Celina Lin is a star in the Asian poker scene.
Growing up in Shanghai and Melbourne, Lin has lived in Macao for the past five years, plying her trade off the radar from most English-language poker media.
Her poker chops are anything but hidden, though, as she's the only player with two Red Dragon titles and is now traveling the world proving her acumen at every stop.
Celina Lin, High Up on the Homeless Scale
PokerListings caught up with her for a few moments on her whirlwind poker journey at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Celina Lin: At the moment I travel a lot, and I use Air BnB a lot, so it’s cheaper for me to just stay for a month or two in the place where I played a tournament.
You could say I’m homeless, but on the homeless scale I’m pretty high up.
PokerListings: And can you really cope with that kind of lifestyle?
CL: I really like new, fresh experiences, and poker is very good for that. I like to visit different cultures, try different foods.
I used to travel even more in my early days of poker, then I settled down in Macao for a while, and now I’ve added even more trips to my schedule.
PL: With over 25 live cashes in the last two years it seems like you are active every day.
CL: China is a new market and whenever there’s a poker event there are lots of side events. These get sizable fields of 200 to 300 players.
I try to play as many as possible but only when a series is in town. I don’t play every day, but rather a lot or none at all.
Some days I’m just sick of the game. Especially when you’re running bad, it makes it very hard to love it. But then there are also times when you find new and exciting things you can talk about.
PL: You’re the only player ever to win the “Red Dragon” twice. Are you a star in China?
CL: Actually, when I’m at an event in China, walking down the hallway, people come up to me and ask if I’m really Celina.
Here, people just say ‘hi’.' Nobody knows who I am.
It’s a different world in China where poker is still very new. But the events grow dramatically.
The Red Dragon went from about 30 players to almost 1,000 in the last series.
PL: Did you ever pursue a different career?
CL: I have a Bachelor in Science Information Systems but got introduced to the game at that time and immediately received good results, so I jumped into poker right away.
When I got the chance to join Team PokerStars it meant that I could live a life traveling the world playing the game I absolutely love, and I really couldn’t pass up on that.
PL: What’s the legal situation of poker in China today?
CL: Currently, it’s a gray-ish market. Nobody really understands poker yet so they’re not able to place a law on it or even categorize it as gambling or skill.
In China, you won’t find a casino except if you go to Macau. It doesn’t help our case that poker is usually played in casinos and with chips.
Yet, gambling means that you make a decision before the action unfolds and then you have no control over what’s happening.
In poker, however, you make decisions every step of the way and the outcome depends on how everybody plays their hands.
PL: If China has no casinos, how can there be events like the APPT or a WPT in Beijing?
CL: They obtain sports licenses from the government. And tournaments are OK because they are not making profits.
Correspondingly, the venues would be sports centers.
PL: Is China a future market for poker?
CL: Hard to say. People love the game, and if there is a good understanding that poker is a game of skill like Mahjong, which is legal to play, then I can see that happening.
However, I’m not sure about the political processes behind legalization, so it could go either way.
PL: You also have your own Twitch channel. What do you do there?
CL: I do pretty much what Jason Somerville does, but while his channel is a lot more laid back I try to make it a little more intense and entertaining.
I’m not saying any is better than the other, but my streaming is more exhausting so I can’t do it for eight hours every day like Jason does.
I try to answer everybody’s questions and I do side prop bets, like I’d have to hop around the bedroom as a bunny.
PL: That’s a typical prop bet you make?
CL: Well, yes, it happens on the stream. There has to be some fun, too. But people find their favorite streamers and they have different tastes.
One thing that you need to be is genuine. Jason and Jamie [Staples] are successful because they are genuine.
When they talk, people believe what they say. And make mistakes. If you make mistakes, people can see that you’re only human as well.
PL: Where does your audience come from?
CL: They really are from all over the world. The connection between Twitch and China is very laggy, almost unwatchable, so the viewers are more from Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, where they can log on.
But there are also people from Poland, Switzerland, Canada, the US.
There is something great about the interactivity on Twitch.
If you admire, say, Daniel Negreanu, you might come to a big event like the PCA but you might never be able to find him and talk to him.
But if you’re at home on Twitch and go ‘hey Daniel, what are you having for dinner?’ within a couple of minutes you get a reply.
It’s a great way to connect with people.