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For historical reference and as an intuitive starting point for beginners I would recommend “The Theory of Poker” by David Skansky, “Super Systems I & II” by Doyle Brunson et al.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. 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 realized quickly I was uninterested in traditional pathways to adulthood. I was eager to pursue adventures and environments that would nurture self-discovery.
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 cash games. 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 won a satellite 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 catch? If I didn’t achieve an outstanding break-through result in one year I must have to give up this lifestyle and pursue a more traditional career path.
I am grateful every day for how naturally everything always falls into place. 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 had just about accepted me as a poker player.
Q: Do you coach?
Coaching is not currently a priority but if you are really keen please shoot me a message. 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 and inspiring women to play the game in a comfortable setting.
It’s valuable to provide a nurturing environment to show women that you can strategize to come out ahead in zero-sum situations and still be 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.
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 Pinyin translation. I adapted this pronunciation at a young age to make things easier for my teachers and classmates.
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.