Vivian Im: From poker hobbyist to first female APPT champion

Thumbnail image for PS Women logo.jpgVivian Im may have only been in the game of poker for just a few years, but don't confuse lack of time with lack of experience or skill. In her short career she has achieved something that many before her are still trying to do.

Im kick-started her live tournament game through a PokerStars online satellite into APPT Macau in 2009. However, Im confides to making many mistakes initially. In the absence of the online pot and bet size calculations on the screen, she was not used to having to calculate everything quickly. Frustration and acting out of turn a few times resulted. "Feeling the pressure of your opponent staring you down could lead to mistakes when inexperienced, but if you get used to it and learn to focus on your own game, you will find yourself enjoying the game. Getting control over these things makes live games very exciting."

A little of over twelve months after that first live tournament experience, Im discovered just how exciting the game could be when she secured the APPT Cebu 2010 title. The victory also crowned her the first female champion in the history of the APPT. Again, it was her equally impressive skills on the virtual felt that led to the championship victory, via a $22+R 3x Turbo satellite package. That small investment resulted in a $132,000 payday.


Breaking history comes with responsibility. As the only female holder of a major Australasian title, Im is looked upon as a role model. "I believe my victory at the APPT Cebu brought faith and confidence to a lot of female players in this region. I really hope one day another female champion will follow in my footsteps," Im reflected soon after victory. "Being a female doesn't make it harder or easier at the tables. Poker is all about the mental game and how well you control yourself, not about sex."

Her mental game and ability to outplay opponents began long before her first poker hand was dealt. The story began ten years earlier in the world of StarCraft. The PC generated military game is where she met her boyfriend Gabyong Kim and later, PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. Kim and ElkY played on the same StarCraft Pro team, competing in televised tournaments. Many former gamers are now poker players, with the similarities between the two lending itself to an easy transition. "They both need strategies that fit the opponent and must read the opponent's intention and moves to win," Im points out.

As Im profiled her final table opponents in Cebu, there was one that was only too familiar. It was the person who had introduced and taught her the game of poker. Gabyong Kim, her pro-gamer boyfriend, started the final table as the chip leader and in an interesting twist of fate, the couple found themselves three-handed for the title, holding 90 percent of the chips. But there would be no question of soft play with the title on the line. It wasn't to be a heads-up affair after all, as Kim fell in third place, largely at the hands of Im. With the poise and grace of the years she had spent training as a dancer, Im closed out the tournament. "I think it (dancing background) helps my tilt control a lot and helps me keep my pace when playing."

Since her historic APPT title, Im has proven to be no one-trick pony. Since then she has placed 2nd in a Macau Poker Cup 2011 (HK$760,000) and reached Supernova Elite status online, along with joining Team PokerStars Pro. "To be honest, I started poker as a hobby not planning for it to get serious in any way," Im shares. Now with the spotlight, she is proud that her achievements have made it easier for female players to participate.

Join Vivian Im in her home town as the APPT makes a much anticipated return to Seoul from March 7-11 2012. Satellites are running now! For more information on Vivian and other Team PokerStars Pros see PokerStars Women.

Kirsty Mullins
@PokerStars in PS Women