Tag Archives: Family

Back "home"

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.

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.