The flagship event of the 2023 Poker Dream Manila live poker stop at the Grand Wing Casino at Newport City in Metro Manila has crowned a winner and the golden dragon trophy stays on home soil. Pinoy poker player Edwin “Hit D’ Heat” Dela Cruz entered the nine-handed final table out of a field of 499 entries with the lead and ultimately came out on top of a topsy-turvy heads-up duel with Italy’s Alessandro Taranto.
Both shared the lion’s share of the PHP 28,751,382 ($519,578) prize pool and Dela Cruz scored a third victory on the live poker circuit since February 2023, taking home the top prize of PHP5,510,000 ($99,518). Taranto put in a valiant effort especially considering that he dropped all the way down to just three big blinds in heads-up play and was just one diamond away from securing a miracle comeback victory. However, he ultimately had to settle for a consolation prize of PHP3,460,000 ($62,492).
The final spot on the podium belonged to a veteran poker pro from the Philippines in Terry Gonzaga, while fellow countryman David “Dave Spade” Erquiaga became the first casualty of the day.
2023 Poker Dream Manila Main Event Final Table Results
|Rank||Winner||Country||Prize (in PHP)||Prize (in USD)|
|1||Edwin Dela Cruz||Philippines||5,510,000||$99,518|
|5||Ryan McAllister||United States||1,523,000||$27,507|
The aforementioned Erquiaga has taken the Asia-Pacific live poker scene by storm in the last two years with nine victories and more than half a dozen runner-up finishes. However, he became the first casualty of the final table when his pair of eights and a gutshot was looked up by Taranto with king-jack suited for top pair and top kicker.
The next casualty was Taranto’s countryman Nicola Montalbano, who bowed out in a three-way all-in showdown that propelled Gonzaga right back into contention. Valeriy Pak and the always dangerous William Teoh were the next two to collect their pay checks and Ryan McAllister followed suit in sixth place.
Until then, Dela Cruz was cruising atop the leaderboard but Tor Welo pulled ahead. In a pivotal hand, Dela Cruz then missed a flush draw with eight-six suited but rivered the nut straight and Welo paid off a heavy pot-sized bet in a duel of the chip leaders to shift the momentum back to the pinoy player.
The Norwegian never recovered from that heavy blow and bowed out in fourth place. Heads-up play was reached only a short while later when Gonzaga was dispatched by Taranto and the duel for the trophy started with a small lead for crowd favourite Dela Cruz.
Taranto dominated the early stages to pull even only for a string of hands to cut into his stack. The Italian was with one foot out of the door already when his last three big blinds went into the middle with eight-trey suited. However, the seven-deuce suited of Dela Cruz missed and the comeback commenced. Three double-ups later, Taranto even gained the lead, which then changed several times as both players were on the verge of victory.
After three and a half hours after the elimination of Gonzaga in third place, the champion was then crowned. In a limped pot, Dela Cruz’s ten-six flopped two pair and Taranto’s slow-played pocket queens went down in flames.
This concludes the fourth-ever edition of the up-and-coming Poker Dream live poker series, as well as the PokerNews live reporting from the Philippines but the next international poker stops are right around the corner.