I am now in monotonous Toronto, having just finished an average breakfast and ready to go work off the pounds I’ve gained from Tianjin’s incomparable meals. My mother is still bickering incessantly about my upcoming exam and finding a real job, a husband, and buying my first home. In other words, there is still very little here for me, and soon enough, I can see myself living very far away, where the people are friendly, the costs are low, and the food always tastes good.
I am very stressed atm, as I feel like I have a ton of pressure on me in the next few months. I want to prepare and plan for WSOP, but I have to retake CFA in early June and will have to put hundreds of more hours into studying. I am also setting up an online business for my stepmom, hoping she will gain financial autonomy and eventually be able to work full-time from home. In China I was euphoric and felt blessed to be where I am with myself, but here I am lonely, unadjusted, and a social anomaly. I don’t even know where to begin to take care of everything, and have just been grinding mindlessly in a subconsciously tilted state.
At least the weather is getting nicer and the company of my sister is helping. When I was in Tianjin I saw family I hadn’t seen for 17 years. Everyone was so accommodating and for the most part I felt like I was able to return the favour by being a good guest. Being there during Lunar New Years was especially crazy; for over two weeks the vibe was bustlin’ and fireworks went off day and night on the streets and sidewalk. It was festive even though it sounded like battle explosions and didn’t allow for any sleeping in. It was great to bond with my cousins and for me to imagine what I’d be like if I never came to Canada. My eldest cousin, Rui, is a total G. She’s so socially adept and knows exactly what to say to whom, knows the ins and outs of Tian Jin and has guanxi (connections) in every niche. I stayed with her family and she took me around everyday for three weeks without a dull moment. Her friends are absolutely hilarious and so entertaining to the point where when we go out to eat after clubbing or ktving, the servers and staff would stand around our table and eavesdrop like it was a sitcom. She’s getting married in August (which she amicably refers to as doomsday), and I can’t wait to go back for the festivities. My second cousin has been living in Yunnan (a laid-back tropical province in China) the past few years, doing her Masters while running a bar on campus with another business on the side. I’m envious of Rui’s extrovertedness, but I was more comfortable and bonded better with Juan (hard J, not “h”). She was very independent, more reserved, and super witty. My last cousin who’s a few months older than me (I’m the youngest) is already married and recently had a baby girl. His wife is beautiful despite the extra pounds from the pregnancy, but he’s still a total player. He and his wife would go out in a group together and he’d send her home to stay out with his buddies to find “xiaojie” aka PR girls/hookers. The girls in the family used to make fun of him a ton when we were kids because he had a different last name. In Chinese culture he is traditionally deemed to be less important in the Liu family because he carries the last name of his father rather than my aunt. Regardless, he was still spoiled since he was the only boy in our generation and got a ton of special treatment from our grandparents.
On my trip back I also helped give birth to puppies! Rui’s poodle Dou Dou was pregnant when I was living there and I become one of the only people she’d let close to her pups. They were so adorable and my dad seriously considered bringing one back with us to Toronto. My stepmom isn’t very fond of animals so we decided against it. I would prefer a bigger dog anyway.
I can definitely see where I get some of my personality from. Did I mention our entire family are big fish? In a drinking sense, that is. 白酒，literally “white alcohol”, is a common Chinese liquor with alcohol content between 40-80%. It’s nasstttttty, and the men in the family drink copious amounts of this stuff with every meal. My first few days with relatives were relatively tame as they were unsure of what to expect from me. The first time I went out drinking with my cousins they were worried I couldn’t handle my liquor. I was ecstatic that they could keep up and definitely bonded exponentially after that.
I wish I could post all the details about every night we went out, but I feel like I should just make a conscious effort from now on to blog more frequently rather than wait a month and try to regurgitate everything that’s happened on another continent. I’ll just fast-forward to my Macau experience. My time in Tian Jin was hectic but I did manage to fit in ~30 hours of RUSH. I’m still kind of upset at myself for not being able to make a quality video before I left, but at the same time I’m also glad I didn’t unnecessarily make the field tougher than it has to be. I had a $100+ hourly in China though I was running above EV and have noticed the games becoming more competitive. My friend and I decided to meet up in Macau (he’d been living in China) for the Macau Cup and grind some cash. We were going to play the events regardless, but we played some qualifiers on Stars and were both able to win a Main Event seat. The one he won was value-added and had 2 nights of Grand Lisboa thrown in, so that was a nice bonus for us. I invited Rui to come with me as she had never been outside the PRC! It made me really happy to do this for her. I ended up playing tournaments all four days of the trip rather than grinding cash as expected. I made it deep in both the 200k gtd and main event, and for the most part poker was good. I was being mindful of the tournament strategies Alex had taught me, and for the most part I think I played pretty darn well. Event #3 200k gtd was a 2-day event that drew 190 entries and also my first live event of the year. It was nice to see the diverse backgrounds of the players and I felt like I fit right in as many of the players were Asian but also spoke English. At one point I was at the table with the PokerStars Asia pro Celina Lin. She is very pretty and doubtlessly charming with her Australian accent, and a class act as a rep of PS, but I couldn’t help but cringe when I noticed how vocal she was with her strategy and decision-making process. She openly discussed her thinking with her neighbour for everyone to hear and even during pots. Not in a Negreneau-type way, since it was much more about expressing her knowledge and critiquing plays rather than drawing reactions and tells. It made me very self-aware of the comfort I have gained in my own game, and also allowed me to acknowledge the depth of my jealousy towards this sponsored pro. Anyhow, the fields were pretty soft and I kept playing my own game. Before I knew it, it was day 2 and I was at the final table with cameras and camcorders hovering over my shoulders. It wasn’t a big cash, but it felt good nonetheless to make money in my first tournament in awhile.
Cash however, was a different story. The night after my final table and before my main event day1, I had a few hours and went to check out the 25/50HKD (6000max) side game. I was initially thrilled to see there were 5 tables running, but soon after I got there I realized it was all regs and one mainland fish everyone was gunning for. I thought about getting a table change right away, but decided against it since I couldn’t stay too long anyway and it’s not like the regs were good. Did I mention this was my first time playing live since L.A.?! I felt sooo good to be back at a live table, but it was
After the obvious fish got stacked I opened the table up and played a lot of hands successfully until I made an awful spewy play during a squeeze to a straddle and ran into KK. I soon realized basically no one is ever bluffing and they all play very straightforward, with the exception of excessive limping and calling any raise amount. Isolating was difficult since if one player calls five others will follow, but if no one calls even hands like AQ and TT don’t wanna play heads up. It was profitable for these regs because there were several teams of 2-3 players at any given table. There was no blatant collusion per se, but my reg neighbour got very friendly by the end of my session and gave me the scoop on the various players and how there were a few of them who never played without their friend sitting beside them. I thought it was wise to get up soon after that tip since it was getting late and although it sucked to finish my first session stuck I had to get up relative early for the tournament the next day.
Day 1b of the Red Dragon Event was a fun but tedious 12 hour day. The tournament drew 321 from all over, including two teams from Japan who were obnoxious at times, with one player who would get up and yell something along the lines of “Japanese pride” every time someone from his team won a decent pot, and get really in-your-face with his opponents. I have definitely seen better sportsmanship coming from Hellmuth. Anyways, I was also very impressed with the sheer amount of female players in the tourney. With five tables left I was drawn to a table with five other players aside from myself! Unfortunately I couldn’t pick up chips when i needed them and only played for 10 minutes of day two to finish a disappointing 24th. I think getting deeper would have pretty much sealed my decision to move to Asia. Anyhow, since I hadn’t had much time to spend with my cousin doing touristy stuff we explored a few temples and I treated her and Alex to Zaia, a Cirque du Soleil show at the Venetian.
Rui and I made our way back to Beijing finally after a delayed plane through Zhuhai, invited some friends, and spent my last night in China eating Peking Duck and partying at a club with a literal bumping dance floor. I was very sad to go indeed.