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Q&A: Terrence Chan Goes From 4th MMA Win to World Series of Poker
On May 31st Terrence Chan was busy winning an MMA fight at the River Rock Casino in Vancouver and on June 1 he was on a plane to the World Series of Poker.
It was Chan's fourth win fighting mixed martial arts and he's undefeated so far.
Chan made it to Las Vegas just in time for the $1,500 Limit Hold'em event, a game that Chan has played at the highest levels and the highest stakes.
In this WSOP interview Chan talks Limit Hold'em, artificial intelligence and what it's like fighting in the cage one day and competing with poker's best the next.
PokerListings: Tell us about your most recent fight.
Terrence Chan: It was a tough fight. The guy was good and he was skillful and he was in shape.
It was a tough, really challenging fight so I think it brought out the best in me.
PL: Any more fights coming up?
TC: No. (Laughs) I'll be here for the next five weeks so I really won't be training too much but I'll get back into training.
As long as I'm in shape I'm always willing to take a fight.
PL: There's a lot of fitness and poker fusion going on right now. Were you doing it before it became so popular?
TC: It's always been important to me.
Recently a lot of these guys in poker who have made a lot of money have realized there's that other aspect of things too. You can't just make money all the time.
You have to take care of yourself physically.
I think a lot of it stems from people wanting to get better at poker so they're getting more fit and they realize that it's an advantage.
PL: Do you feel better at the poker table when you're in better shape?
TC: Yeah for sure. I think being in shape gives you a big stamina edge, playing these long tournament days.
It's not even about getting a ton of exercise but more about dialing in the nutrition and getting the right amount of sleep and that kind of thing. That's super important for your mental stamina.
PL: Is Limit Hold'em still your favorite game? Why are you so good?
TC: (Laughs) I guess I just came up with the right people.
We all started getting good at Limit Hold'em at the right time, Matt Hawrilenko, Bill Chen, Jerrod Ankenman. We had a Limit Hold'em study group and we were all crushing heads-up.
It's great that it translates really well to six-max because at the high levels most of the pots you play are heads-up anyways. It maps well.
Mostly I'm good just because of the volume I've played. I've put in more hours playing Limit Hold'em than most people.
PL: What do you think about the Heads-Up Limit Hold'em machine Cepheus?
TC: They've done a pretty amazing thing. It was kind of inevitable I think because Limit Hold'em is a much smaller game than No-Limit because you don't have that modifier of how much you can bet.
But it's a cool accomplishment.
So heads-up Limit Hold'em might not have the brightest future but six-max or even three-handed, no one can claim they've solved that game.
PL: Did you have a chance to play against it?
TC: When it was in the news everyone was trying to play it so the servers were really bad, but I played about 100 hands and it does seem to play pretty similar to a lot of the high-stakes players, like in the $500/$1,000 or $1,000/$2,000 games I used to play.
There were differences that surprised people a little bit but it did play a lot like a high-limit player.
PL: Any chance you'll take on the machine?
TC: (Laughs) Doug Polk style. No, I assume it's probably better than me.
I wish I could tell you that wasn't the case but honestly if I was better than it, it would be by such a tiny amount that like, me mis-reading the board once every 10,000 hands would probably mitigate the edge.
Watch Terrence Chan's Short Poker Documentary
PokerListings.com featured Terrence Chan in its short poker documentary series Easy Game and you can watch the full episode right here.
In 2013 Chan was training MMA in Vancouver and PokerListings followed him inside the gym to see how a poker pro in his 30s tackles the task of fighting at a professional level.