Author Archives: xxl23

Poker Life Podcast with Joey Ingram April 18, 2016

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I Only Write on Leap Days

I actually wrote most of a blog post on my way home from Australia, but this finalized version looks almost nothing like the bizarre, poetic version I had in my head at that altitude. A lot of that one had to do with getting older, meditation, my relationship with my mom, and Cosmos, but this one makes way more sense as a first entry in such a long time.

I had an adventure-packed few months down under with lots of time spent on self-reflection and practicing the art of enjoying life in the moment. For a while the novelty of choosing a non-traditional career path had mostly worn off and was replaced by phases of uncertainty and self-doubt. The money I had made in poker seemed to have all been an illusion, and opportunities had become scarce, but somehow I continue to find myself with insurmountable gratitude for my life situation and all the doors that poker has opened.

When I was young I was driven and excitable with big aspirations. My family started with virtually nothing in a foreign country like many immigrants of the time, and I am so much of who I am today because of that internalized resiliency. When I first started making significant money from poker (for my investors) my main goal was to allow my dad to retire early from his manual labour job as soon as possible. I was thrown into a crazy world of high returns, high expenses, along with the lowest lows. I became filled with anxiousness that revolved around wanting to be successful by having the coolest experiences in the shortest amount of time, and being able to provide my family with experiences they never had. I made huge financial mistakes being overly optimistic about the game and many industry promises that I am still paying for today. Having said that, I’m also thankful for the eyeopening lessons that have forced me to look objectively and grow to be comfortable with who I am now. Today I hold myself to a very high standard with everything I do, and like to think that I no longer waste my time being agreeable, unconsciously hoping to be liked by as many people as possible. Like many females, I fought against impostor syndrome in many facets of my life, and I’m done not feeling like I’ll ever be good enough for the impossible expectations we face, both internal and external.

After making the tough decision to leave a rewarding three-year relationship and beginning to feel like I was stagnating professionally I started asking myself the hard questions again. I am now studying poker frequently and focusing my introspection on what I really want for my future, ignoring external pressures. Since doing so I’ve dyed my hair to suit my mood, have largely ignored what people could think about this and that, and had a solid 2015 with almost $200k in live cashes. 2016 is also off to a great start after a decent Aussie Millions and being drafted by the Montreal Nationals in the first season of Global Poker League, and in April I will be filming “Girl Got Game” with seven other fierce poker ladies. The upcoming weeks I will be home in Toronto preparing for my real estate exam to rebuild my roots here, getting started with various games on Twitch, and making myself available for coaching. All these things seem pretty cool for my ego, but they really are dwarfed by how content I feel inside. I’m also going to do a better job of not letting the media stuff get in the way of time that should be spent on actual progression and growth.

One last thought: I used to think the world was SO unfair, and have really enjoyed feeling like the mainstream has finally caught up! The equality debates are pretty heated now – feminism, racism, class, political correctness, and although I would love to jump into the ring for all these issues, I simply do not have the energy or see a lot of value in doing so in most formats. I used to defend the bullied, the passive, even those who were not present or didn’t want my input indiscriminately, but I have learned that it’s almost always hopeless and ill-advised to present rational arguments to radicals who don’t have critical thinking training. It can even be counterproductive if you inadvertently make them feel less intelligent in the process. We all have vastly different perceptions based on our unique experiences, and the opinions of some will only shift when they are ready. Ultimately we all just want to love freely and be loved in return, so be nice to each other.

 

Year of the Horse Kicks Off

Happy New Year!

Nala meows you a Happy Year of the Horse!

Nala meows you a Happy Year of the Horse!

We’re already in month two of the Gregorian calendar and in the first week of the Year of the Wooden Horse for the Lunar calendar. I’m no expert on Chinese astrology, but my parents believe that this Horse will bring a thrilling year filled with opportunities that must be grabbed by the reigns. As someone born in the year of the Ox, my buddy Horsey is predicted to look out for me by galloping to my doorstep with favours while and dissolving my problems and difficult situations this year. Not a bad deal to receive a clean slate every twelve year cycle.

In December I was invited to Puerto Rico for WPT Boot Camp’s annual signature event as a guest instructor. It was my official first time teaching in a live setting and I enjoyed it much more than I expected to, probably because I was much better at it than expected to be. It was super rewarding learning to teach beginners and notice their progress, noticing their breakthroughs as the week progressed. I even agreed to show my cards after every pot I won in the daily tournaments, which created a lot of interesting hands and dynamics. I even ended up busting the main event of the camp in hilarious fashion. I ran a bluff against a woman who I had taken a similar line against and shown, only to have her tank-call me when she realized! But there was so much more to the trip than just poker training. It was an enriching experience listening to Jan Fisher and Linda Johnson talk about their days as pioneering women in the game, and I even got a few tips on how to be a better public speaker from the first lady. Being a guest on Nicky “Numbers” Brancato’s new radio show was also a highlight, as he is certainly one of the most talented and hardest working personalities in the game. I was certainly amidst an all-star cast of instructors, and some of my personal highlights of the trip were playing an animated game of shuffleboard against Todd Brunson’s team, getting some beginner golf tips from poker mindset coach Jared Tendler, and beating my good friend Scott Seiver in a friendly HU freezeout!

I was also lucky to have a few extra days after the students left to explore Puerto Rico and visit the semi-private island off the Waldorf-Astoria property. It was a perfect mini-getaway after an intense trip to China. I gathered some clips and put together this video of my daily journey to the Island.

The only downside of my trip was that I did not have the best Internet. Oddly enough, during this trip I was actually getting a turbo boost of publicity with a ton of messages linking to Asian articles about me and my poker successes. The mainstream media might be a little slow to catch up to this “news.” It was also slightly disheartening seeing myself plastered in Chinese headlines years after my last career highlights, but obviously it was still very flattering and a nice ego boost hearing about these features on an island thousands of miles away. Even CBC interviewed me about poker on the local morning show, “Our Toronto,” with a short reel on the 6 o’clock news! Think also, upcoming major Chinese fashion magazine photoshoot and talkshow invite. I know poker players know it’s a skill game, but doing mainstream publicity educates the majority and allows the average person to decide for themselves whether or not I’m a degenerate gambler who feeds off castrating men at the tables. You’re welcome.

Due to copyright laws I can’t embed the clip here, but here’s a link to the feature on the CBC site: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Toronto/Our+Toronto/ID/2432472283/

A nice shot my sister took of the CBC feature on her laptop

A nice shot my sister took of the CBC feature on her laptop

All this publicity is nice, but it’s also making me anxious to win something soon. Yes, my lifetime ROI is still pretty sweet and the actual main focus when doing these interviews for me is to draw awareness to the game, but I’d rather take a confidence boost in the form of a final table any day.

It can also be somewhat testing to explain to people that while yes, I have a nice big figure to my career winnings, I haven’t bought my parents a house yet because the amount I’ve actually kept is much more modest. What’s really worth focusing on is the incredible lifestyle and experiences being in the poker world has given me. My 2013 has been a turning point in my life as I’ve mentioned before, but this year I am determined to play more and crush. I’m taking the next few weeks to stay put and get all my paperwork in order so I can do just that. I also promise you I have no interest in just being a female poker celebrity; I thrive and am often my most authentic self at the poker tables.

Which brings us to the topic of self-improvement. I know it seems like it’s all the rage these days, and really, what’s wrong with that? The widespread access to information has had a truly democratic effect on the pursuit for a better life. Why would a healthy human adult not want to be the best possible version of themselves?

A few weeks ago we were invited to check out the Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving Center on the strip. Skydiving’s always been one of those activities I wanted to do when I was young, so I could be one of the first amongst the people I knew to say I’ve done it and prove how cool I am. Then I became a poker player and no longer needed validation in that department, so I never went out of my way to do it. I can’t attest to how “genuine” this experience was to the real thing, but it was a lot of fun and I did not fear for my life at any point.

I suppose fitness appeals to me the same way that World of Warcraft used to. It’s something that has a guaranteed return on investment. If I grind x hours in a dungeon or at the gym, I am guaranteed to earn y XP/muscle mass+fat burn. That’s very appealing when there can be so much uncertainty in the industry I’m in. Even if I’m having a bad day, feeling small or directionless, working out is one sure way I can to improve my life for the better, so I’ve actually begun to look forward to this one habit I can control. I am in the best shape of my life, and instead of feeling confused and embarrassed at the gym on my own, I’ve been drawing confidence and self-esteem from my physical discipline. I’m still a beginner in comparison to most gym rats, but I’m no longer afraid to ask questions and sweat like a monkey.

I mentioned in 2013 that I made a conscious decision to travel less than I did the previous years. I don’t know if I actually did {*counts on fingers* Bahamas (PCA), Korea (APPT), Monaco (EPT), Vegasx6, Costa Rica (Family vacation), New York (wedding), China (WPT), Montreal (WPT), Puerto Rico (WPT Boot Camp), Raleigh (holidays)}, but for the first time I’ve reached Star Alliance 35k Elite status. I was actually very close to 50k, but I realized too late that being on top of your air miles is important! There’s like, secret societies on the Internet (forums) with a ton of tips and tricks to make the most out of your reward plan. I recommend everyone, not just frequent fliers, to do a little homework on how to get max benefits out of the often confusing but valuable offers that are out there. I know I’ll be getting international upgrades this year and have enough for a round-trip fare to Asia just from collecting in 2013 alone!

I am currently house-sitting in the burbs of Toronto. I am with my twelve-year old cat whom I have neglected for most of those years, so it sure was sweet when she started sleeping in my bed. I also think I might also be addicted to snowboarding, which is great hobby to have since I’m actually in the North during a year of record snowfall. I had actually never been to a ski resort until two years ago, and am just starting to really enjoy myself instead of only having room to worry about not dying when I’m on a hill. Whistler was the first place I had ever left the bunny slope on, so I felt I was going to die a lot my few times out. There’s some great weekday deals in the area, so I’ve been pretty content bundled up and alone on he slope like the Michelin man with that -30 degree Celsius windchill in my face.

Let it snow!

Let it snow!

WPT Fallsview is coming to town in a few weeks. It’s a $5k now, but back in 2007 it was the first $10,000 tournament I’d ever played back when it was the North American Poker Championship. I was a local $5/5 grinder on probation from college who won a seat and chopped another by grinding SNGs. I used a seat, obv took 100% of myself (minus some small swaps), and realized whenever I was in a hand with anyone other than the local grinders I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I got to play with Vanessa Selbst, Kathy Leibert, met Barry Greenstein, John Juana, and was busted by Action Jeff Garza whose bald head would pop up to haunt and crush my dreams of glory for a long time afterwards. I’m a little better now, but have yet to cash in a tournament on home turf, so hopefully this will be the year!

Good luck and have fun out there.

WPT China in Sanya

Recently I was invited by one of China’s leading social gaming sites, Ourgame, to attend WPT China in Sanya, Hainan. I always look forward to my visits back to the motherland and this time was no different. My only other experiences playing poker in Asia was in March when I qualified online and final tabled APPT Seoul, and in 2010 when I was still a cash player who diverged to Macau for a few days on a family visit one year and also satellited into the Macau Cup. I final tabled a side event and cashed in the main, so my tournament track record in Asia was in the money 3/3 events with 2 final tables.

I started adjusting my body to the jetlag while I was still in Toronto. Waking up at 11pm and sleeping at 3pm EST while eating according to that schedule really confused my body for the first few days, but I had 0 jetlag in Asia and was able to function at 100% for the duration of my trip. A heads up for thse who would like to know more: all the paid iOS apps that claim to have some secret scientific formula to helping you prepare for your jetlag are terrible. You can easily Google “jetlag diet” or and get some quick easy tips.

My first night in Beijing I got off the plane and basically went straight for a tour of the Ourgame headquarters. What a geek’s paradise! It looked more like a gaming net cafe than an office that catered to a player’s base the size of the entire population of the United States. I was greeted and introduced warmly to their staff and realized for the first time that I had fans in China. I felt very special to be recognized for my talents, but also a sense of irony considering that this would all not have been possible if I hadn’t grown up outside China. It always makes me nostalgic imagining what my life would be like if I had never left.

The next day I had an early flight to Sanya. Four hours later I was in the Hawaii of China! No really. Sanya is about the same distance from the equator as Hawaii and has a pretty similar climate. The MGM Grand venue where the event took place reminded me of The Cove at the Atlantis. If you’ve been to the PCA you will recognize this to be the most luxurious ocean-side hotel on a poker player’s schedule. I was thoroughly impressed, and I don’t generally like resort-style vacations.

My mom and stepdad also took this opportunity to visit me in Sanya. They had been traveling around South-Eastern Asia for the past few weeks and wanted to check out the festivities while I was on the same continent as them. I was very relieved that they were able to get a much better understanding of poker culture after this event. I didn’t have too much time to hang out with them, but they had a great time mingling with the players and staff with no language barrier. At the same time, business trips with parents present are not without stress. Imagine busting out of the main event with QQ<AT and having them tell you the reason you didn’t cash was because you didn’t understand how Chinese player’s play!

The players came flocking in a few days after I arrived, as did the vendors and sponsors. You know how on North American tour stops the snacks outside the tournament room are pizza, sandwiches, and salads? There’s dim sum, fried noodle, and BBQ pork in China. And as much as I love my dearfoam slippers and having the oxygen girls entertain players at the Rio during WSOP, the vendors here ranged from segways to red bull to ecommerce sites. That’s a lot of effective publicity and marketing energy for an event hosted by a play money site in its second year of infancy.

As sponsored players, David Chiu, Johnny Chan, Maria Ho, Liz Lieu, and I were warned before the event that there would be many players who would attempt to kamikaze their stacks into our tournament life for the glory of busting an international pro, but my experiences on Day 1 were pretty tame. I was a little surprised there weren’t more complete beginners at my tables, but a predictable field is probably just as good as a highly-volatile maniacal one. I was able to run a stack up relatively early on and cruised through the end of the day one, but day two was less fruitful. It started off well after flopping a set vs. an overpair, but winning pots became difficult when players behind me consistently took turns re-shoving 30-50bb stacks against my opens and not being able to make pairs for a few levels. I disappointedly busted around 160th with 113 or so players paying when I was at my low of 14bb. A dent on my perfect record in Asia! The six-player final table will be delayed until WPT Jeju in December, led by a bright and sassy girl from Shanghai. That’s definitely who I’ll be cheering for.

Being eliminated from the main event was upsetting, but I was still surrounded by great company.  You know what a smashing night in China celebrating the birthday of a Royal Flush Girl consists of? Karaoke of course! Our incredible group must have gone through 100 songs, and we all had a memorable time serenading/rapping/whelping to some of our all-time favourites against boot-leg music videos with the most absurd themes. We would’ve stayed all night if they let us.

Our last day in Sanya was actually a little worrisome. Haiyan had just hit the Phillippines and the remnants of its terror came our way. For eighteen straight hours the storm wailed outside and anxiety levels amongst the stranded hotel guests rised. I felt grateful to be surrounded by great company at a five-star hotel, and really felt bad for the suffering and displaced, especially in the Phillipines. Luckily I don’t think there were casualties in Sanya, but I did notice that some unfortified structures around the city were crushed. There were intermittent electricity outages and parts of the hotel leaked as the storm raged and winds howled tirelessly outside, but ultimately we were able to leave unscathed and still on a positive note.

I ended up having to push back my Beijing-Toronto flight after being stranded on the floor of Sanya airport for most of 5 hours, but I was glad I was able to get out at all! Tensions were high in a chaotic non-air-conditioned tropical airport with all the flights from the previous day cancelled. I was tired and cranky, but I know for certain I didn’t have the worst of it. Besides, missing the second leg of my flight really wasn’t all that bad since I had the privilege of spending one more night in Beijing.

I was quartered that last night at the Westin Hotel in the middle of the main foreigner’s district in the city, so I wouldn’t have known I was in China by the count of languages that were being spoken in the lobby bar. It was the perfect transitional stop back to the West. The next day the conceirge was even kind enough to take me to find my favourite food of all time. Literally every time relatives ask me what I wanted at the end of their visits to China I would ask them to bring this one thing back for me. My trip was complete after I happily had my Jianbinguozi, a local breakfast specialty with fried Chinese donut, green onion, and a special sauce wrapped in a freshly-made egg crepe. An essence of my childhood!

I am currently in Montreal visiting my sister while playing the WPT in town. I advanced to day two with a healthy 80,200 chips, and will posting updates on Twitter. After this I will be off to the beautiful Waldorf-Astoria in Puerto Rico where WPT Boot Camp is hosting their signature annual event. There is also still a chance I will be making another journey to WPT Korea in mid-December, so stay tuned for updates!

Xuan Liu Easy Game Poker mini-doc

8min “Easy Game” mini-doc from PokerListings.com

Matt Showell and Alex Konyves from Pokerlistings followed me around Toronto for a few days to film this 8 min mini-documentary.

I had a great time through the entire process and think they captured my personality really well. Hope you’ll enjoy it too!

Ourgame WPT China

I’m representing Ourgame at WPT China!

Super excited to be representing China’s leading social gaming company, Ourgame at WPT China this year. It would be an absolute dream to make a deep run in beautiful Sanya, Hainan. The video is in Mandarin Chinese but you can use the “closed caption” feature for subtitles.

Ourgame WPT China