2021 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
$50,000 Super High Roller No-Limit Hold’em
Prize Pool: $1,406,500
August 5-6, 2021
In most parts of the country, Zhuang Ruan isn’t old enough to set foot on a casino gaming floor. Luckily for the 20-year-old poker pro, you only need to be 18 to play poker at Seminole Hard Rock properties.
Even at that age, most card players are still learning the game, getting their feet wet and deciding how seriously to take it.
Ruan, on the other hand, defeated a 29-entry field comprised of some of poker’s best players. He defeated Dan Smith, who is fifth on poker’s all-time money list with north of $37 million in live earnings, to win the $50,000 Super High Roller Friday evening, earning $562,600 in the process.
“It feels pretty good,” said Ruan with a laugh.
Aside from one of the high-stakes end bosses Ruan bested heads-up, the field also featured crushers like Alex Foxen, Nick Petrangelo, Ali Imsirovic, Elio Fox and David Peters, who was eliminated on the bubble in sixth place.
Despite his age, Ruan has already played very high-stakes. He starting playing poker during his high school years in 2016 for play money and eventually started grinding the smallest stakes available online two years later. He quickly rose up from the $1 buy-in cash games all the way up to $100-$200 pot-limit Omaha in just a couple of years.
“I started at $1NL. Half a cent-one cent [blinds] and eventually worked my way up,” said Ruan. “I actually switched to PLO and made it to the $100-$200 games.”
During his brief stint in college, Ruan started playing tournaments and it wasn’t long before he was beating high-stakes tournaments as well.
“I took six months off from poker to try and go to college,” said Ruan. “But after that I found tournaments, so I started playing that… And then I was playing high-stakes MTT’s. And now I’m here.”
Since he doesn’t turn 21 for another several months, he won’t be able to play in most American tournaments until 2022, but his poker resume is already filled with victories.
He won an $1,100 pot-limit Omaha event at the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, finished third in a $2,200 pot-limit Omaha a few months later at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown and took down the $5,000 no-limit hold’em during the World Poker Tour series at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa.
His win on Friday was just his fourth cash, but three of them were outright wins.
Coming into Friday, six players remained, but only five would leave with a payday of at least $112,520. David Peters was eliminated by Dan Smith on the bubble.
Smith dominated much of the early portion of the final table before Ruan made a run late and overtook him for the chip lead during three-handed play.
After eliminating eliminating Cary Katz in third place, Ruan held a small chip lead heading into heads-up play. After failed negotiations regarding a possible deal, Smith went on a rush of cards and opened a more than 2-to-1 lead.
But as the blinds got larger, Ruan got a shove through on the turn to pull the chip counts back to even, and then regained it for good when he made a good river call with fourth pair.
“It was just like a heads-up sit n’ go,” said Ruan. “I used to play those back in the day, so I’m familiar with the swingy-ness of heads-up.”
Once Smith was on the short stack, Ruan was able to flop trip jacks and get three streets of value, including a river shove, against Smith’s A-Q, which turned top pair to secure the biggest payday of his life.
1st: Zhuang Ruan – $562,600
2nd: Dan Smith – $351,625
3rd: Cary Katz – $225,040
4th: Giuseppe Iadesernia – $154,715
5th: Sean Perry – $112,520