The Asian Poker Tour Philippines has a new champion – and it’s local boy Neil Arce who’s the poker king of the islands. Arce, 25, conquered a field of 262 runners representing over 40 countries to scoop the first prize of $180,000. The runner-up was Steve ‘joonhee’ Yea from South Korea who also finished second at the 2008 Asian Poker Tour Macau in August 2008.

‘This is just great,’ said Arce, who is a well known figure on the Filipino poker circuit through running the Metro Card Club in Manila. ‘I always felt it would come down to me and Steve. For me, the key to winning the tournament was position. I was so lucky that Steve was sat on my right – if he was on my left it would have been a completely different final table. I played with Steve all day yesterday when he was on a charge and kept out of his way. I knew that to get anywhere at the final table I had to keep applying pressure and my game plan worked perfectly.’

Arce had been chip leader after Day 1A and had even guaranteed Asian Poker Tour CEO Chris Parker before the event got underway that he would emerge victorious in the tournament. He was third in chips at the final table and faced some formidable opponents including the impressive Yea and internationally respected professionals Liz Lieu and Asian Poker Tour Macau 2008 finalist Kasey Castle.

The key hand came just after the talkative Arce had taken the chip lead from Yea. He showed willingness over a series of hands to up the pre-flop aggression. On the final hand, he made what had become a standard open for him of 100,000. Steve Yea re-raised to 300,000. Arce moved all in and Yea called in a shot. Arce held Ks-Qs with Yea Ad-Kh, leaving Arce as 3-1 underdog. The flop came 4s-6c-7h and Yea was two cards away from a massive double up. When Qh came on the turn the partisan crowd exploded. The river came 6h which was of no use to Yea and the 2009 Asian Poker Tour Philippines had itself a very popular champion.

After two consecutive Asian Poker Tour runner-up spots and a dominating performance over the last few days Yea could only say, ‘Next time I will do it.’

First out on the nine seat final table was Kim Tae Hyung from South Korea, followed by Finland’s Vesa Leikos. Glamorous US pro Lieu went seventh, followed by fellow American Ron Kluber and Japan’s Susumu Toge. Cicurel Didiwe from the Seychelles finished fourth and US pro Castle in third. When it got heads-up Yea held the chip lead with 1,572,000 to Arce’s 1,048,000. Notable cashes in the event include 12th place for Nam Le and 13th place for fellow member of The Poker Pack Steve Sung.

Parker said, ‘There were some tired eyes after the FHM party the night before but the atmosphere around the final table was buzzing. Neil’s win is fantastic for poker in the Philippines – we hope that it strengthens the appeal of the game even further.’

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