Duy Ho is in paradise despite being nowhere near his home state of Hawaii.
The amateur poker player has a massive chip stack on Day 4 of the $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas with less than 500 players remaining from the initial 6,737.
First place in the prestigious tournament will award $8,000,000. Ho is already in the money and has locked up at least $25,235 in prize money.
“It’s been smooth all the way,” he said.
“Honestly the key was my wife. She kept telling me to fold a lot so I’ve been doing that.”
Learning Poker at Brian's Billards
A property manager who lives in Honolulu with his wife and two children, Ho has been cashing in poker tournaments since 2006.
Duy Ho and his lucky jacket.
He got into the game while playing pool at Hawaiian Brian’s Billiards back in Honolulu.
“The owner put on a giant freeroll,” he said.
“Everyone got to play and the winner received $500. I ended up outlasting like 50 people to win it. I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I like this game.’”
Ho’s first real poker tournament was a $545 buy-in side event at the LA Poker Classic in 2008. He ended finishing 10th for $2,580.
Eventually Ho started making trips to Macau to play in the tournaments there. He had a great deal of luck in those events and recorded multiple-final table appearances.
Finally in 2012 he made his first appearance in a World Series of Poker final table. It was a big one too. Ho navigated his way through a gargantuan 3,404-entry field to finish fifth for $185,378.
“That was my first tournament that trip,” he said. “It was right after coming off the plane.”
Finding Significant Poker Success in Vegas, Macau
Over the years Ho has racked up several hundred thousand in lifetime live tournament earnings.
“I am by no means a professional,” he said.
“Not even close. But I have almost $400k in lifetime earnings, which isn’t bad considering I only get to play 3-4 times a year.”
There are no poker rooms in Hawaii or casinos. The only way you can play poker is the occasionally home game.
“I don’t really play there,” said Ho.
“I used to play a game at my friend’s house. I won like three back-to-back and they never invited me back. I didn’t do anything, just played well!”
Family Cheering on Ho From Home
Interestingly Ho travels with his family when he’s playing poker.
“I always bring my family when I come to Vegas because if I lose I don’t want to go to the pits and just throw away my money,” he explained.
“I have a six year old and an eight year old. They love me so much. After I finish playing poker I just go up to the room and play with them.”
Michael Chow. Hawaii's all-time poker leader.
Ho’s wife and children actually returned to Hawaii yesterday because they had some prior engagements there.
“They’ll come back for November Nine,” joked Ho about the Main Event final table, which takes place in November.
Ho still has a very long way to go to the Main Event final table as he’d have to outlast hundreds of players to make the final nine. He’s wearing a special jacket that was originally supposed to be for his father in law.
“I bought this jacket for my father in law,” he said pointing to blue Adidas track jacket he was wearing.
“I went to give it to him but he passed away on June 1. I was supposed to go the WSOP on June 2. We went to Korea and spent a month there for the funeral. I made it back to the WSOP just in time to get into the Main Event.”
The jacket has already brought Ho some luck as he won three single-table satellites for the Main Event.
Possible Shot at the #1 Hawaii Spot
Despite being an amateur, Ho currently ranks 6th on the all-time live tournament earnings board for players from Hawaii with $400k. Michael Chow is #1 with $1.2m.
Ho could pass Chow with a spot in the November Nine. That’s not necessarily his goal, however.
“It would be cool but I’m not a professional,” he said.
“Michael Chow is my best friend. He has like $1.2 million. I didn’t think I would ever get anywhere near that. We have a small shot at it though. If I can get that I’d be happy. I’m doing this for all my family. I’m just having fun.”
You can follow Ho's progress in our 2016 WSOP Main Event live updates.
Update: Duy Ho busted in the last level of the evening. He finished in 288th place to win $32,130.