Much has been made of a so-called ‘poker renaissance’ throughout 2020, with the widely discussed global shutdowns making way for online to flourish throughout a number of regions.
With the vertical merely one of many to have made significant headway in the online arena throughout the year, CasinoBeats spoke to Maria Ho, one of the top ranked female poker players worldwide, and a woman who has found great success in a male dominated field.
“I definitely have had my fair share of having to deal with some misogyny and sexism that exists in our community, as it probably does with most male dominated fields,” Ho says when asked about difficulties encountered in becoming such an influential force.
“The way that I was able to push past it has been to use their preconceived notions and misperceptions of me against them at the table. And to realise that being underestimated or overlooked isn’t a bad thing, it can be a very powerful motivator.”
Born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in the United States, Ho, a celebrity spokesperson for WinStar World Casino, boasts over $4m in poker earnings, was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall Of Fame in 2018, the first year she was nominated and eligible, and was the the first woman in history hired to a poker television series as the primary strategic commentator.
Before we get to all that though, we begin by touching upon where, and why, this successful poker journey started: “I first learned the game my freshman year at the University of California, San Diego when my friend would have a home game in their dorm room that was ‘for the boys’.
“That of course, made the prospect even more enticing even though I had never played the game before. I showed up at their dorm with a keg of beer, because what broke college kids wouldn’t want that, and I was granted entry! The rest is history.”
“…the beauty of the game from a social and psychological aspect is only fully realised in a live setting”
Speaking of history, the 2019 Global Poker Awards broadcaster of the year moved on to examine some of the standout moments throughout a successful career: “I would say that the most defining moment thus far has been being the youngest to be inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. Poker is still quite an unconventional path to take professionally, and there are so few women who have chosen to even enter the arena.
“To be voted in by the women who paved the way for me to find success in the game, was a great honour.
“Another standout moment would have to be being a part of the broadcast team for the World Series of Poker Main Event Championship on ESPN. To have had the opportunity to play in poker’s most prestigious tournament year after year, then transitioning to also being able to be part of sharing that dream with people watching at home on TV, is very meaningful to me and something I take great pride in.”
As previously alluded to, the poker vertical has enjoyed a bumper 2020 as online strived to fill the gap left by a series of global restrictions that have been implemented on numerous occasions.
With this in mind, Ho continues by looking at if the future of the game is online, or if it can coexist with its land-based counterpart to ensure both thrive: “I think that online is a great platform to introduce people to the game, hone their skills, and to get people more comfortable playing before transitioning to the live arena,” she says
“I strongly believe that it does and should find a positive way to coexist with live poker in order to grow the game.
“Playing live versus online requires different skill sets, but the beauty of the game from a social and psychological aspect is only fully realised in a live setting. I know that poker fans from around the world would enjoy having access to both.”
To conclude, Ho took a look at potential changes that she would make to the game if possible, be it online or land-based: “I think any changes I would make to the game would be holistic. I feel as though there are things the poker community can do to make the game more welcoming to new players and ways to improve the environment that we play in as well. If we want this game to continue to thrive we should be taking better care of each other and the ecosystem.”