With more than $9.5 million in live tournament earnings, Joseph Cheong is without a doubt one of the most successful poker players on the grind today.
Yet the glory of a major poker tournament victory has continued to elude this Las Vegas-based pro.
Cheong recorded a win in the $1,000,000 Manila Millions at APT Philippines in 2013 for some $1.3 million, but he has yet to collect any hardware from the recognized major poker tours like the PokerStars European Poker Tour, World Poker Tour or the World Series of Poker.
He famously finished third in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, but his runner up finish in the 2014 WSOP $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball event Wednesday only served to cement his status as one of the best in the game without a bracelet.
Always a Bridesmaid: After his third place finish at the Main Event in 2010 left him without the gold, Cheong has been close to winning the most coveted prize in all of poker more than once. At the 2012 WSOP he finished runner-up to Aubin Cazals in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Mixed-Max event. Later that year he got close again, placing fourth in the WSOP Europe Main Event across the pond in Cannes, France.
Then when the WSOP went Down Under for the first time, Cheong finished runner-up to high-roller stud Philipp Gruissem in the $50,000 No-Limit Hold'em High Roller Rebuy.
Outside of the WSOP, he's also recorded a couple of high profile second-place finishes in the 2013 WPT Championship $100,000 No Limit Hold'em Super High Roller and the EPT London £10,000 High Roller Turbo.
Blow Up or Brilliance: Cheong's performance at the 2010 WSOP Main Event is one of the most debated in poker history. Some call it a blow up, while others say it was sheer poker brilliance somehow gone wrong. Three-handed, Cheong had the chip lead and was guaranteed the $4,130,049 he would eventually earn for third.
$8.9 million was awaiting the winner and whoever finished second would earn $5.5 million. John Racener was sitting a distant third in the chip counts and Jonathan Duhamel had a stack just shy of Cheong's 90 million-plus when the biggest hand in WSOP Main Event history played out.
It started with Racener folding the button. Cheong opened to 2.9 million and Duhamel fired back from the big blind, making it 6.75 million. Cheong then four-bet to a total of 14.25 million.
Duhamel five-bet to 22.75 million and Cheong had the bright idea to six-bet all in with .
Duhamel made the call with two queens and held on a run out to take a huge chip lead he would eventually ride to the win. Cheong's run at poker's biggest prize ended a few hands later, but the debate over the massive move he tried to make on Duhamel and whether he should have considered the pay jump from third to second beforehand continues to rage on.
The Money or the Bracelet: The $55,309 Cheong earned for his second-place finish in Wednesday's $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball event pushes his career earnings to $9,605,775. But the poker community appears to measure success by more than just money earned. When the conversation turns to the greatest poker players of all-time, it's often about the bracelets.
Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson are widely considered among the best to ever grace the felt. They are members of the exclusive Poker Hall of Fame and the 10 WSOP bracelets each have of them have won, only less than Phil Hellmuth's 13, certainly helped them get there.
But the $8,642,321 and $6,131,775 in career earnings they have each posted respectively is less than Cheong's almost $10 million.
Online or Off: Before making a name for himself at the 2010 WSOP Main Event on the live felt, Cheong was a well known online grinder playing under the name "subiime."
According to online poker tracking site PocketFives he's recorded a lifetime total of $2,554,487 in online poker tournament earnings, proving he's a success online and off.
In addition to his online name, subiime is also Cheong's Twitter handle where he tweeted out thanks for the support of his rail today:
2nd place. Thanks for the support and rail. Gotta learn to close one out!Follow @subiime
A Star Is Born: Steven Wolansky beat Cheong heads-up to win is first bracelet in the $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball event, getting over the hump after his own heartbreaking second-place finish in last year's $2,500 Eight Game Mix event.
But Cheong wasn't the only star he had to beat to get there, and not from the world of poker either.
German pro footballer Max Kruse finished third. A few weeks ago, the Borussia Mönchengladbach striker was expecting to play for Germany at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil about this time. Unfortunately he was left off the roster and decided to come to Las Vegas with a few German poker-playing friends for the WSOP.
Apparently he learned how to play No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball after a quick crash course from 2014 WSOP Player of the Year leader George Danzer just last week. Not bad for a beginner.