After all the Triton marathons, today we saw the sprint.
Danny Tang won the first Triton Series title of his career in Vietnam this afternoon — yes, this afternoon — after closing out the final table of the 25K short deck event in record speed.
The tournament played from its final seven to a champion in around three hours, with Tang defeating Stephen Chidwick heads-up to claim a 427,000 first prize and translate his 10th final table appearance into his first win.
Tang blitzed through this final, winning a major pot against the overnight leader Kiat Lee to put his stack in a controlling position, and then never being in trouble from that point on. He even managed to steam-roller Chidwick heads-up, forcing the British pro to accept a second runner-up finish of the week.
Tang had whiffed everything to this point in Vietnam, coming down with a cold during the first week and struggling at the tables through nine previous cashless tournaments. But he came good when it lasted and will find his face now on the board of Triton champions after this whirlwind finish.
“I’ve had a really rough week,” Tang told Ali Nejad in the post-tournament ceremony. “It’s the first stop I hadn’t cashed at all.”
He added: “I bought into this five times, so I had to finish fourth or fifth, but yes, the monkey is off my back.”
The tournament was wrapped before 3.30pm local time, and just as the second short deck of the event was getting started. Tang, who represents Hong Kong but who also has roots in Manchester, UK, is one of the most popular players on the circuit and said that he wants to have “left a mark in the sport once I’m done with it for good”. He just went a long way to achieving that.
He also paid tribute to his friend, the late Ivan Leow, who had mentored so many players on the Triton Series. “I think about him every day,” Tang said. “Every single day…This is definitely dedicated to him.”
This tournament was the first short deck event on the Triton Vietnam schedule and had 57 entries. The prize pool was 1.425 million. Like Tang, many of the entrants fired multiple bullets, including Karl Chappe-Gatien, who won the last short-deck event at Triton Cyprus.
But Chappe-Gatien bubbled this one late last night, taking the field down to eight. Justin Bonomo also bust, to Chidwick, at the end of day one, leaving seven returning today.
Final table stacks:
Kiat Lee – 7,905,000 (198 antes)
Danny Tang – 3,825,000 (96 antes)
Mike Watson – 1,805,000 (45 antes)
Stephen Chidwick – 1,330,000 (33 antes)
Isaac Haxton – 1,015,000 (25 antes)
Richard Yong – 685,000 (17 antes)
Phil Chiu – 540,000 (14 antes)
FRANTIC ACTION FROM THE START
These players had played against one another for long periods yesterday (not to mention at other Triton stops) and there was no period today where they took things easy to size each other up.
Richard Yong was the main beneficiary, doubling up three times in the early stages. The first was then his pocket kings beat Mike Watson’s , rivering a straight. The second was through Watson too, when beat Watson’s .
The third time, Yong’s beat Kiat Lee’s , and that put Yong over the average stack for the first time today.
There was no such luck for the other overnight short stack. Phil Chiu became the first to hit the rail today, steadily dipping until the last of his chips went in with and Danny Tang’s made a straight.
Chiu has played a full schedule here in Vietnam and only had one bubble to show for it. So the 72,500 he picked up for seventh will be welcome indeed.
NORTH AMERICANS FEEL THE HEAT
Watson is one of the north Americans who enjoys short deck more than most and has decent results in this format in both the live and online environments. But there is only so much doubling up any one can do without feeling the pressure, and Watson’s stack couldn’t sustain much more.
He did manage to double back through Yong at one point, but his graph was otherwise on a steady downward tilt. And then he found pocket aces, got it in against Lee’s pocket jacks, only for Lee to flop another one.
That spelled the end of Watson’s tournaments and he departed in sixth for 91,200.
Haxton hadn’t enjoyed much better fortune than Watson at the final, although he kept his line more steady by mainly steering clear of significant action. But he eventually got his stack of 1.6 million in from the button after Chidwick open-jammed the hijack.
Haxton had the slightly smaller stack, and when his lost to Chidwick’s , Haxton was out, picking up 117,000 for fifth.
MALAYSIAN CHALLENGE ENDS
Lee was sitting at his fifth final table of this trip to Vietnam, and had come into this one as chip leader. It was the perfect spot from which to launch his bid for a maiden title.
However, his stack took a massive dent in a pot against Tang, the kind of short deck skirmish that can win or lose tournaments. Tang limped with and Lee, with made a standard raise. Tang called as all the other left them to it.
The flop of gave Tang top set, while Lee had an open-ended straight draw. It was perfectly good for both of them to get everything in.
This time the draw bricked and Tang improved after the turn. It gave Tang a massive double, and pegged Lee back into the pack. He never really recovered and was only treading water until Tang finished him off.
This time it was pocket jacks for Lee and for Tang. Tang flopped a flush draw and hit a decisive queen on the river. Lee’s search for a trophy continues but he puts another 151,000 in the fund.
Yong was now somehow in the final three having started with a tiny stack. But he couldn’t get any further, with his quest for a second Triton title ending in third. Yong open-shoved but ran into Chidwick’s .
Yong flopped a queen, but the full board ran and Chidwick ended with a seven-card straight. Yong was out of the door, with 199,300 to his name. The Malaysian challenge was over.
The rate at which the tournament had progressed to heads up took everyone by surprise. They had barely played for two hours on the final day and five players were already out.
It did mean, however, that stacks were pretty deep when Chidwick and Tang prepared for a heads-up battle. Chidwick had 4.7 million (78 antes) to Tang’s 12 million (200 antes), and the possibility remained that they could eke out a long finale.
It was, however, one-way traffic. Chidwick barely won a pot of note in the heads up duel, with Tang chip, chipping away and then snatching it all when Chidwick was all-in for the first time.
That occurred when Chidwick had and Tang had . As is always the case in short deck, the flop brought possibilities. It fell .
“Jack!” shouted one of Tang’s supporters, prompting Tang to tell her that’s the last thing he needed.
The turn and the river were blanks, however, and Tang was triumphant. It was still daylight outside!
Event #11 – 25,000 Short Deck
Dates: March 10-11, 2023
Entries: 57 (inc. 23 re-entries)
Prize pool: 1,425,000
1 – Danny Tang (Hong Kong) – 427,000
2 – Stephen Chidwick (UK) – 310,000
3 – Richard Yong (Malaysia) 199,300
4 – Kiat Lee (Malaysia) – 151,000
5 – Isaac Haxton (USA) – 117,000
6 – Mike Watson (Canada) – 91,200
7 – Phil Chiu (Hong Kong) – 72,500
8 – Justin Bonomo (USA) – 57,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive