Wai Kin Yong: the young wizard who’s bored of poker

Wai Kin Yong: the young wizard who’s bored of poker

Lee Davy sits down with Wai Kin Yong, the son of the Triton Poker Series founder, Richard Yong, to ask him about his beginnings in poker, his mentors, and how poker makes him feel.

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The waitresses clean the dew off the tables, perfectly in synch like Olympic swimmers, a black apron catching the splashbacks, the ties in the back drooping along the buttcrack like a tail preparing to swat away the flies.

Only there are no flies here.Wai Kin Yong: the young wizard who’s bored of poker

It’s the ants that get in your face. Big, fuck off ants, the size of cats. And I step on a few of them as I lead Wai Kin Yong to a dewless table. One with a cushion {because the lad looks like he has a bony arse}. I want him to be comfortable, although to be honest, he seems very comfortable, flip-flopping his way behind me wondering who the hell I am.

If I were Quentin Tarantino, I would cast Wai Kin Yong as a supervillain in Kill Bill Volume III. He’s the Asian Per Linde. A ‘butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth kinda guy’ who would ask you to put your asthma pump in the middle if that’s all you had left.

Wai Kin tells me that he doesn’t play many tournaments, but he does like the ones his father creates {Richard Yong}. In 2016, he won back-to-back Triton Poker Series titles, including a heads-up victory over Bryn Kenney worth over $2m.

Like Montenegro ant like big ones.

Big ones.

But he makes his living playing in live cash games.

The scaffolding looks like an eyesore in the background.

I hear hammers pounding on nails.

It’s the perfect time to begin.

Who is Wai Kin Yong?

My name is Wai Kin, I’m 27-years-old and from Malaysia. I grew up in Malaysia and now spend most of my time in Macau and Hong Kong. I play poker a lot; I don’t know if I’m a professional.

What do you mean, you don’t know if you’re a professional? 

I tend to want to be, but I don’t know..?

Does that mean you do something else, other than playing poker?   

I have some business in Macau, but I mainly play poker.

You started playing poker in Malaysia, is that right? 

Yes, back then I start playing poker when I was 17/18, but it was for fun, there was a Malaysian restaurant nearby the college, there were a lot of young kids there, and I saw some people playing poker, it was a tiny game, like 0.50/1$.

Online or live?

I played online poker back then, but it was different. I didn’t play on big sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt. Mainly small sites with very, very good games. I played most of the time back then, and then after that, I didn’t play much online poker, I didn’t like it that much.

So, you played some really small stakes game in Malaysia, way back a decade ago. Now you are playing in the most significant stakes in the world. Along the way, you meet Michael Thuritz and get some coaching. That was a significant milestone –  what were the other notable milestones that got you from there to here?

My dad really loves playing poker, everyone knows that. When I was 19 years old, I went to Macau with my dad. I wasn’t playing poker to make money yet. There was this game with my dad’s friend. They were playing HKD 100/200, and so I started playing and won maybe HKD 400,000 in a week. After that, they changed the stakes, and we began playing HKD 1000/2000. I kept playing and winning and won HKD 3,000,000 (USD 382,000) just by taking a shot.

What game was this?

HKD 1000/2000 Hold’em, and I played that game for maybe, several months and just kept winning. And then, I think things were running pretty well. I know back then I wasn’t good, I didn’t realise it then, I never thought I was playing bad, and I lot everything. I made HKD 3 million from nothing and then lost everything. I was devastated. I was so sad. And then I knew I was playing bad.

Actually, this happened twice, and then someone brought my action. I made another HKD 3 million and then I lost it all again. I was like; this is not good, this is not happening right. I started learning, I started really, really learning how to play poker. Michael Thuritz wasn’t my first teacher. On the way, I met Niklas Heinecker who taught me more, but not too much because he quit early. Then I met Michael and he really, really improved my game. I would say, like 400% improvement and then after that, I am ok.

What would your advice be on actually building a poker tribe?

I mean if you want to be a professional poker player, you have to put a lot of work in, and nowadays it’s good to have someone teaching you, for sure that’s the best, but if you can’t, you can go online right, you can practice yourself, read some articles. Even if you go to Twitch you can see some players playing online streaming, teaching, giving advice, stuff like that, all ways to learn. The most important thing is applying the effort to actually learn.

Are you saying that putting the effort in, the work ethic, the learning and getting better at the game, means that at some point these relationships will naturally evolve because you are playing with them rather than learning how to create relationships.

Yes, for sure, along the way, if you somehow got higher, you will meet people. I mean even now in this age, it’s not only Michael, Jungleman or Phil Ivey – there are a lot of good players out there too, that nobody knows about.  If you go on the circuit, play some Pokerstars Asia, or something like that, you meet a lot of people. Some good people as well maybe not at the top but still good.

Who is the one guy that gives you the most trouble at the tables? 

In Hold’em, I would say the toughest person that I have played was Jungleman, for sure, this guy is just so good right.

When you play cash games now, is it entirely short deck?

Yes, now it’s entirely short deck, there’s no more Hold’em games, it’s not dead but its smaller games, you don’t get many recreational players anymore.

And finally, how does poker make you feel?

To be honest, I feel bored with it now. I don’t know why? I think mainly it’s because of short deck. I mean short deck is fun in the beginning, but somehow I am not that into it that’s why I am bored of poker right now.