Biggest Prize in History of Poker Shared: Aaron Zang and Bryn Kenney Split $23 Million in Triton London Mega-Tournament

Posted on: August 4, 2019, 05:58h. 

Last updated on: August 4, 2019, 09:10h.

Shanghai financier Aaron Zang took down the highest-buy-in poker tournament in history on Saturday, when he topped a field of 54 to win the Triton London: A Helping Hand for Charity.

Triton poker
Aaron Zang won the Triton London, which offered the biggest prize in poker history, $23 million, but the lion’s share went to runner up, Bryn Kenney, who becomes the biggest grossing tournament player of all time. (Image: Triton Poker)

With a £1.05 million ($1.28 million) buy-in, the event also offered the biggest first prize in the history of tournament poker – £19 million ($23.1 million) but it was the second-place finisher, American Bryn Kenney, not Zang, who came out with the biggest pile of cash.

As the two players prepared to face one another heads up at the London Hilton in Mayfair’s Park Lane, they agreed to a chop. Since at this stage Kenney outnumbered Zang 4 to 1 in chips, he took the lion’s share, £16.9 million ($20.5 million), to Zang’s £13.7 million ($16.6 million).

But Zang clawed his way back against his more experienced opponent. The payday may have been smaller, but it was still the third biggest ever prize in poker tournament history – and it was always about the trophy, right guys?

“Miracles happen,” mused an emotional Zang afterwards.

Kenney Tops All-Time Money List

Kenney’s $20.5 million tops the previous record of $18.3 million won by Antonio Esfandiari at the first ever Big One for One Drop, which was held at the 2012 World Series of Poker.

The score catapults Kenney to the top of poker’s all-time money list, with an extraordinary $55 million in gross earnings, over $30 million of which has been accumulated in 2019 alone.

As well as his record score in London on Saturday, the 32-year-old Long Islander has picked up seven-figure wins at other Triton events in South Korea and Montenegro, as well as a score just short of $1 million at the Aussie Millions.

Like the aforementioned Big One for One Drop, the Triton event in London will donate a portion of the prize money to charities — in this case £50,000 ($60,750) of each buy-in.

That means the tournament raised $2.7 million for largely Hong Kong-based charities, dedicated to advancing medicine and improving the lives of disadvantaged children in Southeast Asia.

Who Owns Triton Poker?

Triton was founded by two Malaysian billionaire high-stakes poker players, Paul Phua, a former junket operator and bookie, and Richard Yong, a data mining and IT magnate.

The pair were at the center of the biggest cash games in the world when poker erupted in Macau, circa 2010.

Just as wealthy Macau-based businessmen, like Phua and Yong, discovered of Texas hold’em, online poker was effectively shut down in the US by the Department of Justice.

That saw the best American pros, like Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan, skedaddle to Macau, many with copies of Cantonese for Dummies stuffed into their carry-on baggage.

Macau’s big game, which later moved to the Philippines, was notoriously secretive and poker fans would hang on for whispers of pots that had escalated into tens of millions of dollars.

Triton is essentially the public face of the big game – high-stakes poker transplanted into an open area, attracting the biggest players on the high-roller circuit, usually to Asian destinations, like Macau, Manila, and Jeju, South Korea. This is the first time the tour has stopped in London, and only the second time in Europe.

The record numbers at the WSOP this year showed that, despite reports to the contrary, poker is very much alive and well in the West. But it’s also booming in the East. And they like to play big.