Xuan Liu on winning your way to London

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Professional player Xuan Liu is based in Toronto, Canada but spends much of the year traveling internationally for poker tournaments. In the fall, she heads to London for Season Eight of the European Poker Tour. Xuan qualified for the PokerStars Women Live Event, set for Sunday, October 2, on her first try and went on to satellite into the London EPT Main Event a few weeks later.

Xuan talked to PokerStars Women about satellite structures, traveling on a budget and the Team PokerStars Pro she would least like having on her left.

If you would like to play with Xuan and members of Team PokerStars Pro in London, play in the weekly Sunday £108.50 qualifier at 14:35 ET. There are also daily freerolls into the final. See full details at //www.pokerstars.com/poker/promotions/women-live/

Q: What advice do you have for women who are trying to satellite into the London EPT Ladies event?

A: Be persistent. Poker Stars runs a weekly satellite with a good structure that sometimes has an overlay--these are very good value! If you feel you have an edge, simply keep trying because the field sizes are modest and chances are good that you will win a package after a few attempts.

Q: How does your approach going into a satellite differ from a large MTT? Do you think people tend to over-estimate or under-estimate how much they should tailor their play specifically for satellites in the early levels?

A: Satellite structures generally tend to be faster. Since the prizes all pay the same and the stacks are generally shallower there are more ICM-intensive decisions in the later stages. It's important to adjust and know when to prevent yourself from getting into unnecessarily risky spots with players who are too loose when you already have a good chance of scoring a seat. You also need to know when you can profitably amp up the aggression in the middle stages. By contrast, MTTs, due to their top-heavy laddering payouts, should almost always be played to win the title. Winning chips early on in satellites is less significant than in a MTT since it doesn't matter if you have 1 big blind or 100 big blinds after the bubble. In fact, it can be strategically correct, depending on your opponents, to play very tight early on to create an image you can exploit after antes kick in and blinds become higher.


Q: Have you been to the London EPT before? If so, what is your favorite thing about the tournament? What events are on your schedule?

A: I haven't been yet but I'm very excited to go back to Europe for my second EPT season and having London as the first stop! I'm planning to play the Main Event and as many side events as I can fit in, which hopefully means not many at all if I can make another deep run in the main. However, I'm especially looking forward to playing in the PokerStars Women Live event and the 8-game, as well as fun events like "Win the Button" and "Rivers."

Q: We've all been reading a lot about London in the past weeks--how does your life as a traveling poker pro affect your perspective and level of interest in international news?

A: I've always been interested in international affairs--my focus in university was Social Development Studies and Political Science. The recent events in London are unfortunate and I really hope they will end up being a catalyst for positive change. A main reason why I love poker and the lifestyle so much is because it offers me the opportunity to travel and explore different cultures. Since I often have the opportunity to customize my own schedule, keeping up with current events plays a major role in deciding what my next stop should be.

Q: Besides playing poker, what are some of the things you intend to do while in London?

A: I would like to catch up with my European friends whom I haven't seen since the WSOP, and dine at some of London's amazing restaurants. I will also find the time to take a picture with a soldier in the Queen's Guard. When I was very young and still living in China my uncle went overseas to study in London and brought me back a toy soldier. It was my very first exposure to anything authentically foreign, so getting to see them in person will have extra meaning for me.

Q: A few weeks after London, EPT San Remo begins, where you had your two largest live cashes so far (360,000€ for third in the EPT Main Event and first for over 48,000€ in an Italian Poker Tour side event). I assume you intend to conquer again this autumn! Do you believe there's any particular reason for your continued success in San Remo? In other words, are you superstitious at all?

A: I am only superstitious about things that don't really matter. San Remo is a town in southern Italy that has a unique charm. There is the sea, palm trees, friendly locals, clean air, great food, and not much nightlife. Perhaps these are the ingredients that hold my focus best. My first time there for the PokerStars Italian Poker Tour event I didn't know a soul and spoke no Italian amongst almost all locals. So perhaps I felt like I had something to prove and wanted really badly to make my trip worthwhile. An interesting coincidence on both trips: I ran really bad on non-poker related expenses. The first trip I missed the last bus from Nice, France for the day by mere seconds and had to take an expensive taxi to San Remo, Italy. I then missed the train going back because the side event I played was scheduled as a two- day event but extended to three days. I had to rebook my flight to Copenhagen to make it just in time for the noon start of EPT Prague the same day. On my second trip I arrived without my luggage, so was wearing the same clothes for almost three days straight. I also lost six out of the eight credit card roulettes I played, with most of the bills being 300€ or more. Unlucky in life, lucky in poker?

Q: Your recent blog post on placing third in San Remo included a lot of details, including some background on how you came to rent a large villa for the week, actually saving money in the process. For women who want to play in London, but don't manage to satellite in, do you have any tips on how to make poker travel more economical?

A: Yes, it's great to have responsible and organized friends with whom to travel. I shared a beautiful villa on a hilltop with a lush garden and everything a hotel room lacks for a fraction of the price. I definitely feel that having so much space, the option to cook healthier food options, and even the daily walk down the hill to the casino contributed to my success there. Staying at EPT hotels in various cities is luxurious but can be very expensive. Try to be open-minded when booking accommodations or find a roommate or two.

In Barcelona I found a simple but clean hostel room for one with an amazing view that was steps from the beach and the casino at a fraction of the price of any hotel nearby. In Madrid I shared a double bed in a modest-sized room with two other world-class players when none of us really needed to spare the expense. We took turns sleeping on the floor (anyone who was still left in the Main Event was exempt), and everything worked out pleasantly because we were hardly there anyway and it was fun in a sleepover sort of way. The point is, if you don't play, you can't win, so if you're passionate about the game, you should find a way to make it happen.

Q: There are a lot of great female players on Team Poker Stars Pro and you've probably played with most of them at one tournament or another. Which players would you least like to have at your left during the EPT Ladies Final Table?

A: Vanessa Selbst! She is ridiculously good and I feel I would rarely want to get out of line when she has position on me. Her Deucescracked training videos I subscribed to years ago was one of the first steps I took to take my game to the next level, so she will always have a special place in my heart. However, she can be so competitive it's scary! Even though I think this is good for the game, it can certainly be intimidating to face.

Q: If you have any other tips for members of the PokerStars Women community, please share!

A: I am very blessed to have the triumphs I have had so far and for much of that I have to thank the positive, knowledgeable people I have formed friendships with in such a short period of time. This is not an easy industry for females, as stereotypes and chauvinism can thrive. But success in poker, like any other goal, takes hard work and time, regardless of your gender. Stay focused, don't be discouraged by obstacles and bad days, and set realistic expectations along the way. Sure there's a significant luck factor, but the best players set themselves up to get lucky.

Jennifer Shahade
@PokerStars in PS Women