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Poker Stories Podcast With Kitty Kuo

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Mar 11, 2020

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

To listen, visit www.cardplayer.com/poker-podcasts or download it directly to your device from any number of mobile apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify. Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho, Joe Cada, Freddy Deeb, and many more.

From: Taipei, Taiwan
Lives: Las Vegas, Nevada
Live Tournament Earnings: $2.3 Million

Top Five Live Tournament Scores

May 2018 $10k WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic 2nd Place $248,380
Jan. 2018 AUD$25k Aussie Millions High Roller 4th Place $194,530
Jan. 2016 AUD$10k Aussie Millions Main Event 6th Place $189,000
June 2014 $2.5k Hollywood Poker Open Championship 3rd Place $142,158
Dec. 2019 $5k WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic NLHE 2nd Place $117,031

Hui Chen “Kitty” Kuo has always had gambling in her blood, taking weekend trips to Las Vegas for long blackjack sessions while studying at the University of Southern California. Although she ultimately got her master’s degree in electrical engineering, it was poker that she chose to pursue as a profession. Despite being cut off by her parents for the decision, Kuo made the bold move from Taipei to Vegas to chase her dream.

In the years since, Kuo has earned more than $2.3 million in live tournaments, improving her game along the way with the help of poker superstars such as four-time WPT champion Darren Elias and high roller crusher Steffen Sontheimer. Kuo won the Macau Poker Cup, and has final tabled the Aussie Millions main event, the Hollywood Poker Open, WPT Malta, and the Legends of Poker main event. She also finished runner-up in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic and most recently took second in a $5,000 side event at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic.

Kuo has also made frequent appearances on live streamed games such as Live At The Bike!, and even had her own cash game on Poker After Dark. Last summer, she was named in an anonymous survey of high rollers as one of poker’s best follows on social media. Kuo is also married to 2012 WSOP main event fourth-place finisher Russell Thomas.

Highlights from this interview include growing up in Taiwan, how her parents tried to choose her future, a love for ping pong, her USC blackjack team, using the Martingale strategy to deal with losses, why she has gambling in her blood, being disowned by her family for six months, bribing a floorman so she could sit next to Daniel Negreanu, learning from Darren Elias and Steffen Sontheimer, why she turned down help from Bryn Kenney, why it’s easy to get Phil Hellmuth to fold, calling her future husband a fish, why men in poker are thirsty, celebrating wins by spending six-figures on Chanel bags, being a social media cartoon, selling CDs on the street, winning a spin class last longer bet, getting mistaken for Maria Ho, and the dance skills of Russell Thomas.

The Transcript Highlights

On Turning Pro And Losing Her Family’s Support

Julio Rodriguez: Let’s talk about those first poker games. Who introduced you to it?

Kitty Kuo: No one introduced me. When I was studying at USC, I went to Vegas to play blackjack every weekend.

JR: Okay, so you’re an exchange student. You’re in America for the first time. Having fun at USC, a big party school. And every weekend you’re taking a trip to Vegas?

KK: Yes. (laughs) I liked the math of it. I went to Korea in the summer and went to the casino to play blackjack by myself. One night, I lost so much money, and I didn’t know what to do, because I only brought a couple [thousand] with me. But I had already booked the hotel, so I wasn’t sure what to do. So I look around, and I see these people at the poker tables. They are drinking beer, everyone speaking English. I asked them what they were doing, and they said they were playing poker. ‘Interesting, can I learn?’ So I sat down at the $1-$2. This was my first time playing poker.

JR: Wow. So you found poker in order to stop losing so much at blackjack?

KK: (laughing) I realized while playing the game that you didn’t really need a hand. You can bluff.

JR: Yeah, there’s no bluffing in blackjack.

KK: Yes. I found it very interesting. After that, I never went back to blackjack. It was strictly poker.

JR: So you head back to Taiwan, and you’re playing poker.

KK: I think the first year I played poker, I got lucky. I went to play some PokerStars tournament, the first year they ran it in Macau.

JR: This was the PokerStars Macau Poker Cup, the HK$10k main event, and you took it down, October 2009, for $72,000 USD. So, you think that was beginner’s luck?

KK: I think the first three years, I played by feeling. I was a feel player… but I had good logic and math. [The next year] I decided to come to Vegas to be a professional poker player. I was very interested in this, I wanted to be really, really good at poker, and I knew Vegas was the only place I could improve my poker game. I decided to come to the United States by myself.

JR: So, you didn’t come with anybody? You just decided you were going to be a pro and the place to do it is Las Vegas, here you come.

KK: Yes. And my whole family… no one talked to me for six months.

JR: What? They disowned you?

KK: My mom told my dad, ‘If you give your daughter one dollar to play poker, we will divorce.’ They cut me off. I was so lonely. I speak poor English, and I was in Vegas, nobody wants to be friends with you. I had a very hard time the first year I came to the United States. But I told myself, if I really wanted this, then I need to do this. I just survived.

On Forcing Her Way Next To Daniel Negreanu

KK: I was a really huge fan of Daniel Negreanu, and I knew he was going to play in the $5k [NAPT Venetian] main event. So I asked the Venetian manager, ‘If you can make me at the same table as Daniel Negreanu, then I will spend $5k on this tournament.’ All of my tournament buy-ins [up to that point] were averaging $200 or $300. I never spent $5k to play a tournament before, but I gambled. I just wanted to sit down with him.
And… the manager made my wish happen. (laughs) I’m sorry. It’s okay, he’s not there anymore.

JR: Wow. So basically, you are a $200 tournament player, and you say, ‘I’ll play that $5k, but only if I get to sit next to Daniel.’

KK: I tipped very well. I know how to tip in Vegas.

JR: How did that tournament turn out for you?

KK: It was my first [Vegas] cash. I told myself before the tournament, if I don’t cash, I’ll just go back to be an engineer.

JR: Really?

KK: I swear. I told myself if I didn’t cash, I would go home.

JR: That was an important tournament. ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

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