Maria Ho’s Early Start at the 2015 World Series of Poker

Maria Ho in front of a green screen where all the magic happens.

Maria Ho in front of a green screen where all the magic happens.

Monday, May 25th

7:16pm - I land at LAX after having been in Vancouver playing PokerStars SCOOP events. I had planned to leave today for Vegas to give myself a full day to settle in before playing my first WSOP on Wednesday, but made a last-minute decision to pop up to Vancouver to play online. The packing and the 4.5-hour drive to Sin City will have to wait ‘till tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26th

I wake up sick as a dog – fever, cough, sore throat, and stuffy nose. Damnit! This is terrible timing. Sick is not the way I wanted to start off my Series. Now I’m rethinking that Vancouver trip. Maybe I packed in too much, what with a 48-hour Oklahoma trip to film the WinStar River Series commercial, then a 48-hours Vancouver trip just 24-hours later. Here I am paying the price. Those airplane and travel germs are just too potent!

1:15pm - Tiffany (MIchelle) shows up to help me pack for Vegas. Thank God! I immediately provide her with a medical face mask, which she begrudgingly dons. Yes, us Asians keep a lifetime supply of those in our pantry. No, but really…

Tiffany is a freakishly good packer. She is able to find a spot for each and every little item, and she knows how to put the suitcases and bags into the car so that each thing fits perfectly…no doubt she is excellent at Tetris. After seven years of packing up our summer wardrobes and heading to Vegas for the seven-week WSOP stint, we’ve basically got this down to a science. We don’t even pack my clothing in suitcases anymore… we just take the hangers directly from the closet and put them on the back seat.

Tiffany compliments me on having gotten more efficient with my packing skills. One year, I filled an entire SUV to the brim with my belongings. This year, my luggage fits comfortably in my Tesla and boils down to two suitcases, a small tub of toiletries, a backseat of clothing, a jewelry tree, a yoga matt and two small bags of last-minute miscellaneous items. There’s even room to recline our seats all the way back!

3:30pm – We hit the road. I put “Las Vegas” into my navigation system, although I’m not sure why. I’ve made this drive close to a thousand times. I could get there with my eyes closed, although that probably isn’t advisable.

6:45pm – We stop in Barstow to charge my Tesla. I don’t mind the break from driving, what with a fever raging through my body. We take this time to eat Chipotle in the car while watching The Bachelorette, which Tiffany has downloaded onto her iPad and places on the dash. It’s kinda like a drive-in movie and sorta romantic…besides the part where I look over and Tiffany still has the medical face mask on, with sunglasses resting just on top. She looks like a hypochondriac bank robber.

9:27pm – I see the, oh-so-familiar lights of Vegas on the horizon. I decide to roll into Sin City with tunes of my new favorite album, MSC (Live in LA), which is the band from the church in L.A. that I’ve been attending for the last seven months. I acknowledge the irony of arriving in Las Vegas with Jesus jams on in my car. This is Maria 2015: centered, spiritual, balanced, and grateful. I’m eager to take on another WSOP summer, feeling like my best self yet.

Wednesday, May 27th

11:30am – I’m up and out the door. I have a meeting with Todd Anderson to discuss my new position as co-host for Poker Night: The Tour.

I’ll play my first event today, then basically have a tournament every day for the rest of the summer, with maybe two or three days off total. I take this time to run a few errands, seeing as I don’t know when my next bit of free time will be.

5:16pm – I meet Tiffany in the hotel lobby for dinner. She was unprepared for a dinner date and came straight from the pool, wearing a bikini top and see-through pool pants. She feels uncomfortable with this choice of attire as we enter the hotel’s casual café, although we both agree that women wear much less to the clubs in Vegas.

We’re both craving pickles, so we purchase a jar from the market and find a corner to partake, forking them directly out of the jar. The entire scene was definitely an amusing sight for any passersby.

6:27pm – I step foot into the Rio for the first time this summer and late register for Event #2, the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em. Back in 2011, this is the event that I final tabled and went heads-up for a bracelet in. That was a great way to start the summer. Would a repeat be in my future?

Thursday, May 28th

3:00am – I bag up my chips from the $5K,about 40 big blinds worth.

3:45pm – I crawl into bed, still feeling pretty sick, and hoping that health is on my horizon.

9:45am – I’m still sick, and stay in bed for as long as possible.

2:00pm –Day 2 of the $5K event restarts.

5:46pm – I bust the $5K after a series of bad beats and jump in the noon event – the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Eight-or-better.

7:05pm – I opt to head back to Vdara for my dinner break, where PostMates has delivered Fat Greek to my room. I live off of Fat Greek when in Vegas, and dream about eating it when elsewhere. It does not disappoint. Oh how I’ve missed thee, Fat Greek!

Friday, May 29th

12:30am – I bag chips from Day 1 of the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo and head home for a much-needed earlier bedtime than last night.

11:00am – My favorite massage therapist in the entire world, Lena, knocks on my door. Hopefully she can work out some of this sick that’s in my system.

1:00pm – Day 2 restart of the $1,500 Omaha.

3:15pm  Bust the Omaha.

4:00pm – During the WSOP you make a lot of tentative plans that you play by ear depending on how long you last in the tournament you’re playing on any given day. I was able to make this top secret meeting for a special upcoming project I will be involved in due to my early Day 2 bust out.

5:11pm – I meet Tiffany by the pool and feel glad to get some rays of sun. Hopefully the Vitamin D will be just the boost my body needs to kick this cold.

Saturday, May 30th

10:00am – I wake up and debate whether or not to play The Colossus event. I’m already registered for it, but still feeling under the weather and a day in bed sounds good (and needed).

I successfully remain in bed in my room for the entire day.

Sunday, May 31st

12:00pm – Late register Event #6, the $1,000 Hyper Hold’em.

1:56pm  Bust the Hyper.

5:31pm  I meet Tiffany and Katie Lindsay at The Palms, then we make our way over to Aria where some friends we recently made during Katie’s bachelorette party in Cabo are hanging. We enjoy a mini-Cabo reunion (I love how Vegas brings people together from all over). I drink two sips of Prosecco in an attempt to be social. But I’m not back to 100% yet, so I abandon the bubbly.

Maria Ho and Jennifer Tilly at dinner.

Maria Ho and Jennifer Tilly at dinner.

7:00pm – I enjoy my first proper Vegas meal at the amazing Jean George Steakhouse at Aria. Jennifer Tilly joins the dinner party and provides endless hours of entertainment and fascinating stories. Love her.

Monday, June 1st

4:57pm – I register for Event #9, the $1,500 Razz.

Tuesday, June 2nd

3:00am – I bag my chips, having made Day 2 of the Razz. These 4pm start times, and 3am morning finishes are taking their toll on me. I’m not as young as I used to be.

2:00pm – Restart of the Razz.

3:30pm – Bust Razz.

4:00pm – I get pulled into an interview. I opt not to jump in the secondary event, $1,500 Limit, and take the night off.

8:00pm – With an evening off from poker, I decide to get out of the house and catch my all-time favorite Vegas show, Cirque’s Michael Jackson ONE.  

Over the years, I’ve found that not pushing it, poker-wise, and taking little moments to rest or enjoy my surroundings is what keeps me sane and allows me to play my best game over the seven weeks of the Series. Hoping I get back to 100% health soon and can start turning these Day 2’s into Day 3’s and final tables.

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Maria Ho

Maria Ho is a professional poker player and was the Last Woman Standing in the WSOP Main Event twice – 2007 and 2014. She’s one half of the Heartland Poker Tour’s broadcast team and boasts $1.6 million in live winnings.
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