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Maria Ho Interview

Poker's 'Last Woman Standing' catches up with our friends at On Tilt magazine

Published on May 15th 2012.


Maria Ho Interview

SMART, sweet and successful – Maria Ho has it all. She's earned more than one million dollars playing tournament poker since 2007, appeared as a star of the reality show The Amazing Race, and made it to Hollywood Week on American Idol. She is a stand-out at a game few women play, never mind consistently win.

“I’m always grateful for an opportunity where I’m labelled as the underdog. The I-series and being the only woman gives me the perfect opportunity to show everyone what I can do.”

Maria was born in Taiwan in 1983, the younger of two daughters, and later relocated to Southern California. She was introduced to poker as a college student at UC San Diego. The psychology and the competitive aspects of the game fascinated her and she quickly moved from playing with friends to playing at casinos.

Maria’s breakout year in poker was 2007, the year that she finished 38th of 6,358 players in the World Series of Poker Main Event and earned the designation of “Last Woman Standing”. In 2011 she made her first career WSOP final table, finishing second in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event for $540,020 – the biggest cash haul ever by a woman at the WSOP.

Beyond the poker tables, Maria has shared her knowledge of the game as an on-camera host for WSOP.com and as a commentator for live WSOP final-table broadcasts on ESPN360 to name a few. When she’s not travelling on the tournament circuit, she splits her time between Hollywood music gigs, charity work and her family’s California-based real estate firm.

OT – Hi Maria. Congratulations on becoming the first woman to compete in the poker I-series. Not just the only woman, but it seems you’re the favourite to win.

MH – Well this is how I look at it, I’m always grateful for an opportunity where I’m labelled as the underdog. The I-series and being the only woman gives me the perfect opportunity to show everyone what I can do, especially as the hole cards are going to be exposed. It’s going to be a really interesting dynamic to see the way I might use that to my advantage.

OT – The I-series seems to have captured everyone’s imaginations here in the UK, especially because you can bet during live play on pretty much anything. Do you think it will be equally popular across the pond in America?

MH – Yeah definitely. I think it is just such an interesting concept for anyone that is interested in poker. It really goes hand in hand with that poker player mentality. You don’t even have to be a poker fan. But also for the poker fans, it’s such a great way to integrate them into the game. Sometimes when you watch poker on TV, you don’t feel as involved. If you have a real rooting interest in a player because you have a bunch of money riding on them, it really adds another dimension to the game. 

OT – Now the I-series launch table has ten very interesting characters. How are you feeling about your competitors?

MH - Yeah, I think the great thing about this launch event is that they choose people, not because of their poker status but because of their personalities. Considering that this is going to be shown live, viewers are going to want to see interacting and banter and I’m sure with people like Devilfish, Negraneau and Hullmuth all together, they won’t disappoint. With the other young internet sensations added to the mix, it will be a very exciting dynamic to watch the battle between old school and new school as well as the big names battling across the table.

OT– It’s a winner takes all tournament that is going to feel very much like a cash game. Do you prefer cash to tournaments?

MH – I feel comfortable playing in both. I started playing cash games first then moved over to tournaments and I’ve been pretty successful in both, so I feel I have the ability to adapt to both formats and know a lot of the players well enough to adapt to each of their games. We spoke before about old and new school players and I don’t really know where I fit in because I didn’t start playing online. I always played live. I haven’t been around as long as some of the guys that are considered old school so I’d say I’m slap bang in the middle, which is good because then I won’t feel out of place.

OT – How did you get into poker?

MH – I started in college playing home game as a recreational thing. Then I went to the local casino and I was soon making good money, it then became more than a hobby. When I graduated college I decided to take a chance at becoming a professional poker player and started using my bankroll that I had built up playing for fun, over the past seven years.

OT – Not many players come through such a traditional route to becoming a professional poker player nowadays, having not gone through the online way first.

MH – I feel so lucky to not only get my start playing live but the online boom started just as I was starting my game, so I was able to watch and learn both genres. I feel I can balance both now.

OT – You said you never planned to be a poker professional. What did you major in and what did you want to be when you were at college?

MH – I wanted to become a broadcaster, I majored in communications. I’ve done some poker TV hosting and commentating, which helped me a lot. I’m a very talkative person which has helped me get reads at the table.

OT – You’re beautiful, you write blogs and you’ve won a fortune playing poker to say the least. Is there anything you can’t do?

MH(laughs) Oh my god! There are two things I’m not great at. Firstly, there’s driving. I know the cliché about women drivers – but it’s true. The second – directions. Again, from maybe being a woman and being Asian. I fulfil both stereotypes.

OT – You were born in Taiwan. When did you move to the States?

MH – My family moved to the States when I was four-years-old. It’s a beautiful country and I’d love to see more Chinese players in the game and be the forefront for when it comes.

OT – I’m sure you would be a great ambassador for that. What do you like to do in your spare time?

MH – I find that I really enjoy spending good quality time with family and friends – it keeps me grounded. It usually involves alcohol; I enjoy having a few drinks with friends and chilling out. I live in L.A, so people assume I’m out partying all the time, but I prefer to spend time at home with family and watch TV – this slows my life back down to a reasonable rate after the poker excitement.

OT – Will you be partaking in a pint of Guinness while in Dublin?

MH – Definitely, I have heard that it tastes completely different in Ireland than anywhere else. I’m looking forward to trying it. I’m planning to stay away from Devilfish as I know he likes to party and I don’t think I could keep up. I’m going to play the Irish Open there too.

OT – Good idea - Dave is an animal! You also appeared on American Idol?

MH – Yes, I was on season three. I made it to Hollywood Week very briefly. Poker’s my career, but music is my passion.

OT – So what’s on your iPod?

MH – I like a bit of acoustic Jazz style music. I like a lot of British singers like Duffy and Adele.

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Latest Rants

Vera Wright

really enjoyed the game , would have liked to be in longer but did manage over 2 hours , And happy…

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Beverley Monks

I really enjoyed the tournament and was a bit gutted to go out 13th, so close yet so far, heres to…

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Danny

great turn out and immensely enjoyed the day,well done to all organisers and the dealers!!!!

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Danny

june 5th is my tourney watch out the dukes about!!!!

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