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London, Cannes, San Remo pt. 3

by Xuan Liu |  Published: Nov 02, '11


I was excited to arrive in London town and back on the live tournament circuit. I had won a real package and two ladies packages on Pokerstars, and it was nice to see a lot of friends I had been out of touch with since WSOP. Despite only dabbling briefly in what it has to offer I had a really good time. The weather was unusually nice for this time of year and it was evidenced by the fact that practically every free square foot of grass was being taken advantage of. There would be lawn chairs aligned outside commercial buildings for grateful sunworshippers. I even spent an afternoon sleeping in the sun at Hyde Park in central London.

I didn't cash in London but have no problem with any of my plays in the side events. Came close in the first mega-satty after building a solid stack then getting coolered AK to AA and lost a bunch of flips in a row with about 10 left. Lost AA to KK and AQ in the turbo bounty for an enormous stack & perfect position to bust shorties in the £1k +£1k turbo bounty, and made day 2 of a £1k only to bust a few from the money QQ to AA with an average stack. The main event was probably one of the most unfruitful days of live poker I can remember. The table wasn't particularly difficult, I was just unable to to show down a winning hand or catch a break all day in even the tiniest of pots.

The ladies event was fun but still unprofitable. I had the lovely Vicky Coren at my table again (we had played together most of day 1 in the WSOP ladies event), which was cool because I had just started her book, For Richer, For Poorer and related to it right away. Zinzi, another qualifier from Toronto whom I had met the night before at the Pokerstars women mixer was also at the table playing her first ever live tournament. She made me feel all fuzzy inside when she messaged me a few weeks later saying it was inspiring to see a girl from our part of the town get this far and stay humble. What a sweetheart.

We went out a few nights that week: once to celebrate Mel and Justin's birthday at a high-end sushi joint, once to Joel Roubuchon's L'Atelier, and to the Pokerstars party at the impressive Kensington Rooftop Gardens after I busted from another 1k£. It started raining soon after I got there so for awhile a lot of people on the patio double-fisted (the open bar was closing) while huddled under the canopy together. There was a nice campy feel to it all, especially since the dealers were invited to this party. I won't go into more details but some keywords for the night: Vampy wig, big fish little fish cardboard box, dim sum cab ride, throwing squishy balls.

Cathy, Dylan, and I also made time to do some touristy stuff in town. We started at Buckingham Palace, strolled through St. James Park, and appreciated the House of Parliamement and Westminster Abbey from the outside before getting hungry and finding an authentic fish n chips experience. Yup. That's all there was time for!

L'AtelierBuckingham Palace


If you had asked me a year ago if I could see myself strolling along the boardwalk in the French Riviera watching very rich people with little dogs window shop and get leathery tans I would tell you that was not on my bucket list but definitely had its appeal. Now WSOPE Cannes is just another stop on my tournament circuit and I would have the Mediterranean outside my balcony at my bidding. Sure I have yet to acquire a French flag on my Hendonmob, but I have no complaints basking in sunshine and wining and dining every day pretending this is what I had been made for.

I had two places to call home on this trip, one with Team Butter, whose lineup would make my short career look like a footnote in each of their resumes, and one at the Hotel Majestic Barriere, where a real bonsai was a prop in the room and where housekeepers actually dress like French maids do in movies. Team Butter (named after the street our boutique apartment was on, Buttura) would prepare these delicious healthy family meals together that made me feel incredibly lucky to be a part of. The apartment decor was eccentric and I liked it all, but my favourite piece would have to be the shrink bed in the common room where I spent time basking in the sun. Miranda made the place so homely by picking up after her kids and even finishing our laundry when she overhears we're out of clean clothes.

Poker wise, I busted the 6max KK<66 vs. the friendly Devilfish, busted the 1k after playing a pretty solid day and finally making a bad supershort stack frustration play after grinding a <15bb stack for 2 levels, and bubbled 2 mega-satties which was pretty gut-wrenching because I was almost guaranteed a seat both times if it weren't for a series of very unfortunate events. The good thing about playing these was that I had the pleasure of finally meeting Hikaru Nakamura briefly at my table. We had chatted online after meeting him through mutual friends. I used to love chess when I was young and even have a medal from middle school city championships. Reading his blog and trying to keep up with the technical posts was amusing. Although there is practically no money in chess, being at the top of his field also allows him to compete worldwide, often with a sponsorship. The cultural difference is that chess is a lot more acceptable in the eyes of academics and the general public, so it was pretty fascinating reading about his validation struggle with his parents.

There were also some sweet final table sweats. Arnaud unfortunately got sucked out pretty badly to final table bubble the main, but Max made a sick run. Maddog's rail for the shootout finals was pretty awesome, we took turns buying bottles of fine wine to drink out of dentist cups in the front row. Dan was probably the most "spirited". He kept demanding the announcer call Mike, 'Maddog' and eventually had a drinking accident from toasting too hard and bloodied his hands from the wine glass. No wonder they wanted us to stick to the dentist cups. He couldn't draw attention to it for fear that the security guard who had already given us several warnings would kick him out, so he just sat there injured with his hands on his lap. Pretty amazing.

The food in Cannes outside the hotel and casino was incredible. For Dom's 21st(!) birthday we went to the 2 Michelin Star rated La Palme d'Or. The food and service was fine and fancy, but it didn't blow my mind. For much better value, Pizza Xavier was the absolute nuts, and I also loved the duck, escargot, and octopus salad at le Petit Paris. I pigged out pretty hard in Cannes, but it probably doesn't even come close to the amount of delicious carbs I had in San Remo.

Didn't really go out too much at this stop as most nights were spent hanging out at the apartment or somewhere easy. Although I was unable to attend the official WSOPE party I'm pretty sure the night we had at the American Irish bar was way better. It was an island of a place, you wouldn't have realized you were in posh France from the atmosphere here. There was live music and eventually half the poker community made it out to pack the house. It was probably the best night on the trip.

The next day the stunning Tatjana and Calvin Ayre team set me up for an interview. Needless to say I wasn't the most coherent with my thoughts, but they're pros at making people look good on camera so I was impressed with the results. For logistical reasons we decided not to stay for the final table. We said goodbye to the now-dead Bonsai and drove down the Cote d'Azur to Italy.

Professional Poker Player Xuan Liu Interview Video

San Remo

Money-wise the trip up to this point was not the best for me, so the approach to San Remo was much anticipated. I was back in my beloved villa with most of Team Eames, although no celebratory bbq was to be had here this time. My table for Day 1 of the main was somewhat of a joke against the field. By joke I meant you wouldn't have known you were at EPT San Remo looking at this table because everyone was competent. I wasn't worried, but it meant I couldn't expect free chips left and right like last year. My dear Spinks was to my left which made for some interesting hands and good times. I finished the day above average after getting a bluff for most of my stack through then doubling up in a race vs. Alessio Issaia near the end. He was severely crippled after this but managed to impressively claw his way to 12th. The dream ended on day 2. It was a fine table with two fellow Canadians to my left, one of which was 888 pro and bracelet winner Tyler Bonkowski from Regina. I had never met anyone from Regina before. However, it was the Kevin MacPhee show at my first table the whole way. He played really well but definitely got some sick hands to knock players out left and right. After the table change I chipped up easily til I lost a race for another anti-climactic finish.

It was off to the bar for a rather silly night. Some may call me an enabler, but let's just say Maria and Jake have perfected the craft. I remember Jen Harman joining us halfway through the night. She's the female player I respect the most after reading her inspirational stories in Deal Me In, a collection of stories about how poker players turned pro and from The Professor the Banker and the Suicide King. Unfortunately I didn't tell her this because I wasn't at my classiest that night.

I missed the ladies event at San Remo to take a day trip to breathtaking Eze, France. It's a small, charming, castle-town by the sea, with statues of fable creatures and a giant chess set in the garden overlooking the epic view. I'm well aware of how lucky I am, but being right there at that time with very special company summed it up pretty neatly.

Of course being in San Remo we had Mare Blu or the Argentinian restaurant everyday. Yes, the ravioli and lobster pasta are still amazing and yes I got a new gym membership when I got home. I definitely prefer the sense of community in smaller tournament stops where there are only a couple of spots in town to go so everyone can gather instead of it often being cliquey in bigger cities.

Something good poker-wise eventually happened this trip. After a day of drinking since early afternoon and playing 19 (a new variation of Chinese Poker), we decided playing and drinking at the "Win the Button" €330 event would be the natural progression to the day. I had the best position in the event, directly to Scott's left to snap him off when his scotch kicked into high gear. I had a sweet stack early on thanks to him and finished 4th, continuing my streak of final tables in San Remo. The rail was pretty awesome and rowdy, I felt like I was playing for a million rather than €16,000. Amongst it was Busto_Soon, who I met after I made an error shoving against during the main of EPT Copenhagen. I once told him he reminded me of Rorschach, my favourite character from The Watchmen. Dylan was also there after ending the night as chipleader at his €2k final table. He finished third the next day, but without a doubt deserved the win, especially after getting very unlucky against a player who justified a call by saying it was his favourite hand.

The trip ended with another epic night out at the Stars party. Of course a lot of shenanigans occured and we ended back at the local "strip club". Champagne was had, people got their lapdances in the VIP/storage room, post-drinking sandwiches were eaten, and we got back in time for last-minute packing and our 7am taxi. The trip home was pretty awful since we missed our flight from London to Toronto after being stuck in a customs line despite being at the airport an hour and a half before departure time. Life leaks! It was better value to rebook a roundtrip flight so now I have a seat on a plane to London in September 2012.

I was pretty relieved to be back home. I really do love my new apartment with the amazing view across from the CN Tower that gives me a light show every night. I get to hang out with friends who keep me grounded, eat relatively healthy food (minus local pub runs a few nights a week), work out regularly, and make money online with infinitely fewer expenses to worry about. This isn't to say I don't always have an electrifying time on poker trips. I hang out with brilliant people. I get to explore foreign cultures. I eat great food. I discover more about myself. Nope, no complaints there.

It actually depressed me for little while coming to the realization that I will probably never have anything unique or groundbreaking to contribute to the field and that I still have so much work to do if I want to be consistently competitive at world-class standards. I'm pretty over it now after concluding that I'll just have to keep being harder on myself than any critic, keep putting in hours, and turn every mistake into credit for a massive pot of gold on a later date.

I've had good results online since I've been back after a long and disappointing WCOOP that evaporated most of my profits from post-WSOP. Next week I'm going on a real vacation for the first time in years to Maui with some of my favourite people. After that there's a small chance of WPT Bellagio, then some combination of PCA, Aussie Millions and Fallsview Poker Classic in the new year.
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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