Tasaka claims winner's purse at APPT Seoul

Yoshihiro Tasaka
Yoshihiro Tasaka and Hidenari Shiono go 1-2 for Japan in the APPT Korea main event.

With representation from 30 nations and some of the top poker players in the world, including one World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, the PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour Korea declared Japan's Yoshihiro Tasaka champion after a 13-hour final table.

Yoshihiro takes home $128,250 for the first-place finish in Seoul, nearly $50,000 more than his countryman and second-place finisher Hidenari Shiono. Not bad for a couple of guys from a country where gambling is supposedly illegal.

In the final hand, Yoshihiro was pot-committed after some heavy chip posturing, and made an all-in call holding 9 2 to his opponent's A 4. With a nine on the flop and no help for Hidenari on either the turn or the river, Yoshihiro finished his opponent off to take top honors with a pair of nines.

"I am very happy to take home the APPT Seoul title tonight after a long game of play," said Yoshihiro. "I share this victory with my fellow countrymen who came across to South Korea to take home the title, especially Hidenari-san who came second today."

The two finalists were among a field of 35 Japanese players who made the trip to battle it out in the Korean event. The solid turnout from a single country shows just how much the game is poised for growth in Asia.

World-class StarCraft player-turned-poker pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier called Korea home for many years, and says stops like the one in Korea are great for the game and even better for the players.

"I am excited to see another world-class poker tournament come to Korea," said Grospellier said before the tournament. "Korea is such a beautiful country and Seoul is a great place to party. I look forward to competing here with the best in the world, and then going out with them to celebrate."

Organizers agree that holding events in Korea and Asia in general is great for everybody involved in poker, and further demonstrates the growth of poker worldwide.

"The second season of the APPT is showcasing the phenomenal growth of poker in Asia," said Jeffrey Haas, president of the APPT. "Firstly to stage the biggest ever tournament in Asia just three weeks ago in Macau and now to hold the only tournament on mainland Asia this year is testament to that.

"This year 35 Japanese players travelled across to Seoul to play in the Main Event compared to 21 in Season One last year - to me this player increase highlights the growth in poker culture and appreciation for the sport of tournament poker in this part of the world and it is very fitting to see a Japanese player return home with the title. It is very exciting for the region to see some home-grown heroes."

The level of play was strong throughout the event, with decorated pros such as WSOP 2004 Main Event winner Greg "Fossil Man" Raymer and Hevad Khan in the field but unable to make it past some of the lesser-known players to the meaty prize pool.

Brian Kang of Santa Clara, Calif. eventually finished third and was part of some of the more entertaining hands of the tournament. Kang entered the final day of play at the Paradise Walkerhill Casino as the chip leader. He built his stack in part through decorated pro David Saab and his aggressive style.

Saab, the 2007 Aussie Millions Heads-Up champion, entered Day 2 as one of the chip leaders but tried to bully Kang on too many occasions. In one pot Saab lost about half his chips to Kang when he raised all-in holding 7 4 and a flop of J 7 2. Kang hit his trips holding pocket twos. He made the call and held on through the turn and river.

Later, Kang eliminated Sabb on the last hand of Day 2 with another set, this time threes.

Saab said he started out his session well but that Kang deserved his chips in the end.

"The day got going well. I built my stack bluffing here, there and everywhere," said Saab. "[Kang] just totally owned my soul. He out played me and he read it right so he deserves it."

However, Kang couldn't hold the lead and was himself eventually eliminated. He said he got lucky on more than one occasion but wouldn't change any of the decisions he made.

"In the last few hours I ran so cold," said Kang. "But I can't complain. I don't think I made any big mistakes. [In the last hand] I think I made the right call. I would make the decision again."

Final results for the APPT Korea were as follows:

Yoshihiro Tasaka
Hidenari Shiono
Brian Kang
United States
Fam Yat
Yuri Masaki
Dan Schreiber
United States
David Horvath
Hungary $16,031
Daniel Williams
Sam Faqiryar

For a more in-depth look at how the APPT played out, please visit the PokerListings Live Tournaments section.

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