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by Xuan Liu |  Published: Mar 16, '10

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I am now in monotonous Toronto, having just finished an average breakfast and getting ready to go work off the pounds I've gained from Tianjin's incomparable cuisine. My mother is still bickering incessantly about my upcoming exam and finding a real job, a husband, and buying my first home. In other words, there is still very little here for me, and soon enough, I can see myself living very far away, where the people are friendly, the costs are low, and the food always tastes good.

I am very stressed atm, as I feel like I have a ton of pressure on me in the next few months. I want to prepare and plan for WSOP, but I have to retake CFA in early June and will have to put hundreds of more hours into studying. I am also setting up an online business for my stepmom, hoping she will gain financial autonomy with it eventually and be able to overlook it full-time from home. Whereas when I was in China I was euphoric and felt so blessed to be where I am with myself, here I am lonely, unadjusted, and a social anomaly. I don't even know where to begin to take care of everything, and have just mindlessly been grinding in an obviously tilted state.

At least the weather is getting nicer, and the company of my sister is helping. When I was in Tianjin I saw family I hadn't seen for 17 years. Everyone was so accommodating and for the most part I felt like I was able to return the favour by being a good guest. Being there during Lunar New Years was especially crazy; for over two weeks the vibe was bustlin' and fireworks went off day and night on the streets and sidewalk. It was also totally obnoxious at times, as it really sounded like warfare and didn't allow for any sleeping in. It was great to bond with my cousins and for me to imagine what I'd be like if I never came to Canada. My eldest cousin, Rui, is a total G. She's so socially adept and she knows exactly what to say to whom, and knows the ins n outs of TJ and has guanxi (connections) in every niche. I stayed with her family and she took me around everyday for basically 3 weeks, and it was never a dull moment. Her friends are jokes to the point where when we go out to eat after clubbing or ktving, the servers would all stand around our table and eavesdrop/laugh like it was a sitcom. She's getting married in August (which she refers jokingly as doomsday), and I can't wait for the festivities then. My second cousin has been living in Yunnan (a laid-back tropical province in China) the past few years, doing her masters while running a bar on campus and another business on the side. I'm envious of Rui's extrovertedness, but I was more comfortable and bonded better with Juan (J pronounced J, not "h" hehe). She was very independent, more reserved, and witty. My last cousin who's a few months older than me - I'm the youngest btw - is already married and recently had a baby girl. His wife is very pretty, though has put on some pounds from the pregnancy, but he's still a total player. I hear stories about how him and his wife would go out in a group together and he'd send her home as he stayed out with his buddies to find "xiaojie" aka PR girls/hookers. Apparently the girls in the family, including myself, used to make fun of him a ton when we were kids since he had a different last name, and thus in Chinese culture he wasn't as important a part of the Liu family. He was spoiled nonetheless since he was the only boy in our generation and got a ton of special treatment from our grandparents. Oh, and I helped give birth to puppies! Rui's family owns 3 dogs and their Poodle was pregnant when I arrived. Soon after, I became one of the only people she'd let close to her pups <333 They were so adorable and my dad seriously considered bringing one back with us to Toronto. My stepmom isn't a fan of pets, however, and we ultimately decided against it. I think I would still prefer bigger dogs anyhow.

So yeah, that's the rundown on my cousins on my dad side. I can definitely see where I get some of my habits/characteristics from. Did I mention our entire family are big fish? In a drinking sense, heh. If anyone's ever had 白酒,a common Chinese hard liquor, you'll know it's not a walk in the park, as this shit has an alcohol volume of between 40-80+%. It's nasstttttty, and the men in the family drink glasses of this stuff with every meal. My first few days were relatively tame, as they were unsure of what to expect from me, whether I'd be reserved and stuck-up or whatever. The first time I went out drinking with my cousins they were borderline worried that I couldn't handle my liquor lol! Anywho, I was so ecstatic that they could all keep up :)

Disclaimer: Alright I must've totally sounded like an alcoholic there, so I'd like to clarify that this most certainly is not the case. It's just my social lube of choice, and I don't depend on it in any sense.

I wish I could post all the details about every night we went out, but I feel like I should just make a conscious effort from now on to blog more frequently rather than wait a month and try to regurgitate everything that's happened on another continent. So I guess I'll just fast-forward to my first Macau experience. In my weeks in TJ, my schedule was pretty much packed everyday, but I did manage to fit in almost 30 hours of RUSH grinding. I'm still kind of upset at myself for not being able to make a top-quality video before I left, but at the same time I'm also glad I didn't divulge the info to make the field tougher than it has to be. Anyhow, results in TJ were pretty sick with a $100+hourly , though I was running above EV and probably won't be able to maintain this rate as the games I've noticed have slowly begun to get more competitive. So my friend and I decided to meet up in Macau (he'd been staying in China also) in time for the Macau Cup and grind some cash. Even though we were gonna buy-in to the events anyway, we played some qualifiers on Stars and were both able to win a ME seat. The one he won was value-added and had 2 nights of Grand Lisboa thrown in, so that was a nice bonus for us. I invited Rui to come with me, as she has never been outside PRC, and it really made me happy to do this for her. I ended up playing tournaments on all 4 days rather than grinding cash as expected since I made it deep in both the 200k gtd and main event, and for the most part poker was good. I was being mindful of the tournament strategies Alex had taught me, and for the most part I think I played well and got rewarded for it. Event #3 200k gtd. was a 2-day event that drew 190 entries and was my first live event this year. It was nice to see the diverse backgrounds of the players and I felt like I fit right in as many of the players were asian but spoke English. At one point I was at the table with the PokerStars Asia pro Celina Lin, whom I have heard mixed reviews about in the skills department (she is obviously very pretty so there's no question there). She was very charming with her subtle Australian accent, and was definitely a class act as a rep of PS, but there was a point about her that I noticed (since I used to be an offender as well hehe). She was very vocal about her strategy and decision-making-process, and openly discussed her thinking with her neighbour for everyone to hear and during pots. Not even in a Negreneau-esque way, but much more blatant about her own thought-process and way less about trying to get reactions and tells. It almost appeared as if she was trying to prove that she deserved to be sponsored because she knew how to calculate pot-odds. Anyhow, I may be just totally jealous of her position which is definitely true to some extent. It's also cause I felt a little better when I observed this, one, because it felt nice to play with a semi-competent female player who also has innate concerns in proving herself like I do, and two, because I've realized that I have, indeed, improved a ton and will continue to as long as I'm constantly trying to get better. Anyhow, the fields were pretty soft and before I knew it, it was day 2 and I was at the final table with cameras and camcorders hovering over my shoulders. It wasn't a big cash by North American standards, but it felt good nonetheless to cash in my first event since I hadn't played live since Legends of Poker at the Bike last year.

Cash however, was a different story. The night after my final table and before my main event day1, I had a few hours and went to check out the 25/50HKD max. 6000 sidegames. I was initially thrilled to see there were 5 tables running, but soon after I got there I realized it was all regs and 1 mainland fish they were all gunning for, and for the most part stayed out of each other's way. I thought about getting a table change right away, but decided against it since I couldn't stay too long anyway and it's not like the regs were good. Did I mention this was my first time playing live since L.A.?! I felt sooo good to be back at a live table, but it was
so
insanely
slow
lol. After the obvious fish got stacked I opened the table up and played a lot of hands and took most of them down, until I made an awful spewy play during a squeeze to a straddle and ran into KK. I soon realized basically no one is ever bluffing and basically all play very straightforward, with lots of limping pre but calling any sort of raise. Isolating is also difficult since if 1 person calls, 5 others will, but if no one calls even hands like AQ and TT don't wanna play heads up. Anyhow, it's the asian way, and it definitely seems to be profitable when there are basically teams of 2-3 on any given table. There's no blatant collusion of course, but my reg neighbour got very friendly by the end of my session, and gave me the scoop on the various players and how there were a few of them who never played without their friend sitting beside them. I thought it was wise to get up soon after since it was getting late and although it kinda sucks to end off my first session stuck I had to get up relative early (noon haha) to tourney, and I no longer had the spunk and stamina to battle knowing I'd have to leave soon.

Day 1b of the Red Dragon Event was a fun but tedious 12 hour day. The tournament drew 321 from all over, including two teams from Japan who were often obnoxious at times, as there was this one guy who would get up and incessantly yell something along the lines of "Japanese pride" every time someone from his team won a decent pot, and get really in-your-face with his opponents. I have definitely seen better sportsmanship coming from Hellmuth. Anyways, I was also very impressed with the sheer amount of female players in the tourney. At one table I was at when there were about 5 tables left, there were 6 female players! It was definitely a treat since for the most part everyone was quite predictable. However, I still had difficulty accumulating chips as +CEV spots were really hard to come by, but managed to wake up for 10minutes of day2 and finished in 24th. It wasn't a big surprise as I was pretty short at the time, but getting deeper would have pretty much sealed my fate in Asia. Anyhow, since I hadn't had much time to spend with my cousin doing touristy stuff (I had told her I'd be mainly grinding before the trip so it wasn't a surprise), we went to a few temples after and I treated her and Alex to Zaia, a Cirque du Soleil show at the Venetian, and spent our last day in Macau and the Grand Lisboa pretty quietly as I was all tourneyed out.

My cousin and I made our way back to Beijing finally after a delayed plane through Zhuhai, invited some friends, and spent my last night in China eating Peking Duck and partying at a club where the music was familiar and the dance floor bumped! I was very sad to go indeed.
 
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