Celina Lin on how she made history and much more
After her recent return win at the Macau Poker Cup, PokerStars Women asked Celina Lin to give us an update on how she did it. And of course we also managed to ask for some pointers for our players on keeping focused during long tournaments, tips for short-handed play, and her best advice for women in the game. She was kind enough to give us some in-depth answers on all that, plus more.
PokerStars Women: (PSW): Congratulations on your continued success, Celina, and especially your two-time Red Dragon win! I was really impressed with the way you stayed focused after losing some big hands and managed to claw your way back to win it. That takes extraordinary focus and determination . . . which leads me to my first question! Are you able to maintain that kind of focus at all the tournaments you play, or was this special because you had won the tournament previously?
Celina Lin (CL): Maintaining focus is something I have been working on for a long time. Large tournaments are usually over many days so it's most difficult to maintain focus on Day 1 and 2. It's the real work of any professional poker player, and so you do whatever you have to in order to pay attention to those early levels. Once you're in the money and head towards the final table then focus is never an issue. If you love poker then those are exactly the moments you play for . . . the drive to win a title! I want to win every event I enter but I'd be lying if I said the chance to win a second Red Dragon event wasn't a little more special. If there's such a thing as 110% then I got there.
PSW: Do you utilize any kind of special technique to help you maintain focus in these kinds of situations?
CL: When I feel like my concentration and focus may start to slip, I will listen to some music. I find that this helps me with boredom at times, especially when the play sometimes slows down on late in the day.
PSW: Other than focus and determination, was there anything else that contributed to your being able to do what many felt was impossible?
CL: I've wanted to win another Red Dragon for three years now. Everyone wants one of those Red Dragon trophies in Asia, and China especially, so each time you don't win you can be sure it will be ever tougher next time with more players in the field. It's painful to think each time you bust that it will get even harder the next time. I guess there will always come a time when you doubt yourself and whenever I hit a low point I believe in my instincts and revert to my fundamentals. Those are the things you can always rely on.
PSW: Now for a strategy question or two: What's the best approach for a short-stack at a final table when there are still several other players in?
CL: Observe how the players are playing at the final table. If they are folding a lot, and avoiding confrontation, it's a good time to pick up the blinds and antes by raising more. If they are calling shoves rather light, then you want to wait for a decent hand before going all in. Always remember your stack size in relation to the BB and other stacks. Sometimes you can be sitting on 8 BBs, but still be second in chips.
PSW: What about heads-up?
CL: Playing heads-up while short means a lot of all-ins pre-flop. Depending on how correctly your opponent will call with his hands, you have to adjust. If he is only calling with pairs and big Ax hands, then you can go all-in a lot more. But if he is also calling with any A, K high hands, then your shoving range should be tighter against him.
PSW: You mentioned that you had a very supportive group of friends at the rail during the tournament and that helped you. Is it just because of the moral support they provide or is it more about letting off steam and discussing hands?
CL: Having your friends cheer and everyone calling for outs and safe cards creates a very positive atmosphere. It's like when the Lakers in the NBA are playing at home instead of being on the road. You don't work less hard or want to win less when you're on the road but the moral support can go a long way, and I am very thankful that I have so many people cheering for me during heads-up!
PSW: Do you tweet or Facebook during tournaments? How many followers do you have?
CL: I keep my followers updated with my progress. I currently have 7000 followers amongst Facebook, Twitter, and Weibo (China's Twitter) combined. I usually prefer to update during breaks rather then while I'm playing. It keeps my focus during play time. It's always motivating to get messages from followers all over the world cheering you on.
PSW: As a mentor or role model for women in the game, what is the most important message you would like to get out to new players?
CL: Take each hand one at a time and don't overwhelm yourself with the end goal. I think people go into tournaments and try to win the whole thing right away but that's impossible. In fact, you don't even try to "win" every hand. You make the best decision on the hand you're on (and sometimes it's to fold) and move on. Hands, turn into levels. Levels turn into days. Days turn into final tables. And final tables turn into titles.
PSW: What is the one tip that you think most women could profit from in playing poker?
CL: Be yourself and be proud of being a woman. I don't try to be a boy in a boy's game. I'm a woman in a game that just happens to have lots of men. Don't put on a hoodie, hide under a cap and be one of the boys. From my experience guys will happily check the nuts to a girl because they don't want to take your money or pay you off when you have the goods.