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In 2007 Maria Ho finished 38th in the WSOP Main Event but what the TV cameras didn't capture was a massive call she made on Day 2, all based on the throbbing of a vein on her opponent's neck. Maria had only been playing live tournaments for about eight months and the 2007 Main Event was one of her first $10,000 buy-in events. Now, eight years later, Maria revisits the epic run that earned her more than $250,000 and tells us about the pivotal moment on Day 2 that made it all possible. Maria picked up pocket queens and got into a big hand with the player directly to her left, an experienced poker professional. Maria's queens were an overpair to the board but she knew enough not to just call off her entire stack. For six or seven minutes Maria tanked, thinking through the hand and scrutinizing her opponent. Looking back on it, Maria said it was only because they were sitting right next to each other that she noticed a vein in her opponent's neck pulsing furiously. Maria deduced that since the player was a seasoned poker pro, he probably wouldn't be getting that stressed out if he was just excited about having a big hand. As Maria waited longer and longer, her opponent got more and more uncomfortable. Maria used that information to make the call for her tournament life and when her opponent turned over ace-king, she saw she had made the right decision. Maria faded the turn and river and scored a crucial double-up that gave her the chips and the confidence she needed to become the last woman standing in one of the biggest WSOP Main Events in history. Check out the full video to hear it straight from Maria Ho herself and keep an eye out on PokerListings.com for more Best Poker Moments videos.
Well, it was 2007 when I had my deep run in the main event and I had just graduated college in 2005. So I'd only really been playing professionally for not even 2 years by that point. But tournaments, I'd probably only been playing for only 8 months or so. And I didn't have that much experience in 10ks, played three or four 10ks leading up to the main event. I had very little limited tournament knowledge but obviously if you're ever going to take a shot your going to do it in the main event.
When I first got into poker I could have never imagined stepping into a room full of 6800 poker players that put up 10 thousand dollars all trying to win this amazing grand prize of 5, 6, 7 million. It felt like a dream-like state, I think is the best way to describe it because you never really know what to expect in any given poker tournament but especially in something like this. Obviously very exciting but I would say that I was very nervous coming in that day.
I believe it was toward the end of day 2 when I was faced with a huge decision for my tournament life. There was a lot of action preflop, it was, you know, three or four bets, me, I had queens. And it was obviously against someone who is very experienced. And on the flop they put me all in and it was, you know, an 8 high board and it would have been my tournament life on the line but the way they played their hand they could have easily had aces or kings. I know better than to sit here, in the main event, looking at queens which is an over pair and being like, "Okay, I'm going to risk my entire tournament life on this." I remember taking maybe six or seven minutes, nobody called the clock on me, everybody let me have my time.
And the person who was sitting directly to my left, and I looked at him and was just staring at him for the entire five minutes. And I was really just trying to get a live read off of him, because at that point I just had to differ to that. I couldn't really go by anything that happened in the hand because the way he played it was as if he had a better hand than me. So I just was hoping he would give me something. And I remember so vividly like it was yesterday, his neck just started, like, pulsating. And obviously I could read that as nervousness or sometimes people are really excited because they have a huge hand. But because he's an experienced pro I felt like that was more just nervousness. And I felt like the longer I waited him out the more nervous I sensed his body language to be. And I think I am so fortunate he was sitting right next to me, because if he was sitting across from me maybe I wouldn't be have picked up on these physical tells. And I remember I called, but when I called I wasn't looking at the hand that he was going to turn over, I just looked at him. Because, you know, once you say the words "call," their face will just, you know, it will be written all over their face whether they were bluffing or not, and of course I could immediately tell that I made the right decision. He flipped over ace king, but I still had to fade the turn in the river and I remember just thinking, you know, this is, like, the biggest two cards that are about to go down right now. And obviously my queens ended up holding up and, you know, it was a huge huge turning point and that was, I remember it gave me a really big stack and it also gave me the confidence for the rest of the tournament to just go with my reads.