Rui Cao celebrates his second Triton title

The exclusive list of players who have won two titles on the Triton Series grew this evening after Rui Cao, the French high stakes cash-game specialist, proved once again that he has a tournament game to be feared as well.

Cao blazed through the field in Event #5, the €25K Short Deck, where he unleashed a barrage of betting to pummel all-comers in the 68-entry field. Cao had a big stack early, and bullied his way through the bubble, and then also hammered away once they reached a final table.

Only some stern resistance from the Triton co-founder Richard Yong threatened to halt Cao’s charge to the title. But Cao eventually managed to grind down even Yong and beat him heads-up. Cao’s victory brought him €497,000. Yong had to make do with €357,000, and wasn’t quite able to emulate his fellow co-founder Paul Phua in winning a title in Madrid. (Not yet, anyway.)

Cao, who won a massive short deck event in Montenegro in 2019, is now in that two-timers club. And this was a performance that was every bit as emphatic as any we’ve seen on this series. No one quite wields a big stack as ruthlessly as Cao.

“It was just regular short-deck aggression, and a little bit of luck,” Cao said when it was over. “I got the result…I think I’m better at short deck than long deck. It suits my personality. I’m pretty aggressive, and that’s better in short deck.”

The relaxed and ruthless Rui Cao


As if it wasn’t already apparent, the identity of today’s bubble boy underlined how unforgiving poker can be sometimes. Yesterday, Chris Brewer was the champion, turning a short stack into his maiden title. But today he hit the rail in 10th, the last person out before they started getting paid.

With a handful of players staring at possible elimination, and Cao at Brewer’s table bullying with a monster stack, Brewer decided to take a stand with AcQh. He made an “almost” all-in shove, but Santi Jiang, who had even less than Brewer, felt like this was his time. He under-called all-in with JsJc.

Jiang hit a jack on the flop, so all but doubled up, leaving Brewer with only four antes. They went in the next hand, when Brewer had JsAc, but this time Cao had KsKh. Cao flopped a set this time, and Brewer could not go runner-runner to win. Brewer departed — some days you’re the windshield, other days you’re the bug — and Cao was one of the leaders heading into the money.

A bubble today for Chris Brewer

“There’ll be some all-ins pretty quick here,” said Brian Rast in the commentary box, looking around at plentiful shorts stacks, which had only grown smaller through the pre-bubble period. Rast was right. In less than an hour, they went from nine down to three.

Ryan Yum was the overnight chip leader, and it had all been going swimmingly for him until he ran into Kenneth Kee today. Kee doubled through Yum with a flopped two pair, when Yum flopped top pair aces. And then Kee also finished the job later on, when Kee’s JdQd turned a straight. Yum had navigated the bubble, but couldn’t rebuild. He went out in ninth for €49,400.

Isaac Haxton followed him on the next hand, also losing to Kee. Haxton’s QhTh lost to Kee’s AcQs and Haxton won €64,600. And at the precise time that hand was playing on the outer table, Cao was accounting for Jiang on the feature.

Jiang had Ad9d and flopped a nine to momentarily take the lead against Cao’s AcQd. But the queen on the turn put Cao back in the lead and Jiang was out in seventh. That meant they assembled a six-handed final, with Cao and Kee sitting with enormous stacks.

The final six in Event #5: Kenneth Kee, Richard Yong, Choon Tong Siow, Jason Koon, Rui Cao, Tom Dwan.

Jason Koon has been to a few finals before. He has 16 tournament cashes on the Triton Series, and three titles. But he was a short stack heading into this final, and couldn’t get anything going to muster a challenge for a fourth trophy.

Koon ended up as the first elimination from the final, getting it in with the short-deck favourite Td9d but this time unable to beat Cao’s AdTs. Koon won €105,400.

Whenever Cao took a breather, Kee took over. And the next player to depart, Choon Tong Siow, was just another pulled beneath Kee’s juggernaut. Siow had KdKs, which is a pretty good hand to take up against most, even in short deck, but Kee turned his QdTd into a winner.

Kee flopped the queen on the Qh8cAd board and he then turned the Ts. Siow still had tons of outs heading to the river, but the 7s was a blank.

Siow, who has been a bubble boy once this week, would have been happy to pick up €136,000 for his fifth-placed finish.

The end of the road for Choon Tong Siow

Kee and Cao were super comfortable at this stage, Yong a little less so, and the short-stack duties had been assumed by Tom Dwan. That’s not a position Dwan particularly likes to be in, and he didn’t remain there very long.

Very soon after Siow busted, Dwan under-called all-in from the button with QhTc after yet another bullying Cao shove. But Dwan was in bad shape against Cao’s KsTh and couldn’t realise his 33 percent equity.

The board his neither of them and Cao’s king played. Dwan went out in fourth for €175,100.

Even Tom Dwan couldn’t stop to Cao machine

Yong had kept himself to himself during all this carnage, allowing Cao and Kee to do the damage while he laddered to third. But there was no hiding any more, particularly because his stack was less than half either of his opponents’.

But Yong grew more and more involved and watched his stack increase accordingly, pulling up alongside and then overtaking Cao, while Kee too began moving in reverse. Play was far less volatile during this period, with the clock ticking onward but major skirmishes staying largely absent. They played a good few levels between the three of them, all the while Yong making inroads and the others just about treading water.

One of the interesting features of three-handed play was the fact that each of these players was searching for a second Triton title. Yong had previously won a six-max long-deck event in Montenegro, the same location that Cao had won the short-deck main event. Meanwhile Kee had won a short-deck title in Jeju.

It was Kee, though, whose double chances vanished first. He lost a massive pot to Cao when Cao flopped three queens with KcQd and Kee was not able to get away from his AhKd, at least until Cao bombed the river. By that point, the pot was 4.5 million, and it was a decisive swing to Cao.

Even Kenneth Kee couldn’t beat Cao

Soon after, the hand almost repeated. Kee had AcKd and he moved all in for 3.8 million after Cao’s limp. Cao called again, with AhQh — and this time he flopped the first queen, and turned a second.

Kee was eliminated in third for €232,000 as Cao took a big chip lead — 176 antes to 79 — over Yong into heads-up play.

Yong refused to give up without a fight and scored a big double with KsTs over Cao’s pocket queens. But Cao could not to be beaten, and also demonstrated just how canny he is when he somehow managed to fold a straight in a big pot against Yong when his opponent rivered a full house.

Yong put up spirited resistance against Cao

That pot put Yong temporarily into the lead, but Cao’s confidence only grew. As did his aggression. He simply never let up from that moment on, and continued to grind Yong down again. With the levels also ticking by, and gradually shallowing the stacks, Yong finally got the last of his chips in with Th8h when Cao had Ad9d.

The board came 7d9c8s9s8d, and they both had full houses. But Cao’s was bigger — and that was decisive.

Short deck now goes on another brief hiatus as the Triton Series reverts back to long-deck for a few days. Keep your eyes here for all the latest reports and results.

Richard and Wai Kin Yong both celebrated with Cao

Triton Madrid – Event 5
€25,000 Short Deck Ante-Only

Dates: May 16-17, 2022
Entries: 68 (inc. 32 re-entries)
Prize pool: €1,700,000

1 – Rui Cao, France – €497,000
2 – Richard Yong, Malaysia – €357,000
3 – Kenneth Kee, Malaysia – €232,000
4 – Tom Dwan, USA – €175,100
5 – Choon Tong Siow, Malaysia – €136,000
6 – Jason Koon, USA – €105,400
7 – Santi Jiang, Spain – €83,500
8 – Isaac Haxton, USA – €64,600
9 – Ryan Yum, Hong Kong – €49,400

Photography by Joe Giron/PokerPhotoArchive