Xuan Liu

Idealistic Poker Heroine


Q: What are your recommended sources for those who are getting started in poker?

When I first started poker when there were only a few reliable resources widely available so it was easy to absorb all the information I had access to. Today there are countless books, training sites, and coaches that offer similar basic information, but misinformation is not uncommon.

For historical reference and as an intuitive starting point for beginners I would recommend “The Theory of Poker” by David Skansky, “Super Systems I & II” by Doyle Brunson et al. and the “Harrington on Holdem for No-Limit Tournaments” series. “Ace on the River” by Barry Greenstein is not so much about gameplay strategy but rather the external factors that accompany a poker-playing lifestyle, and remains to be one of my favourite poker books to date.

I can also objectively say that “classes” like WPT Boot Camp and their recently launched online training site offers the best interactive educational environment for beginner to intermediate players with their easy to follow curriculum and reliable information.

I myself have subscriptions to LeggoPoker, CardRunners, and BlueFirePoker, but don’t feel these are good starting points for new learners. Absolute basic strategy is readily available on forums and even through google searches, but players who feel they have reached a skill cap will benefit from a private coach with reliable references and a network of players who at or above your level or have different playing styles.

Q: How did you get started in poker?

Playing cards were invented in China and strategy games and basic math skills are often introduced to children at a very young age. I had fond memories of spending time alone and with adults learning and playing games ranging from MahJong to Go and Chinese Chess. I was especially fascinated watching the Five-card Stud poker scenes in the popular Hong Kong film “God of Gamblers,” which starred two of my favourite Chinese actors, Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau.

It wasn’t until I was 18 in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP and poker culture blew up as we know it. I was dating a player who would occasionally go to play limit hold’em at the charity casinos and online at PartyPoker.com, and was finally reintroduced to the game when I attended the University of Waterloo. My friends would hold weekly $5 SNGs and cash games in the student common areas. I improved rapidly after diving myself into whatever poker literature I could get my hands on, and realized there was a plethora of opportunities to make money not just while playing but also in poker as a business. Growing up in an immigrant family having worked multiple jobs since I was 12, this was a huge breakthrough.

With the assistance of a few friends I started hosting a $1/2 home game that was the first of its kind on campus. Because I raked and the dealers worked off tips, my focus was on providing a professional, safe, and enjoyable player experience. I guess I can refer to this operation as my first start-up 😉

My first experiences playing live at a casino was the $2-5 limit game at Brantford Charity casino, a 40-minute drive away from Waterloo. I haven’t been there for awhile, but I want to insist that the staff there are still some of the nicest people I have encountered to date. After the game and the business partnerships sizzled I began dealing and playing for a few other underground games around the area and the summer charity casino at the Canadian National Exhibition while juggling schoolwork, my internship at the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, volunteer work, my addicition to World of Warcraft, and eventually being a 6-max SNG grinder on PokerStars.

I attended the University of Waterloo for social development studies and political science with a full scholarship, but did little to maintain my grades or utilize my energy and resources to pursue academia. I was uninterested in the traditional pathway to adulthood for many reasons. I wanted to pursue adventures and environments that would nurture self-discovery, not frivolous diplomas that no longer guaranteed interesting work placements in a rapidly changing economy. My priorities shifted and focused on how I can sustain a lifestyle of freedom and inspiration rather than submissing to the standard pathway to subjective success.

One semester I was on probation from school so I decided to move to Niagara Falls, Ontario to play the $5-$5 tourist game there. I was able to make tuition for the next term and win satellites to my first $10,000 tournament at WPT Fallsview. Needless to say I was playing way beyond my bankroll, but it was a hell of an experience playing with heroes like Vanessa Selbst and Kathy Liebert. I had 0 tournament experience and got absolutely crushed, but I felt like I had found my calling.

Upon graduating I travelled to Vancouver, Atlantic City, and L.A. in search of juicy games and my niche. I soon learned that I was neither suitable for these cities nor good enough a player to withstand the volatility and expenses that accompanied that lifestyle. A few finance positions had been offered to me back home and abroad at this time, so I took some time to study for the Charted Financial Analyst designation and practice swing-trading and self-directed investing as I tried to put my passion for poker on the back burner.

This proved to be rather difficult and I gradually began playing more and more of FTP’s new Rush Poker cash games. In 2010 I was doing well playing small stakes online and incorporated a trip to Macau while visiting family in China. I final tabled two tournaments on my 4-day trip and was given the blessing to focus on poker by my parents. The clincher? If I didn’t achieve an outstanding break-through result in one year I must give up my Bohemian lifestyle and pursue more traditional career paths.

I am grateful every day for how incredibly naturally everything always seems to fall into place. From the acquaintances who never overlooked simple niceties to my old and new friends who continue to encourage my growth through both good and bad decisions. In late 2010 I took my first trip to Europe, chopped an Italian Poker Tour side event, and had two more half a million dollar tournament cashes within months of each other at European Poker Tour San Remo Season 7 and PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Season 8. My family has just about accepted me as a poker player.

Q: Do you coach?

I am currently not taking on responsibilities as a coach. My current priorities are still as a student at the highest level. Depending on what level you are I might recommend my previous online backer and good friend Nicholas Verkaik at www.teamnoctus.com or the professional teachers of WPT Boot Camp www.wptbootcamp.com for newer learners.

I receive no referral incentives and can objectively praise these sources because I have first hand experiences with their coaching methods.

I may also respond to hand history messages if you are patient.

Q: what are your thoughts on ladies events?

I love to play in them and think they are important not only for introducing women to the game but also for the residual personal development and gender-equality debates that they inspire.

It’s valuable to provide an environment that nurtures comraderie while simultaneously sending out a clear message to women that you can engage in zero-sum situations and still be considered a polite/caring/good/(insert traditionally feminine trait) person.

I don’t think that men should be absolutely banned from entering women’s events and feel that creative solutions to discourage them from entering (like the discounted cost of $1,000 for a $10,000 buy-in at the 2013 WSOP ladies event) are better than spewing anger and outrage.

I will expand on this topic elsewhere.

Q: Do you use your feminine qualities to benefit yourself at the poker table?

My game is based on solid poker fundamentals that varies exploitatively based on my opponents at the table and other factors pertaining to my own mindset. I am also usually pretty friendly so certain niceties and interactions can be interpreted as feminine prowess. I am aware of gender-specific biases and am capable of using them to my advantage when I feel they are well-calculated.

Q: How do you say your name? Why don’t you have an English name?

My name is pronounced “Shu-on”. It’s neither phonetically precise or the Chinese Pin Yin translation. I adapted this pronunciation at a young age because I noticed it was the simplest to repeat by people of a variety of native tongues.

My Chinese name is 刘璇璇, which is a fancy or beautiful jade. My family immigrated to Toronto, Canada when I was five and I did not feel obligated to have an English name while attending a school in Chinatown for my first few years of primary education, since virtually all my peers came from non-native English speaking backgrounds. When I grew a little older I entertained the idea of names like Elizabeth (the more sensible twin in the Sweet Valley series) and Michelle (shares a phonetically similar syllable to Xuan), but it just never seemed like the right time to ask my friends to start calling me something new. By high school I had gotten used to reassuring teachers and strangers that it was perfectly fine to not be able to say my name, and soon became content and even a little proud that I did not compromise my natural name to assimilate. According to some scientific theories, the development of my personality and self-identity are affected by the mystique surrounding my name.

Q: Wanna have lunch/a drink/hang out some?

Generally no unless it is business related. I prefer to evolve friendships organically.

Q: How can we contact you for praise/constructive criticism/request for advice/appearance and business opportunities?

You can find me on Twitter at @xxl23, drop me a message on my Facebook Fan Page, or through LinkedIn


One comment on “FAQ!

  1. Vincent
    December 26, 2013

    I don’t know why you bother taking the time to blog and write, but I’m glad you did. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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