The Chengdu Pandas came back from near elimination to advance through the playoffs and win the inaugural season of the Global Poker League (GPL) China. The team won one million Yuan – approximately $151,000 – and donated five percent of it to charity.
The twelve teams participating were as follows (listed alphabetically):
• Beijing Great Dragons
• Chengdu Pandas
• Guangzhou Pioneers
• Hangzhou Legends
• Hong Kong Treasure Ships
• Kunming Phoenix
• Macau Lions
• Shanghai Golden Tigers
• Shenzhen Eagles
• Taiwan Black Bears
• Tianjin Guardians
• Xi’an Warriors
It was a long road to the title for the Pandas, as the team had to survive the early stages just to make it to the playoffs.
First was the Online Knockout stage. Here, the GPL China was divided into three groups of three teams. Two representatives from each team were selected to compete, each playing in separate four-handed Sit-and-Go’s against players from the other three teams in the group. Points were distributed based on order of finish, with first place at each table receiving 3 points, second place getting 2 points, and third place receiving 1 point. The first player knocked out at each table did not win any points for his or her team.
Next was the Live Knockout stage. It was similar to the online portion, but instead of one player from each team at each table, there were two. Additionally, there was one extra Sit-and-Go, for a total of three eight-handed tables. The top four players at each table earned points for their teams: 16 points for first, 11 for second, 8 for third, and 5 for fourth.
The point totals from both stages were added up and the top two teams from each group automatically advanced to the playoffs:
Group A: Taiwan (86 points) and Shanghai (71 points)
Group B: Tianjin (84 points) and Xi’an (69 points)
Group C: Kunming (71 points) and Hong Kong (60 points)
As you can see, the eventual champ, Chengdu, was not one of the automatic playoff qualifiers. As such, they and the other four lowest scoring teams played in a Resurrection round, with the top two points earners gaining the final two spots in the playoffs.
Round 1 of the Resurrection stage had three players from a team sit at a nine-handed table against players from two other teams. Four tables were in play simultaneously. Scoring was the same as in the Live Knockout stage.
Round 2 consisted of three six-handed tables with one player from each team at each table. First place earned 15 points, second place earned 10 points, and third earned 5 points.
Round 3 consisted of interesting two-versus-two heads-up matches in which pairs of teammates shared hole cards. Each team played against just one other team, three tables total. Heads-up winners got 15 points, the losers got 5 points.
In the end, Chengdu earned 88 points in the Resurrection stage and Beijing earned 77 points to clinch the final two playoff spots.
In the playoffs, the eight teams were split into two groups, competing in similar matches to the preliminary rounds. The online matches were four-handed as they were before, while the live rounds had the same eight-max, six-max, and two-versus-two heads-up matches as there were in the previous rounds.
Chengdu, Hong Kong, Kunming, and Shanghai advanced to the semi-finals where the same match formats were again featured. Chengdu dominated, scoring 88 points, and faced off against Hong Kong – which earned 55 points – in the finals.
The finals featured got rid of the four-handed online matches and swapped in a traditional heads-up match for the eight-handed game. This time, though, the points across all games weren’t added up to determine a winner, but instead, it was a sort of double best-of-three.
The team that won two of the six-max, two-versus-two, and heads-up matches would win a round. Win two rounds and you’re the champ. Hong Kong took the first six-handed game, but Chengdu stormed back to win the two-versus-two and heads-up matches to clinch the first round. In the second round, Chengdu won the two-versus-two and Hong Kong won the heads-up, so it came down to the six-max to either nail it down for Chengdu or keep Hong Kong alive.
In crazy final hand, one Chengdu player was all-in against two Hong Kong players, who also both shoved on an 8-A-2 flop. The Panda had A-3, virtually dead to rights against one of the Treasure Ship player’s A-T (the other player had just 9-4). But a 3 fell on the turn and a Queen landed on the river to give the Panda the best hand, knocking out both rivals, and earning the inaugural GPL China championship for Chengdu.