Haixia Zhang texted her husband on Saturday night with some bad news.
“I said, ‘I have four big blinds. I think I’ll be done very soon. Stay tuned,’ ” Zhang recalled.
As it turned out, Zhang was nowhere near being finished.
Zhang bounced back after being one of the short stacks on Day 2 and won the Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship at the World Series of Poker on Sunday at the Rio Convention Center.
It was the first career bracelet for the recreational player and mother of two from Los Gatos, Calif., whose only two other WSOP cashes came in circuit events at Harveys Lake Tahoe.
Zhang earned $153,470 for the victory.
“I am stoked. The whole time as I was walking into the game, the whole time I’m shivering,” Zhang said. “I really tried to put up a really calm face. … It’s surreal.”
Mikiyo Aoki, an architect from Bozeman, Mont., entered the final table with a sizable chip lead and finished second. She earned $94,800 in her first career cash at a WSOP event. Meikat Siu of New York was third.
Zhang vacationed with her family in Las Vegas the past two summers and played in the nonbracelet deep-stack tournaments that take place daily at the Rio. This summer, her husband and sons went to Disneyland while she played in the WSOP.
Along with Sunday’s victory, Zhang reached the final table of a $235 buy-in deep-stack earlier this week and chopped the prize money with six other players.
Zhang was 22nd in chips with 25 players remaining in the Ladies Event but got a key double-up when she flopped a straight after Aoki called her all-in bet with pocket 10s. Zhang continued to build her stack after that and entered the final table third in chips.
“I hit the cards a couple times. And then I had to make a couple hero calls, push people around a bit, and then it just came back up,” Zhang said. “And when I had chips, I tried not to lose any.”
With three players remaining, Zhang regained the chip lead when she made a flush against Aoki’s set of 10s. During heads-up play, which lasted only 11 hands, Zhang won another big pot as her straight beat Aoki’s two-pair, and Aoki was eliminated on the next hand.
“I’m in complete awe, and it’s unreal,” Zhang said. “I have to say, luck was on my side.”
The three-day event has a buy-in of $10,000, though women receive a 90 percent discount. Nearly 800 players entered for a prize pool of $713,700.
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.