Lee Davy sits down with Maria Ho to talk about her new TV show Poker Night: The Tour, and to learn more about the life of one poker’s true stars.
Maria Ho has the glamorous side of poker pretty much licked. With over $1.6m in live tournament earnings, spread across all forms of poker, she also has the game pretty much licked.
So what else needs licking?
Maria Ho is not just a fantastic poker player. Maria Ho is a brand, and a very noticeable and successful one at that. For the past two years she has been shouting out the action at the Heartland Poker Tour (HPT). This week she announced a change of tact. She would leave the HPT to focus on a new TV show called Poker Night: The Tour.
I caught up with Ho to talk about her new venture, and to see if I could peel away a few layers and find out what makes this amazing young woman tick.
Here’s what she had to say.
Can you tell me a little bit about your new project: Poker Night: The Tour?
“It’s the perfect time to get more people who are not familiar with poker used to the game. This project is designed to do that. The crossover is the lifestyle. People who don’t understand the game are still fascinated by the way poker players live: it’s very glamorous, there is a lot of traveling and a lot of money being passed around.
“A lot of poker TV shows have failed to capture the lifestyle element. This is what we are trying to do. We still want to showcase how great this game is. There will be elements of strategy, and coverage of some hands, but that won’t be our main focus.
“Dave Tuchman is going to be my co-host. He has worked with Stars and the WSOP livestream. We are a good fit, we have great chemistry, and he is a good fit in terms how we are going to steer the show.”
Where can we expect to see the show?
“It will be aired on a TV network, but we aren’t in a position to elaborate any further on that yet.”
Can we expect to see any particular players getting involved in this?
‘We will be adding a few more personalities onto the show, but we haven’t announced those names yet. A lot of poker players are friendly with each other, and we will be pulling on those connections to be part of our show.”
Will we see familiar faces each week, or will this show be more broad brush?
“This show will be more broad brush. We are still finalizing the way we want to produce the show, but it will be interesting to follow the lives of up and coming poker players, or poker players trying to become professional. We won’t be focusing on the same faces all of the time.”
Poker can be a frustrating game. What do you do when you’re down to bring yourself a little joy?
“I wouldn’t say there is one specific thing that I do. I have always tried to actively recognize how blessed I am to be doing this for a living. In recent times I have learned how important your attitude and perspective is in this game. Being very cognizant of the fact that if you bust a tournament it is not the worse thing in the world is important. There is more to life than poker. I know you need dedication, but you also need a balanced life outside of the game. My family are important to me, and my friends outside of poker also keep my feet on the ground. It’s needed, because look, my life is like a holiday most of the time. When I go to my quiet space, head to my yoga mat and do a quick meditation it helps to bring everything back into perspective for me.”
Do you have any remaining goals in life for 2015. If so what are they?
“My parents are self made entrepreneurs. I have always been raised with a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial mind. I am always thinking about business opportunities, but my focus has shifted to a profit organization that gives back to others. I like the TOMS model for example. Moving forward it’s going to be important to me that there is a big charitable involvement in anything that I do.”
What does the world look like to you?
“It’s really hard to watch the news, and read about everything that’s going on, especially outside of the US. You realize how lucky you are to be born into certain circumstances. So there is a little bit of despair. I used to be overwhelmed by everything, but I realized that you don’t have to go out and change the world. If you realize locally that there is ways you can invest your time in making peoples lives better that’s enough. Start small and you will be surprised how much change you can make.”
Give me some key reasons why you have been so successful in your life?
“I am very determined and stubborn. The more someone says I can’t do something, the more I want to prove them wrong. This is partly why I chose poker as a career. As a woman when I started, 10-years ago, there were so few of us. I like to take on the challenges where I am seen as the underdog or am in the minority.
“I am very responsible. I take poker very seriously. It’s easy to get caught up with drinking, vices, and how you manage your money, so I always take things very seriously so I don’t get dragged down by those things.”
We all create stories that hold us back from achieving greater things…tell me one of yours?
‘When I was in high school I was a rebel without a cause at one point. I didn’t go to school, and then my parents sent me to private school and that turned things around for me. I guess I was easily led, and got mixed up with some things that I shouldn’t have. I learned from that though. Today I march to the beat of my own drum. Today, when I feel pressured by external voices, I listen to my own, and do what’s right for me.”
What moves you?
“I am moved by little acts of kindness. I am pretty sensitive. I am always welling up with tears when I see people helping others without expecting something back. The world needs more of that. I remember walking down the street during the WSOP. It was so hot and an elderly woman’s car broke down. Three cars in a row stopped their car, helped her avoid a dangerous situation, and moved her car.
“Sometimes we are so caught up in our own world that we don’t pay attention to what’s going on around us. If we gave more time and attention to others, we could do a lot more good.”
Taking risks is a huge thing in poker, but what risks might you not be taking in life?
“I have always been able to take risks in my career, but I play it safe when it comes to my physical well being. I will never sky dive, or go on a roller coaster; I am afraid of heights. I am too afraid to do the things that are supposed to give you this adrenaline rush. I respect those that do it, but it’s not for me.”