Landis failed to pull any help, and would exit the tournament in fifth place for $33,279.

And two hands after that it was Elizabeth Montizanti whose spot at the table was at risk. Montizanti shoved on the button and Zhang would call after asking for a count. Zhang would show A 2 which was trailing Montizanti’s 3 3, leaving her in good shape for a double up. When the flop came out A 5 K, Zhang had hit the ace, and the 9 8 on the turn and river would not aid Montizanti who would be forced to walk from the event in fourth place for $44,770.

As the three remaining women took off on their second break of the day, here were the chip counts of the ladies as they would return to fight for some serious money:

  • Mikiyo Aoki – 1,184,000
  • Haixia Zhang – 698,000
  • Meikat Siu – 506,000

At 4:30 pm (PST), Aoki and Zhang would begin heads up play, after Aoki eliminated Siu from the event; when she brought in the remainder of Sui’s chips, the two ladies would be about even for chips, with Aoki sitting behind a stack of 1,130,000 compared to Zhang’s collection of 1,258,000. Sui went all in  against Aoki after seeing a flop of 8 Q 3, giving Aoki a pair of queens and Sui a pair of eights; unfortunately for Sui, another queen fell on the turn, leaving Sui drawing dead, eliminated in third place for $61,114.

Just twenty minutes into heads up play, Aoki had slowly been losing her chips to Zhang and was rather short. She would eventually push the last of her chips into the center of the table, holding J 7. Zhang had her beat from the start holding A 6. When the board ran out 5 3 9 T T with no help for Aoki, the chip leader returning from Day 2 would take home $94,800 for her second place finish.

When asked if she came out here for a particular event, Zhang said “I had no clue what was happening. I played the monster stack and got knocked out. This is my third summer out here. I play the deepstacks. I’ve only been here for a week. I played  the deepstack 235 at 3 pm on Monday or Tuesday and we chopped seven ways. I took sixth place, but we all took an even amount of money. It seems like I’m free rolling. Its been surreal.”

“I don’t play. I’ll play a couple events in Tahoe during a ski trip with the kids for thanksgiving.  This is my third year but this is the first year I’ve stayed longer than a week for the series. I have young children. I love them. My kids are seven and four. Earlier today, my son asked ‘Daddy how come mommy can be on tv and talking to you on the phone at the same time? How’s that possible?’ I think yesterday, Day 2, I was getting ready and started crying. I miss them so much. My husband is in Disneyland with my kids. I’m gonna call him and see if he wants me to come.”

I’m probably going to play a couple more bracelet events before the main. I’m thinking the one on Thursday, the little one for one drop? I’m stoked. the whole time as I walking into the game today I was shivering. Really tried to put a calm face. It’s surreal. I really enjoyed the event. The people were friendly. We shared poker strategies at the table. She (Aoki) was a good player. I felt maybe towards the end she went on tilt a bit and it affected her play. She was very solid and a good player.  I respect all the players I played with.”

Zhang would finish up with the first place win, earning herself a gold WSOP bracelet and $153,470.

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