The growth of poker in China looks set to receive another boost thanks to Yi Ye and his recent win in the 2019 PokerStars EPT Open Sochi Main Event.
Despite commercial poker venues being illegal in China, the country continues to be a breeding ground for talent. On October 13, Ye added his name to the ever-growing list of Chinese poker champions by taking down the $2,040 Main Event inside Casino Sochi.
Yi Takes Control of Turbulent Finale
With 879 entries collected over the course of three starting flights, just over $1.6 million in prize money was up for grabs. When the final six returned on Day 4, Ye was nestled in among those chasing Giorgiy Skhulukhiya.
Things quickly changed, however, as two players fell by the wayside within the first level. From there, the remaining four passed the chip lead back-and-forth before Ye finally took control.
With Lidiya Kozenkova and Natalia Panchenko seemingly gunning for each other, Ye was able to nip in and steal the chip lead. The former eventually faded in fourth before talks of a deal came and went.
Panchenko looked to be the cat with nine lives when play resumed, but things eventually went south. Moving all in with J♦T♣ on a 9♥8♥3♦8♦ board, the Russian needed some help against Ye’s A♣8♠.
Unfortunately, a 3♣ on the river gave Ye the pot, and took the EPT Open Sochi Main Event down to two.
Ye Gambles It All for EPT Open Sochi Glory
At this point, the clock was stopped again as the players tried to make a deal. After 10 minutes, Ye refused to give Skhulukhiya anything more than an ICM split, which caused play to restart.
That proved to be the right call as the Chinese poker pro sealed the deal two hands later. Moving all-in with K♥Q♠, Skhulukhiya need to win a race against Ye’s pocket sixes to stay alive.
By the time four community cards had been dealt, Ye had locked it up with a set. As the final board ran out A♦7♠5♥6♥8♠, Ye scooped the remainder of his opponent’s chips to claim the EPT Open Sochi Main Event title.
2019 PokerStars EPT Open Sochi Main Event Result
- Yi Ye – $301,378
- Giorgiy Skhulukhiya – $182,991
- Natalia Panchenko – $129,097
- Lidiya Kozenkova – $96,817
- Egor Sukhov – $76,328
- Abdul Mamin Abdal Ali Han – $57,129
The win for Ye was his third cash in Sochi. A poker pro for seven years, but having only recently switched to tournaments, the 40-year-old made the money in Russia back in 2018, and earlier in 2019.
In claiming the EPT Open Sochi Main Event title, he banked his biggest ever payday. What’s more, he’ll go down as another champion for Chinese poker players to admire.
With Macau’s special status allowing it to host cash games, many wealthy main-landers have honed their skills in the enclave. This appears to be having a trickle-down effect, as China is quickly becoming a force in the game.
With Ye winning an EPT title, it will only inspire more Chinese poker players to find a way on to the international scene in search of similar successes.