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Maria Ho Triumphs in Vegas: Another Step Forward for Asian Poker

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Poker in Asia is booming. Between the influx of players to online sites and a recent glut of native players enjoying success on the live circuit, the region is quickly becoming a poker hub.

 

by  ND Strupler 

Indeed, as more aspiring pros hone their craft in games such as Hold'em, PLO and Stud in the confines of the virtual world, the amount of Asian winners at events such as the World Series of Poker has increased dramatically over the last two years.

Why this sudden surge of activity? Aside from various operators establishing their brand within various Asian countries, such as Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, the online games have been tailored to suit an emergent poker culture.

Asian Emerging as an Online Force

Unlike parts of Europe where online poker is a well-established industry, Asia is much less accustomed to the game and, therefore, the selection of gaming options is more varied online. For example, one of Japan's leading online poker sites, 32Red, offers as slew of low limit cash games (buy-ins from $1), freerolls and small stakes Sit&Go tournaments all designed to give novices the most bang for their buck.

In contrast, established sites in Europe, such as PokerStars or Full Tilt, offer many more games at the higher end of the spectrum. Although they still offer options for the casual player, there's also a focus on high stakes games and major tournament festivals because the average player is more experienced and, therefore, demands more from their online experience.

Of course, the online game isn't enough to spark a revolution on its own. Indeed, without leaders the poker industry wouldn't have become a powerhouse in Europe and North America, and Asia is no different. Fortunately, thanks to some pioneering players who jumped on the original online poker bandwagon back in 2003 (thanks to Chris Moneymaker), there is now a wealth of successful Asian players out there leading the way for a new generation of grinders.

One such pro who recently confirmed her status as one of the top ranked female poker players in the world was Maria Ho. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, and now a US citizen, Ho has not only been the bridge between East and West poker cultures, but a success in her own right at the felt.

Ho's Role as a Poker Ambassador

Indeed, through her time as commentator, host and brand ambassador for a number of companies, including WinStar World Casino and the Heartland Poker Tour, Ho has done more to cross promote Asian poker players in the US and US poker in Asia than virtually any other pro. However, while her previous exploits have earned her a ton of money and influence in the community, Ho's latest triumph at the felt has earned her a huge amount of respect.

Taking place early in July, 2015, the Second Annual Chad Brown Memorial Tournament was held inside the Planet Hollywood Casino, Las Vegas, as a testament to the late Chad Brown who passed away in 2014. The veteran pro was much loved by the community and the tournament was designed to honour Brown and raise money for the T.J. Martell Foundation.

Helping to host the event and focus the attention of the poker community on a very worthy cause was Ho and while she did a fantastic job of running the show, it was her victory at the felt that grabbed the most headlines.

After attracting an impressive 150 players, including the likes of online star Chris Moorman, Vanessa Selbst and Liv Boeree, the event saw many players swap bets, laughs and, importantly, money for a good cause. In fact, with rebuys available from $100, a number of pros decided to play fast and loose in a bid to build a big stack and do something for charity.

Ho Proving She's a Leading Pro

Among those enjoying the festivities and showing her benevolent side was Ho. Keen to build a stack and push for the title, Ho re-bought six times before building up enough momentum to challenge the tournament's chip leaders.

This willingness to gamble undoubtedly helped Ho in the closing stages of the tournament because she was left facing off against a strong cast of pros, including the aforementioned Selbst, John Duthie, Tony Hachem and Leo Margets.

However, as the field thinned and bets flew in from all angles, it was Ho and Kevin O'Donnell who found themselves heads-up for the trophy. Having enjoyed a rush of good fortune earlier in the tournament, Ho entered the finale with the momentum and quickly pressed home her advantage.

Within a few hands the American pro managed to claim the remainder of O'Donnell's chips and take home the top prize of $2,766 in cash and a $10,000 seat into the WSOP Main Event. However, after the celebrations were over, Ho took to Twitter to explain that she'd given all of her cash winnings to the T.J. Martell Foundation ($80,000 was raised in total for the charity).

Building for the Future

Although Maria Ho's win in the Chad Brown Memorial Tournament was the latest victory for an Asian pro, it certainly won't be the last. With more players finding their way into the game via sites such as 32Red, the Asian invasion looks set to continue indefinitely. This virtual revolution, combined with efforts both on and off the felt from the likes of Ho, means the industry in the East will continue to churn out talent and attract new players for many years to come.

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