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First WSOP bracelet for Chinese poker ambassador

20 Jun 2018

Yueqi Zhu

Yueqi Zhu (photo by WSOP)

Name: Yueqi Zhu
Nationality: Chinese
Birthplace: Benxi, China
Current Residence: Rowland Heights, CA
Age: 55
Profession: Engineer
Number of WSOP Cashes: 72
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 11
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 2nd in 2006 $3,000 Limit Hold'em for $184,409
Total WSOP Earnings: $1,449,992

After more than two decades of playing, and cashing, in World Series of Poker events, Yueqi Zhu finally broke through and took home a bracelet on Tuesday afternoon.

In what was his 72nd career WSOP cash, the 55-year-old engineer defeated a 773-entry field and earned $211,781 in the $1,500 mixed Omaha hi-lo event. After several near misses, the grinder from China is elated to finally make it to the winner’s circle in an event that featured a mix of limit Omaha hi-lo, pot-limit Omaha hi-lo and Big O.

“I think I’m holding the unofficial record of the most top-three finishes without a bracelet,” said Zhu with a laugh. “I know a lot of things can happen and I feel bad that a turn of the card can totally change the result, so I’m happy that it went my way today and I didn’t have to extend that record.”

He was born in China and now takes up residence in Southern California, where he works as an engineer for a start-up company. Even though he doesn’t live in his native country anymore, the mixed games enthusiast still spends a lot of time promoting the game there.

Through his magazine and forums, Zhu was a driving force in the increased popularity of the game over the last decade and a half.

“Poker in China, over the last 15 years, has gone from almost nothing to into the mainstream,” said Zhu. “It’s going really fast. From my part, we have a lot of people working on promoting poker because in my mind, for card games, I feel American poker is the best. For myself, I started a poker forum that is generally regarded as the most respected in the Chinese world. I also have a poker magazine and we published like 70 issues in a seven-year time frame.”

Zhu’s magazine and forum are only available in China and they are unable to translate their work into English. As if that wasn’t enough, Zhu opened up a poker training site and is working on another project to continue to promote the game over there.

“I’m writing a book,” he said. “I was hoping to finish it like two years ago, but once I started, it’s called ‘American Poker,’ and I want to introduce everything. From hold’em to drawmaha and all kinds of games. But once you get into that category, the more you write, the more you want to write. I hope to finish it by next year.”

Zhu’s book aspirations correlate perfectly with his poker personality. He’s a fan of all the games and skilled in most of them. Most of his 72 career WSOP cashes have come in a mixed game setting. He feels it’s important to try all of the games to figure out which game suits you best.

“I like all kinds of card games,” said Zhu. “When it comes to what I call ‘American poker,” because Chinese poker is different, I like to try all the different variants. I also think when it comes to skill, the different games take different skills, so you have to try all the games.”

Zhu’s first bracelet win took a little longer than expected with the three-day tournament forced to go to an unscheduled fourth day of action after hitting the hard stop in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

They came back on Tuesday at 2 p.m. with three players remaining and Zhu with an overwhelming chip lead. It didn’t take long for Zhu to finish off the process after eliminated Carol Fuchs in third and defeated Gabriel Ramos heads-up.

Fuchs was on the wrong end of a cold deck with her six-high straight and six-five low against Zhu’s seven-high straight and better six-five low. They were all in on the turn in limit Omaha hi-lo and the river didn’t counterfeit Zhu’s better low, eliminating Fuchs in third.

He took better than a 10-to-1 chip advantage into heads-up play against Ramos and finished him off early on. In pot-limit Omaha hi-lo, they got all in on the flop with Ramos showing top set and Zhu tabling a wrap straight draw and an overpair.

Zhu drilled a bigger set on the river and sent Ramos home with a runner-up finish. With such a big chip lead coming into the final day of play, it affected the way Zhu approached his strategy at the outset of play.

“When it came to today, I knew these guys were going to gamble,” said Zhu. “They had top three, they had money and now they wanted the bracelet. If you noticed, the first hand I sat down, I folded. The first hand I played with any showdown, I showed a quality hand. It’s not like I had big chips and tried to bully players.”

The event was scheduled to end on Monday evening, but with 31 players returning for Day 3, it was unlikely that was going to happen. They reached a final table around 11:30 p.m. after Nathan Gamble bubbled the official final table in eighth place.

Ryan Hughes, one of last year’s WSOP Player of the Year contenders, was the first to hi the rail. He was eliminated in limit Omaha hi-lo by Ramos. They got all in on the flop with Ramos tabling a flush and straight draw against Hughes’ middle pair. Ramos didn’t make either of his immediate draws but hit running cards for two pair and eliminated Hughes in seventh.

They finished the level and played most of the next one before there were a flurry of bustouts. Peter Neff busted to Fuchs in Big O when he got all in on the turn with the nut straight and the nut flush draw against Fuchs’ two pair and the second nut straight on a board that contained no possible low. Fuchs filled up on the river, eliminating Neff and sending her into the chip lead.

Jon Turner was eliminated a few minutes later by Ramos in limit Omaha hi-lo. Turner got all in on the flop with a pair and a flush draw against Ramos’ aces and a low draw. The turn gave Turner a second flush draw, but also left him dead for half against Ramos’ made low. Turner bricked the river and was gone in fifth.

At the start of the next level, Ramos eliminated Matthew Gregoire in limit Omaha hi-lo. Gregoire got all in on the turn with top pair, a low draw and the nut flush draw against Ramos’ set of kings. Gregoire missed everything on the river and hit the rail in fourth. The final three players battled for the rest of the level before hitting the hard stop and coming back on Tuesday.

It was during three-handed play that Zhu, who came into the final table as the short stack, took over and moved into the chip lead.

“In the beginning, I was short. When we got to seven players, I think I was in sixth in chips, so I had to wait for a hand for me to gamble,” said Zhu. When we got to five players, I had some chips, but I felt that some players were pushing it too hard. Sometimes I actually tried to induce the bluff and just try to passively get value.”

At the end of the day, Zhu experienced the wrong side of variance for over two decades. He knows the swings that are possible and is just happy he experienced some positive variance on Tuesday.

“I guess the poker gods finally like me.”

Final Table Results:

1st: Yueqi Zhu - $211,781
2nd: Gabriel Ramos - $130,850
3rd: Carol Fuchs - $89,488
4th: Matthew Gregoire - $62,226
5th: Jon Turner - $44,007
6th: Peter Neff - $31,662
7th: Ryan Hughes - $23,182

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)
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