Reporters have been kept busy this week in North Cyprus with amazing tournament poker feats and crazy to-the-wire leader board races, but on the final day there was still time for one more outstanding achievement.
Step forward Danny Tang, another of Triton Poker’s best-loved sons, who tonight completed his own double at this Super High Roller festival in the middle of the Mediterranean, winning the $50,000 Short Deck Main Event and banking $750,000.
Tang picks up another Triton trophy to go alongside the one he won in the $50,000 NLH turbo. It came after he defeated fellow Triton boss Mikita Badziakouski heads-up, denying Badziakouski a fifth victory, and bringing Tang’s own tally to three. It was a repeat of a heads-up battle in Madrid last year, where Badziakouski beat a frustrated Tang. But fortunes have shifted dramatically since then.
Only a few months ago in Vietnam, Tang was still bemoaning his inability to get over the line in Triton events despite numerous tries since the series’ inception. But now Tang can’t stop himself. It’s a very nice habit to have acquired.
“Revenge is sweet but this is different,” Tang said, referencing the previous battle with Badziakouski. “This is the Main Event. This is my seventh stop, it took me a while to get one under my belt. I got it in Vietnam, but that was a small field, smaller buy-in. This is the Main Event. Against these two three-way. It was a very tough final table.”
The other player referenced by Tang was Jason Koon, the Triton Ambassador, who notched another cash but perished in third. The Triton co-founder Richard Yong was also at the final, and Tang referenced him as he looked back on his journey to this point.
“I started many years ago, back in the UK, at Rob Yong’s Dusk Til Dawn casino,” Tang said. “I just made my way up, and luckily I met these nice people around me, Richard, Paul, these people. Everyone has helped me along the way. I’ve been given these opportunities to play these stakes.”
As he had during his first emotional win back in Vietnam, Tang also remembered the late Ivan Leow, who had a formative influence on his career.
Tang said: “He’s here. I can feel his presence. I walk through these corridors every day and I look at the two-time champion banner, all these pictures of him. He will always, forever be with us, and part of the Triton family.”
Tang is a happy fixture in that family too.
FINAL DAY ACTION
Registration remained open not only into the second day, but through the entire first level. It allowed for anyone still desperate to play to have as much opportunity as they needed to get involved.
The policy worked because numbers swelled to 44 entries, including 24 re-entries, which put $2.2 million in the prize pool. There was $750K up top and plenty of twists and turns to come.
One of those was the Player of the Year award, which was still neck-and-neck between Stephen Chidwick and Jason Koon. Chidwick perished in 13th, and Koon knew that if he could edge into the money, he would take top spot in the leader board once more. Chidwick obviously bought into the $20K Turbo in a bid to boost his chances, but there was nothing he could do about Koon.
With seven left and six due to be paid, Koon was still battling. And then Mike Watson, who had already won the PLO and made the final table of the first short deck event, found himself all-in and called on the bubble.
Watson had pocket kings. Danny Tang had pocket aces. And for once the short-deck demons stayed away. Tang flopped an ace, then faded a straight draw. Watson was today’s bubble boy (and Koon was in the money and the box seat).
That left six players in the money, and with Tang in the lead.
Final six stacks:
Danny Tang — 5.405m (270 antes)
Mikita Badziakouski — 3.21m (161 antes)
Sam Greenwood — 1.245m (62 antes)
Jason Koon — 1.225m (61 antes)
Richard Yong — 1.085m (54 antes)
Kiat Lee — 1.03m (52 antes)
That lead immediately got even more enormous. Tang wona huge three-way all-in, which sent both Sam Greenwood and Kiat Lee to the rail. Lee shoved first, with . Tang re-shoved behind him with and Greenwood looked down at and realised he needed to be all-in too.
There was both a nine and a queen on the flop, keeping Tang ahead of Lee but behind Greenwood, but then when the fell on the river, Tang had everyone beaten. He had the biggest stack too, so the opponents were out.
Lee, who was Player of the Series in Vietnam, took $154,000 for sixth. Greenwood, who was Player of the Series last time in North Cyprus, took $198,000 for fifth. Meanwhile, Koon, Player of the Series elect for this festival, looked on with glee.
There were 15 Triton titles between the final four players: seven for Koon, four for Badziakouski and two each for Yong and Tang. The list of multiple champions was going to need a refresh whatever happened, but the only question was who was moving up.
Koon made an early play for his name to be promoted even further up that page. He knocked out Yong. The last hand for Mr Richard was one of those standard match-ups: Yong shoved with and Koon called with .
An ace and a queen on the flop gave Koon a near-lock, and the blank turn confirmed it. Yong, who won the first short-deck event yesterday, fell short of an unheralded back-to-back, taking $253,000 for fourth.
Koon now had about 2.6 million, which was still only half that of both Badziakouski and Tang, but enough perhaps to make a charge. However, Koon found himself at his opponents’ mercy in the biggest pots, unable to call after they made a series of big river bets.
Eventually Koon did scent what looked like opportunity: after a limp from Tang, he looked at and ripped in it. Tang sprung his trap with and there was nothing on the board to change the dominance.
Koon tucked another chunk of POY points under his arm — perhaps a crucial amount — and walked to the payouts desk looking for $330,000.
Tang versus Badziakouski was a tremendous pairing for a heads up battle. Both have proved their abilities time and again on the Triton Series, and both have been playing and mastering short deck for many years.
The heads-up battle ebbed and flowed, with both players into and out of the chip lead, willing to take on one another in pots both big and small.
However, Tang managed to grind Badziakouski down as the tournament played on into the night, and he had the best of it when all the chips went in for the first time. Badziakouski’s was inferior to Tang’s , and the double was complete.
Tang now wins a prestigious Jacob & Co timepiece to go with his third trophy, cheque and winner’s cap. He is now a Main Event champion as well.
Event #16 – $50,000 Short Deck Ante-Only Main Event
Dates: May 24-25, 2023
Entries: 44 (inc. 24 re-entries)
Prize pool: $2,200,000
1 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $750,000
2 – Mikita Badziakouski – $515,000
3 – Jason Koon, USA – $330,000
4 – Richard Yong, Malaysia – $253,000
5 – Sam Greenwood, Canada – $198,000
6 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $154,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive