Tag Archives: Beijing

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!

Beijing huan ying ni (Welcome to Beijing)

So I’ve been in China for about 4 days now and I’m loving every minute. Unforunately I can’t upload any pics from my BB, but my dad and stepmom have arrived with a new camera so I’m sure there’ll be new ones coming soon.

The tl;dr version is basically having great food, buying awesome affordable gear, and indulging in a really happening vibe in Beijing. A friend from school was kind enough to take me out to the party scene and I have to admit I am seriously considering moving out here. Really, to make US$ while having minimal expenses along with world-class food and entertainment options really can’t be beat.

The flight was a drag with United, and taking the airport express to save 75Y (~$17) might not have been the best option for my first time alone in the city (I’m working really hard to beoome a life nit), but I got there with everything intact and immediately fell in love with my boutique hotel, esp. since they upgraded me to a suite for my first night. I had a sick view since the hotel was mere metres from the east gate of the Forbidden City, and had all the luxuries I could wish for, especially since I had started coming down with a cold. I spent some time figuring out how to get my phone to work with a Chinese SIM (I kept getting weird cryptic messages since my BB doesn’t support mandarin), and eventually gave up trying to contact my friend and went downstairs to eat instead. My dinner was amazing and comforted my cold symptoms, and the only complaint I have was them bringing me a serving of a specialty green tea (though it was delicious), when I had confirmed my request for basic complimentary tea. I mean, I suppose I could give them the benefit of the doubt for not hearing me properly, but chances are good that they are aware I won’t be able to say no after the meal and 25Y isn’t much for a foreigner anyway (yes, even though I look Chinese, speak Chinese, and act it for the most part, they say it’s obvious – something about my “demeanor”). So on my first night I had tomato and egg noodles (homely fave), hot and sour soup, some marinated jellyfish and cucumber, and 2 servings of tea that was worth more than half the meal itself. The dining room had a pleasant atmosphere and the service for the most part was very inviting. In addition, I was very satisfied to go up to my room and draw a long bath while watching Forrest Gump on HBO and sleeping at a reasonable hour I was not accustomed to.

The second day was just as awesome in a totally different sense. I shopped and haggled til I dropped, bought a plethora of goodies for amazing prices (even though I still got ripped off a lot compared to if I were local), and had two pleasant meals outside. The two malls I went to were pretty touristy, but I didn’t care as there was a huge selection and the items were all much better quality than you’d expect. You really don’t realize how many foreigners are in the city til you come to one of these, and the young shop girls able to bargain in 3-4 languages will let you know. The first meal was after the shopping, which is highly unusal because I am usually very cranky and unfunctional when I don’t have food when I wake up, but I was simply too eager to shop and felt like I didn’t have time to lol. I found a small bunch of street vendors in an alleyway off the road. There were exotic skewers, buns and dumplings of all kinds, and all the customers were local, so it had to be good. I ended up ordering a plate of goodies at 1Y (~0.15) per item, costing me a grand total of 5Y for an a la carte meal cooked in front of you. After going back to the hotel to relax for a bit and go through my purchases with glee, I made plans and took a quick nap before I went across the street to the famous Beijing night food market and had a bowl of specialty soup that lists for 30Y, that I paid 20Y for, but probably could be sold for 5Y to a local. It was divine, and the ingredients really were authentically nourishing – pig skin, shark fin, chicken, fancy herbs and mushrooms, quail eggs. Along with a local favourite, lamb skewers, it was another divine meal.

So my friend met up with me pretty late as he had a business meeting in Tianjin, but nonetheless he was a great sport and took me out exhaustedly two nights in a row. My first Beijing nightlife experience was at Xiu at the Park Hyatt, a trendy upscale lounge/bar catering mostly towards foreigners and hot locals. I hadn’t waited in line for a club for a long time, but this one was definitely worth it. There was an extensive live band that played very current club jams, and the vibe in general was very energetic and enticing. The drink prices were standard for Western bars, but when you see a round costing 350Y when you just bought a year’s worth of accessories for less, it’s kind of a reality check of sorts. But hey, let the foreigners have their status with their drinks costing a month’s avg salary – the city’s not complaining. I especially felt classy when my friend ordered a round of shots and having forgotten that I was sick and couldn’t breath properly, I basically choked/poured the shot onto my face -.- Anyhow, I decided to stick wtih wine for the rest of the night.

The next day was sort of a write-off as you might expect. I attempted to play poker but realized the mere sight of the pixels on my screen sent my head swirling, so I nursed my hangover until I was ready to do it all over again. I had also run out of RMB (I thought I was responsible enough to make what I had last 3 days), and by the time I was ready to step outside the bank was already closed. Anyhow my friend took me out for Yunnan hotpot with fabulous broth. It was a pleasant surprise that I had already started feeling much better, probably between the soups and the alcohol killing the cold germs in my system (ha!). Then we stopped by a lounge in another trendy boutique hotel called the Opposite House, a place I considered staying in before I remembered I’m supposed to be a nit grinder for awhile. Oh, did I mention there is NO LAST CALL? win!?… I’m not sure yet. Well then around 2 we went to a pretty local club called Coco Banana and had decent bottle service there with some of his friends who were all foreigners as well. It was a very different scene from Xiu (this place still had squatting toilets ><), but the vibe was still good and still way better than anything in T.o. imo.

I am writing this at the end of my 4th day, where I am now in Tianjin, reunited with my dad’s side of the family. This morning I was approached by a poker friend online who needed my help. He’s a tournament player trying to SS Rush, and I was glad to be useful and sent him my almost-finished basic strat video (I just have to blur out my SN in every frame and edit some minor parts, though I don’t think I’ll ever be truly satisfied since it’s my first video project). You can see there’s not gonna be much poker strategy on this blog, with my primary focus being on tl;dr trip reports and rantings related to the game, but I highly recommend any decent player to pick up the very profitable Rush on FTP. I may post the vid here on this blog soonish.

I went back to the clubbing district (Sanlitun), had a brunchy meal at a fusion Chinese restaurant and roamed around The Village til it was time for another city. I then went back to the airport to pick up my parents and I would just like to make a quick comment about how incredibly blessed I am. I clumsily left my new LV purse with EVERYTHING – passport, RMB, CDN, US, credit cards, etc. etc. in the washroom stall. Realizing 5 minutes later, I ran back to the restroom, and was completely fortunate that the washroom attendants were honest and valued being recognized with merit in their jobs rather than years (…a lifetime?) worth of salary. They asked me to fill out a claim/comment form, and insisted that I note that nothing was missing from my bag and to praise their integrity in the incident because this will bring them great honour at their next meeting with their supervisors. Wow.

Anyhow my 3 cousins who I haven’t seen for 17+ years picked me up by approaching me and asking if I was who they thought I was. It was a fine reunion that made me really fuzzy inside. We waited awhile for my dad to arrive and headed back to my birthplace, Tianjin. The journey was an intense two hours because the drivers are all crazy. No one checks their blindspots, and it’s all a huge cutthroat race to them. It was also a hoot when my cousin had to stop about half a dozen times on the side of the highway as cars were zooming inches from him to manually wipe snow off the windshield since his wipers were broken.

So I’m here on my cousin’s desktop since her internet isn’t set up on my laptop, but soon I will have wireless here and I can play some pokerz to not feel completely unproductive. I am staying at my eldest uncle’s house, who has 3 lovable dogs. I have already realized that I have a lot more in common with my cousins than I expected. I’m very exhausted atm and probably should’ve done an even briefer summary to be prepared for the festivities tomorrow, but I’m glad I expended the energy.