Champion Ding Biao!

We can’t say we hadn’t been warned.

Ding Biao’s performances at the Triton Super High Roller Series in Jeju over the past two weeks have been nothing short of exceptional. He had cashed six times, made two final tables, and was only narrowly beaten into second place in the biggest buy-in event on the no limit hold’em schedule.

But Biao was not done, and today became the latest Triton two-time champion, outlasting a final table in the $50K PLO event that was filled with the global stars of poker.

Biao, 32, downed Phil Ivey heads-up, denying the American Hall of Famer a sixth Triton title, and earning $1,107,000 in the process. And that was after players such as Patrik Antonius, Stephen Chidwick, Paul Phua and Ole Schemion had also proved no match for Ding.

“The more I play, I am getting better and better,” Biao said through an interpreter, after clinching the title.

Biao was in the middle of the pack overnight, staring up with all others at the seemingly unbeatable PLO beast Nacho Barbero. But Biao continued his own exceptional form to weave through this hugely decorated field, eventually grinding down Ivey in an exceptionally one-sided heads-up battle.

Phil Ivey was made to settle for second

That’s really not something that happens very often, but Ivey was forced to settle for $755,000 and a runner up finish.

“Phil Ivey is a very good player,” Biao said, acknowledging that beating many commentators’ picks as the greatest of all time felt special. “There’s always a lot of luck. I got the cards this time.”

This was a consummate display by Biao, who sat unruffled beneath a trademark Triton bucket hat and simply set about his game. He allowed himself a clench of the fist and a broad smile at the conclusion. Biao himself proved again that he is at home in such esteemed company.

Ding Biao was fully focused from the start


Nacho Barbero was once again at the top of the chip counts coming into the second and final day, but his attempt to dominate right from the start–as he had in his incredible victory yesterday–was not immediately successful. On the stone bubble, Barbero doubled up Kilian Loeffler, with the German’s KcKsAdTh staying better than Barbero’s KdQhJsQc after they got it in pre-flop.

Loeffler doubled from about eight big blinds to 16, enough to permit him to wait it out as other short stacks faced danger.

Jason Koon also managed a double up through Stephen Chidwick, and was left waiting until the river for his AcKdJs8c to beat Chidwick’s Qh8h5h5s.

“Pocket fives are going to hold,” Koon said after four blanks on flop and turn. The Jd river gave him the win.

It turned out to be a $76,000 river card for Koon because at the same time on a neighbouring table, Tomas Ribeiro was all in for his last eight bigs. Ribeiro was in real trouble. The money went in on a flop of 3cQhKh and although he had top two pair with his KdQc8d7s, Ole Schemion had top set with his KsKcAh6c.

After doubles elsewhere, Tomas Ribeiro became the unfortunate bubble

There was nothing for Ribeiro to celebrate on blank turn and river, sending him to the rail in 15th. The last 14 were in the money.

Koon (14th) and Loeffler (12th) didn’t last much longer. They joined Dylan Linde (13th) at the payouts desk as the field contracted further.

Paul Phua, Triton co-founder, found a timely double up to continue his challenge for a second title. And it kept him battling all the way until they were one off the final table, after Sam Greenwood (11th), Danny Tang (10th) and Kosei Ichinose (9th) also hit the skids.

Paul Phua doubles to stay in this one

These pre-final stages pushed Phil Ivey into a narrow chip lead, but it was bunched at the top, with Schemion, Barbero and Chidwick within 10 big blinds. At the other end, Phua was shortest again and was in double-up-or-die mode. He doubled, and when Biao did so too, Biao rose to the top.

It was, in a word, unpredictable — a state of affairs usually relished by Nacho Barbero. But a day after he scattered everyone else, he found himself on sidelines one short of the final. The hand that did the damage was a set-up against Schemion, where Barbero’s AdTdAcKs lost to Schemion’s JsAs9h7d.

Schemion made a straight using his two lower cards, and that gave the Germany a huge double. Soon after, Barbero lost his last two blinds to Ding and was out in eighth for $152,500.

Nacho Barbero didn’t have it all his way today

This final table bubble period lasted almost as long as the entire day of play yesterday, when Barbero won his title. It meant they prepared for a pretty shallow final, with that seven-figure prize up top.


Ding Biao – 5,050,000 (51 BBs)
Ole Schemion – 3,475,000 (35 BBs)
Phil Ivey – 3,225,000 (32 BBs)
Jared Bleznick – 1,900,000 (19 BBs)
Paul Phua – 1,350,000 (14 BBs)
Stephen Chidwick – 1,125,000 (11 BBs)
Patrik Antonius – 700,000 (7 BBs)

Triton Jeju Event 15 final table players (clockwise from back left): Ole Schemion, Phil Ivey, Stephen Chidwick, Patrik Antonius, Paul Phua, Jared Bleznick, Ding Biao

Phua, cheered onto the stage during the introductions, was the first player to make a move. And he was the first player to double, through Ivey. But Ivey then doubled up himself, through Schemion, and the tone was set.

Antonius was the next to double. However, he only had a tiny stack, and even though his opponent in that hand, Chidwick, was short as well, Antonius still perished next. Antonius lost with AdKsJc7d to Ivey’s 9h8c7s5h, leaving Antonius looking for $200,000 for seventh.

Another final, but next title still eludes Patrik Antonius

There have been some very memorable Antonius vs. Ivey PLO hands over the years. This one was modest by comparison, but was effective in trimming our field to six.

Chidwick doubled, but then chipped back down to two big blinds. That was enough for him to outlast Schemion, who found aces when he needed it most (i.e., when he also had two big blinds). However, Biao’s double-suited pocket kings not only gave him an easy call, it gave him a flush as well.

Schemion’s run ended in sixth and $247,500.

Ole Schemion says goodbye

At this point, Biao had 44 blinds and Ivey had 47. The other three had only 21 between them: Phua had 11, Bleznick six and Chidwick four.

Despite demonstrating exceptional survival skills, Chidwick could not complete manage to progress any further. When Biao raised Chidwick’s big blind, the latter was already all-in. Biao’s AhQdJd5d was plenty good enough to overcome Chidwick’s Qh8c6d2s, and suddenly there were only four left.

Chidwick visited the payouts desk, where he not only picked up $317,500, but also registered for the $25K short deck event at the same time.

Fifth place for Stephen Chidwick

One the subject of survival, Phua had navigated his way to the last four in this one, demonstrating all the abilities that have led him to 36 Triton in-the-money finishes. The second title remains elusive, however, and Ivey knocked Phua out of this event.

Phua’s last chips went in with a flop of 6dTc2c already showing, by which point Ivey’s KcTs4c2c was two pair and Phua was drawing with AdQcJc3h.

The turn and river didn’t help Phua, and he picked up $401,000 for fourth.

Paul Phua’s last stand

Jared Bleznick had been lured to the Triton Poker Series for the first time by the generous PLO offerings here. It’s his favourite game. And after a cash in the $25K PLO event, he was back in the deep stages here and gunning for a first win.

He had found himself one of the lucky orange hats, which celebrate the famous Jeju hallabong oranges, as sported by Roman Hrabec when he took down the Main Event. And although he was the shortest of the last three, he doubled up and hoped to be the second orange-headed champion of the week.

But it was not to be. Bleznick’s roller coaster ride was ended by Ivey when the pair played a rare hand that went through all the streets. Ivey opened his button with 4sAcJsQs and both Biao and Bleznick, in small and big blinds, respectively, called.

They saw a flop of 2hQh7h. Ding checked, Bleznick bet and Ivey called. Ding folded and the turn was Qd.

Bleznick now moved in and Ivey called. Ivey revealed that he too had a queen, for trips, but his 4sAcJsQs was better than Bleznick’s.

That took the tournament to heads-up, with Bleznick banking $490,000.

A beaten Jared Bleznick hugs Ivey on his way out

Ivey had 10.575 million to Biao’s 6.25 million as the last duel began. Both players also had one eye on the clock in the $25K Short Deck, in which registration was closing in less than half an hour. Would the near $400K difference between first and second be enough incentive to keep these players focused at the final? Or would they be wanting to hotfoot it across the room, come what may?

Biao certainly seemed ready to grind it out. He very quickly evened up the stacks, and then edged into a chip lead.

Biao then landed the knockout blow, hitting a sweet river card to deny Ivey any chance of a comeback.

Ivey had fewer than 10 big blinds and the pair went to a flop of 6d4d7s. The remaining chips went in the middle. Ivey’s QcJd8d2s soon vaulted into a clear lead over Ding’s KhQh7d4s thanks to the 9d on the turn.

However, this was Biao’s day and the 4c river made sure of that.

Ding Biao begins life as a two-time champion

Event #15 – 50k – PLO
Dates: March 17-18, 2024
Entries: 84 (inc. 41 re-entries)
Prize pool: $4,200,000

1 – Ding Biao, China – $1,107,000
2 – Phil Ivey, USA – $755,000
3 – Jared Bleznick, USA – $490,000
4 – Paul Phua, Malaysia – $401,000
5 – Stephen Chidwick, UK – $317,500
6 – Ole Schemion, Germany – $247,500
7 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – $200,000
8 – Nacho Barbero, Argentina – $152,500
9 – Kosei Ichinose, Japan – $101,250
10 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $101,250
11 – Sam Greenwood, Canada – $92,500
12 – Killian Loeffler, Germany – $82,500
13 – Dylan Linde, USA – $76,000
14 – Jason Koon, USA – $76,000

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive