Xuan: If I wasn't in poker, if I was in any other industry I would want to strive to be the best. Having said that I'm also a pretty realistic person and I value comfort and a good balanced lifestyle over doing whatever it takes to become the best in the world.
Narrator: Meet Xuan Liu. Xuan's story starts out like many others. She immigrated from China with her family at age five. Grew up in Toronto and went to University at Waterloo. But fast forward a few years and Xuan's life style is anything but ordinary. Xuan plays poker, she makes a living playing on the internet and competing in major live tournaments around the world.
For the finally episode of our short poker documentary series Easy Game, we fly to Toronto to meet Xuan on her home turf and find out more about one of the fastest rising starts in poker.
Xuan: Growing up I moved a ton of schools almost every single year. I had been to about 15 different schools since before college, just because I was in the gifted program and there were government cutbacks and my parents were separated. So every time we'd move I would have to go to another school. I never thought I would grow up to be a poker player but looking back it just all makes sense.
Anny: She was always really into chess and checkers and go and all those really complicated strategy game. I would just learn the rules and maybe get like half a game in and then be like, "I give up, I can't do this I don't understand what's going on, I don't know what to do," but then her and my dad would both be sitting across a table just thinking about their next moves, I could see the wheels turning in both of their heads.
Xuan: I used to play poker variations like draw and stud and stud eight with stuffed animals and pretend I had limited information for each party and make decisions based on hypothetical scenarios as to what each stuffed animal would do.
Mike: I met Xuan back at Waterloo when we were both studying there I guess. It would have been around 2005, 2006 and I met her because she hosted a poker game in her apartment with her boyfriend at the time. They both had dealt at my charity Casinos or something around Toronto. So they knew what they were doing and they ran this illegal one two no limit game in their apartment in Waterloo.
Xuan: That November WPT Fallsview was coming to town with all these superstars and I was able to play with my heroes Theseus Helps and Kathy Liebert. I had zero tournament experience but when I won these highlights to play this event, I was like, "Why not just take this bullet and gamble my way up."
Anny: So the first time that Xuan invited me to come watch her play at PCA, she flew me and my parents down and it was really exciting.
Announcer: Ace queen, snap call, automatic.
Xuan: All in.
Announcer: It's a collect on the [inaudible 00:04:06] Xuan Liu [inaudible 00:04:08].
Nick: My first impressions of Xuan were that underneath that shy exterior there was intelligence: always listening, always taking information in. And I noticed that a lot of other people during down time they would focus on parting or going out and Xuan would always be there but always with an ear open to poker with strategies. She was always absorbing what was going on around her and I think that's really served her well and it's one of the reasons she's such a great player.
Mike: She think the game in a very analytical way with I don't know if I would necessarily say is the case for a lot of poker players in general let alone female poker players who really think about the game in a good way.
Anny: She's able to observe things in a way where you it's subtle but it's I'd say a very intense focus and concentration that I don't think that many people have.
Gloria: There only three players remaining at this final table and one of the reasons for that is joining me right now. Xuan Liu you had an action packed level and a very profitable one as well tell about it?
Xuan: Today I've just been running with really good, doesn't matter what I do I'm hitting all the hands, I'm getting paid off and I have monsters and I'm sucking up when I'm behind, I'm really fortunate today.
Even though at EPT 10 [inaudible 00:05:30] I still hadn't had that much tournament experience, I felt like my cash game background was perfect for beginning deep stack poker. Once I got deeper into the tournament, on the bubble even deeper than that I began to notice that the fields were getting filled with more pros. I just had no experience whatsoever playing the stack sizes that we're playing for this much money. It was disappointing but I was actually so thrilled to even have come in 3rd place with the experience I had. It was such an adrenaline rush every step of the way.
One of the really cool things about gaining this notoriety of sorts is that now I have a platform where people will actually listening to what I have to say and one of the issues that has always been really close to me is to empower females to do what they love. I think a lot of strides have been made in terms of gender equality across all industries but I think there is a lot of improvement that can be made.
Nick: I think the most impressive thing that I found about Xuan - and not a lot of people know this about her - is the strong ethical core that she has. I've seen situations where nobody else is watching and she doesn't even know that I'm watching and she does the right thing. And she does it very consistently she has a very strong code that she lives by, she will not break that code for anyone, even me. Which I find awesome.
Xuan: I think it's incredible that I get to play a poker game or any game to make a living, I get to travel whenever I want to, I have amazing friends from all walks of life I think my ultimate goal going forward is just to be completely financially free and be able to support my friends and family. And growing up with not that much it's really important for me to give my parents, my friends the opportunities I never had growing up.