Champion Elton Tsang!

One of Triton Poker Series most exhilarating talents tonight earned the first tournament title of his career — grabbing the winner’s trophy in the $150K NLH 8-Handed event and leaping around the stage in unbridled joy.

This was Elton Tsang, a player whose fearless brilliance has illuminated the cash game tables for many years, playing some of the most spectacular pots in televised poker history. But here he was dominating the highest buy-in tournament of this Triton Series visit to Jeju, South Korea, and his joyous explosion at the conclusion demonstrated just what this meant.

For Tsang, even the $4.21 million first prize probably isn’t the most important part. It’s the thrill of grabbing a trophy after accumulating every chip in the room. Tsang was truly ecstatic, finishing the job against Biao Ding heads up after the rest of this 117-entry field had been vanquished.

There won’t be a more popular winner. Tsang travels to the Triton Series with a huge entourage of poker fans, who make the most of the luxury afforded them on this most prestigious series. And now their man has a title — one of a significance appropriate to Tsang’s influence on the game.

“It’s very sweet,” Tsang told Marianela Pereyra in his post-game interview, thanking first his daughter, with whom he immediately shared the wonderful news, and then his loyal rail. “Thank you, I love you…Thank you everybody. Thank you. Thank you.”

The new champion Elton Tsang shows the trophy off to his daughter on FaceTime

This victory came in Tsang’s 71st tournament and from his 11th final table — a record that had him describing himself as a “tournament fish” and prompting him to hire a coach to help him get over the line.

But Tsang loves the Triton Series. “Triton…it’s the best poker brand right now. I’m very happy to be involved.”

Triton is lucky to have him.


The $150K buy-in was the highest of this tour’s stop in Jeju, and the tournament played out over three days. The first was all about watching how many players would get involved; the second and third would determine where all the money went.

The 117 entries included 44 re-entries and built a prize pool of $17.55 million. It was comfortably the biggest of the trip so far, and promised those lavish riches to its winner.

The start of Day 2 focused on the bubble. With 21 players left and only 20 due to be paid, there was a bubble of $228,000 to be navigated. The list of short-stacked players included some absolute world beaters, with Stephen Chidwick, Biao Ding, Patrik Antonius, Sean Winter and Danny Tang hovering around 10 big blinds.

The finger of fate pointed to Chidwick as the man who was going to burst this one. He found AcJd and got his chips in, but the subsequent three-bet Mario Mosboeck backed up his bet with pocket jacks.

Chidwick couldn’t find an ace and was out in 21st, hot-footing it across the tournament room to join the $50K turbo, which had about 1 minute of registration left. Everyone else settled in for a battle to the final.

A bubble for Stephen Chidwick

Remarkably, two of those aforementioned short-stacks made it: Ding and Winter navigated the post-bubble stages to take their seats at the final. It wasn’t the case for several well-decorated Triton players: all of Fedor Holz, Mikita Badziakouski, Mario Mosboeck, Matthias Eibinger, Danny Tang and Michael Addamo perished short of the final.

Michael Addamo in the blender

That left us with an uncharacteristic dynamic at the final, at least as far as this stop in Jeju is concerned. Europeans and North Americans were firmly in the minority. The top five spots were all occupied by Asian players.

They lined up like this:


Wang Ye – 69 BBs
Liang Xu – 43 BBs
James Chen – 32 BBs
Elton Tsang – 24 BBs
Biao Ding – 17 BBs
Sam Grafton – 16 BBs
Alex Kulev – 16 BBs
Mike Watson – 13 BBs
Sean Winter – 4 BBs

Triton Jeju Event 9 final table players (clockwise from back left): Liang Wu, Sam Grafton, Mike Watson, Wang Ye, Sean Winter, Alex Kulev, James Chen, Elton Tsang, Biao Ding.

The stated intention was for Day 2 to play until 1am or six players, whichever came soonest. But action was strangely muted and they pushed on past the curfew to make sure only six remained.

This was a passage of play that accounted for Sam Grafton, Sean Winter and Wang Ye — the former two unable to spin their short stacks into contention; the latter seeing a chip lead evaporate and landing him on the rail in seventh.

Grafton was first out. He three-bet shoved AhJd over an open from Elton Tsang. But Tsang, although known as one of the most unpredictable players on the tour, can sometimes have it too. On this occasion, he certainly did: Tsang’s pocket aces stayed good to down Grafton.

It’s been a relatively lean period for Grafton, especially since that startling victory in Cyprus a couple of years ago. But $422,000 for ninth is a decent return.

It was a short stay at the final for Sam Grafton

Winter’s final table was the story of two hands. He first doubled up his short stack through Alex Kulev, with AhJd beating QsKh. But on the very next deal, Kulev took revenge — and the rest of Winter’s chips.

Kulev open-shoved from the small blind with 5s7s and Winter found Ad5h in the big blind to make the call. They both flopped a five, but the 7c on the turn and 7h river was another sickener for Winter.

These two have tangled frequently during this trip to Jeju, including in a massive aces vs. kings cooler in which Kulev’s kings made a flush during the Mystery Bounty event. Winter landed on the wrong side of another sickener here, but added another $544,000 to his ledger for eighth.

Sean Winter made another final — until another skirmish with Alex Kulev ended it

Wang Ye had been an unknown quantity before arriving on the Triton Poker Series here in Jeju, but he cashed in four of his first six tournaments, and then blazed to the final in his seventh. He held the chip lead for almost all of Day 2 as well, perhaps set to cap this spectacular debut with a win. Until, that is, it all started going awry.

Liang Xu doubled up through Ye with QcTc against 6s9h. That lost him the chip lead, and then Tsang forced him out the door. Ye got his last chips in with AdKd and Tsang called with AsJc.

A jack on the flop gave Tsang the come-from-behind victory and sent Ye packing in seventh. He collected $737,000, and the day came to its close.

Wang Ye led for long periods and recorded his biggest career cash

Tsang led the field as they paused for the night. Ding and Xu were closest behind, with Kulev, Mike Watson and James Chen comparatively short. But tomorrow was another day…

For Kulev, it was another short day. This Triton stop in Jeju has been the one on which Bulgarian players really came to the fore, with numerous final table appearances and a victory for Dimitar Danchev. Kulev himself blazed the trail for Bulgarians on the Triton Series, and here he was again in the deep stages.

Having laid down a couple of bad beats himself, Kulev didn’t complain when he suffered one of his own to bust this tournament in sixth. He raise/called all-in with AcJc but lost to Watson’s AsTc when the latter rivered a straight.

Kulev’s third cash of the trip was his biggest yet. He took $983,000 for sixth.

Alex Kulev: The wrong side of a beat

James Chen made his Triton debut all the way back at its first event in 2017, and he has been an off-and-on visitor ever since. Here in Jeju this $150K tournament was only his second of the trip, and he had now recorded his second cash too. This was a order of magnitude bigger than his 43rd place in the GGMillion$, however, and even though he became Watson’s next victim, his $1.254 million score was also his largest.

Chen lost a flip. He moved in with 9d9s and Watson called from the big blind with AdTc. For the second time, that ace-ten was good for Watson. He flopped an ace to end Chen’s participation. They were down to four.

James Chen’s return to Jeju has been profitable so far

It had been a while since Biao Ding had been involved in one of these big pots, but when he picked up the biggest hand in the game, he extracted the maximum from it. He also managed to eliminate his countryman Xu in the process.

Ding looked down at black pocket aces and made an opening raise. Xu called from the big blind with Ks7s. The flop came king high, which Xu may have thought was perfect, but actually only played into Ding’s hands.

Xu checked. Ding bet and Xu check-raised all-in. Ding made the call and the aces held, leaving Xu heading to the payouts desk. His $1,563,000 prize was the first seven-figure score of his career, but the way he’s playing, it won’t be the last.

Liang Wu’s excellent showing continued

After plotting a steady course for the early stages of this tournament, Watson’s Day 3 had been turbulent. He was back to a short stack when three-handed play began, but managed a double up with Js7c against Tsang’s KhQh when he flopped a full house.

However, his final lasted only a few hands more until he picked up Ac2s and three-bet shoved the small blind after Tsang opened the button. But Tsang had the goods — AdQc — made the call and knocked Watson out.

A two-time champion already, Watson has come mighty close to adding a third twice on this trip to Jeju. But this tournament ended in a third place and another $1,895,000 in the bankroll.

A turbulent ride for Mike Watson ended in third

Two formidable Asian talents therefore now squared off for the title. Tsang had 34 big blinds. Ding had 25. They were guaranteed a minimum $2,870,000, but first place was $1.4 million more. But did that prompt talk of a deal? Of course not. These poker purists were going to play it out.

Ding drew level with a couple of small pots. Then Tsang powered ahead again. Then, on the first hand that might have ended it, Ding doubled with AcQd against Tsang’s Ad8s.

Biao Ding was beaten into second

Tsang was not to be denied, however. He won a massive pot with AhTd, rivering an ace. But Ding made a hero call with king high, quickly learning he was wrong. Soon after, Ding was forced all in from the big blind with Tc3c, with Tsang forced to call with 7h5d.

There was the 5h on the flop, and it held. Cue: jubilation.

Ding took $2.87 million for his second place, which will no doubt keep him returning to the Triton Series as he goes hunting for another title. Tsang himself said he may have to forgo celebrating his big win as he jumps in the $100K Main Event.

“Might as well try to get two,” Tsang said.

The jubilation begins for Elton Tsang

Event #9 – $150K NLH 8-Handed
Dates: March 12-14, 2024
Entries: 117 (inc. 44 re-entries)
Prize pool: $17,550,000

1 – Elton Tsang, Hong Kong – $4,210,000
2 – Biao Ding, China – $2,870,000
3 – Mike Watson, Canada – $1,895,000
4 – Liang Xu, China – $1,563,000
5 – James Chen, Taiwan – $1,254,000
6 – Alex Kulev, Bulgaria – $983,000
7 – Wang Ye, China – $737,000
8 – Sean Winter, USA – $544,000
9 – Sam Grafton, UK – $422,000

10 – Michael Addamo, Australia – $351,000
11 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $351,000
12 – Matthias Eibinger, Austria – $307,500
13 – Christoph Vogelsang, Germany – $307,500
14 – Mario Mosboeck, Austria – $281,000
15 – Santhosh Suvarna, India – $281,000
16 – Mikita Badziakouski, Belarus – $254,500
17 – Fedor Holz, Germany – $254,500
18 – Richard Yong, Malaysia – $228,000
19 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – $228,000
20 – David Peters, USA – $228,000

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive