Junzhong Loo got his start in poker playing pub leagues in New Zealand and a couple years later he is the first Malaysian bracelet winner after entering the World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific AU$2,200 ($1,910) No Limit Hold’em event. Loo finished on top of the 215-entrant field for $93,235 and faced his Malaysian countryman Aik Chuan Nee heads-up for the title.
Loo was excited about being Malaysia’s first WSOP bracelet winner. “It means a lot,” Loo said. “It felt good (to play heads-up against another Malaysian). It took away the stress. I didn’t mind if he won – we’ve played many times. In fact, I taught him how to play poker. I’m more of a cash game player, so I’m not that experienced in tournaments.”
Nee brought the chip lead to the final table, just slightly ahead of Feng Zhou. Loo led the chase pack of Sam Ngai, Luke Spano and Sam Ruha. Peco Stojanovski, Martin Kozlov and Michael O’Grady rounded out the final table.
More than 50 hands passed before the first elimination from the final table. O’Grady open-shoved from early position, Zhou shoved from the button and Nee called off from the small blind holding pocket kings. O’Grady turned up pocket nines and Zhou was behind holding pocket sixes. The board ran A K Q 8 T, Nee won the main pot with a set of kings, O’Grady was eliminated and Zhou was crippled to about 14 big blinds.
On the very next hand Zhou moved his short stack all in and Nee called holding pocket sevens. Zhou had two over cards with Q J and needed to connect to stay alive. The board ran A K 5 K 4 and Zhou was eliminated in eighth place before O’Grady could collect his payout for ninth place.
The action didn’t slow and for the third consecutive hand there was a preflop shove and call. Loo opened, Ruha moved all in from the big blind with his eight-big blind stack and Loo called holding pocket tens. Ruha showed pocket deuces and watched the board run Q 7 5 T 6. Loo’s set send Ruha to the rail in in seventh place.
Just two hands later Ngai shoved holding Q J and Loo called holding pocket nines in the big blind. The dealer spread 9 8 3 A A and Ngai was eliminated after flopping a gutshot straight draw.
The five-handed table settled in for almost 50 hands and two hours before Nee and Stojanovski went to a 8 7 4 flop. Nee led out, Stojanovski called and the turn came 2. Nee led out again, Stojanovski called and the river came 2. Nee bet again, Stojanovski shoved and Nee insta-called. Stojanovski tabled 7 2 for a full house but Nee showed him bad news when he tabled 6 5 for a flopped straight flush.
Thirty minutes later Kozlov open-shoved on the button and Loo called out of the big blind with K T. Kozlov was out-pipped holding K 9, watched the board run A 4 2 Q 5 and was eliminated in fourth place.
Forty-five minutes passed before Spano open-shipped from the small blind and Loo called from the big holding A 4. Spano needed help holding J 6 but the flop went Loo’s way when it fell A 7 2. Spano was drawing thin to stay alive and was eliminated after the board completed T J.
Heads-up play began with Loo holding 932,000 to Nee’s 358,000. Nee chipped up marginally over the course of heads-up play, but couldn’t break through to grab any real momentum over 60 hands. On the final hand Loo raised on the button, Nee shoved and Loo snap-called holding pocket sixes. Nee needed help after tabling pocket deuces and the 5 4 3 flop gave him outs to a wheel. The board completed with 8 8, Nee was eliminated and Loo was the first player from Malaysia to win a gold bracelet.
Final Table Payouts
- Junzhong Loo – $93,235
- Aik Chuan Nee – $57,627
- Luke Spano – $41,941
- Martin Kozlov – $31,017
- Peco Stojanovski – $23,297
- Samuel Ngai – $17,771
- Sam Ruha – $13,761
- Feng Zhao – $10,815
- Michael O’Grady – $8,626
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