Steve Wong is 33 years old and a certified winner at poker. So many of his friends are also named Steve that they have considered calling themselves 'Team Steve'. In fact he was first taught poker by an online pro…his cousin who is known online as Luckyliu, also using the name Steve, back in Europe. S18 (Steve Wong) was a fixture online for awhile and now has arrived as competitor to be taken seriously in the brick and mortar casinos and card rooms of the world. The world? Yes. From this Bellagio event he is going to a tournament in Singapore and if America does not want poker pros then Asia does, as that will be the next frontier and a tall, friendly, young, multi language person who is from Europe but of Chinese heritage is the perfect spokesperson for the coming expansion there.
I first met Steve at a tournament at the World Series of Poker in 2004, in fact we went to a final table in no-limit holdem and he took a beat and went out 5th and shortly thereafter I took a beat and went out 4th. I next saw him in November of that year on the island of St. Maarten where we went with other friends of his to a Chinese restaurant in Philipsburg, the main town on that island, and Steve ordered our food in Chinese of course. We were there for the International Poker Federation's tournament that is a product of Marcel Luske's and, given that Marcel as well as Steve Wong are from Holland it was natural that we all arrived at a common location.
In the 2006 WSOP Steve went out 4th in the thousand dollar buy-in no-limit holdem event of July 8th, taking 162,252 with him for this run at the top, and getting to his first televised final table on ESPN. At the Festo al Lago tournament that just concluded at the Bellagio here in Las Vegas he won a 5,000 dollar no-limit holdem event worth 199,105 to him and in the 10,000 dollar buy-in no-limit tournament went on to the final table of six that are to be televised for an appearance on the Travel Channel as this is a WPT event What result did he have there? In an exciting race he came second, adding another 542,700 to his winnings to date.
On the final hand Wong limped in on the button and Andreas Walnum raised 175,000 more from the big blind. Wong called. The flop brought KhJh2c and Walnum bet 200,000 with Wong calling. The turn was the 8 of clubs and Walnum checked with Wong betting 400,000 and Walnum check-raising to 800,000 with Wong calling. The river brought the 5 of diamonds and Walnum moving all-in with Wong calling instantly. Andreas held 2d2h and Steve had Kd4c and finished second.
The day before the main event began Steve Wong and I met at a Chinese restaurant (where else?) on Spring Mountain Road, not anticipating his final table in the tournament, and talked about how he thinks about poker hands. I asked him to choose the most important hands of his career and describe them to me and some insight will come from the hands he selected below. We had no idea at the time that he would be going to the final table of the coming WPT event that started the next day.
In the 1,000 buy-in event at the WSOP this year late in day one with the big blind of 400 Wong limped under the gun with QQ and Shane Shleger raised it to 1450 behind him and it was passed to Dave Mathews in the small blind who now went all-in for 11,000 plus with AJ, back to Wong he re-re-re-raised all-in for about 16,000 and Shane thought for three minutes or so with more chips than Steve had and mucked KK face up. It came five small cards and Steve was on his way to 4th whereas Shane was left to think about all those chips he might have had while Steve left the table. I was personally amazed that Shane would ever lay down kings before the flop but the important part of this happened online over the preceding months as Shaniac and S18 knew each other well from their online encounters.
Two hands from the 5,000 dollar event followed;
At the first level at the Bellagio everyone receives 10,000 chips with the blinds of 25-50 and Steve raised near the front to 200 with AsKd and five players called! Later on, this would be surprising but with a lot of chips the players wanted to see a lot of flops. The flop came down KhQs9s and when it came to Steve he bet 525, Mimi Tran, one of the limpers now raised it to 2025 with several players yet to act for the first time. It came back to Steve and after some consideration he mucked his hand face-up. We talked about the hands that Mimi might have and one he could tie with a free-roll (her holding AK), but of the other possibilities we could only find KsJs and KsTs as hands that he could hope to find her with and he would be a small underdog to even those hands. The chance that she was boldly making a play with such a layout and others yet to act seems very small (although if you are optimistic enough you can hope to find her with KcJc) so this lay-down seemed key to Steve's later success.
Later in this same event he was in the cutoff with AdQd and an aggressive player raised it to 3100, over blinds of 300-600 with a 50 dollar ante, from midfield and Steve called and the big blind called with the flop coming 5d6d9d. The question is, from my viewpoint, how do you play a "no-brainer"? The two players in front of him checked and Steve checked also. The turn was the 7 of hearts and when it was checked to Steve again he attempted to get some chips into the pot with some hopes of being called by one of the players and so he bet 6100 into a pot of over 10,000. Much to his surprise both players called. The river came an 8 of clubs and with a straight on board both players checked to him and he moved all-in. This is an interesting gambit, an over-bet at the pot that is very hard to call…and very hard to not call. Both players mucked their hands.
The counterpoint to this hand would be in the 10,000 dollar buy-in event where you started with 20,000 in chips and on day 4 the remaining competitors had a lot of chips. When the players were at seven, with six making the televised final table, players were much more careful. With over two million in chips Joe Pelton, the chip leader, raised a pot to 50,000 from late position, Can Kim Hua re-raised to 160,000 from the big blind with about 1,250,000 and Joe called. The flop came down QhJhTc and both checked. The turn brought the Ac and both checked again. The river brought the Kh, putting a straight on the board and after Can checked one more time Joe bet 300,000. Can called and the hands came over as 8h6h for Joe, which made him a flush, and QQ for Can Hua with top set on the flop and a bad beat as well as a guesswork call to anguish over.
Until next time play good…and get lucky!