APPT7 Macau: Alex Niu and his menagerie of good-luck trinkets
Back at the APPT season opener in Seoul, my colleague Alex Villegas* introduced us all to Alex Niu, a television presenter, actor, sportswear ambassador and all-round superstar in Chinese Taipei.
Villegas did a pretty good job of filling us in on all the key facts about Niu, even including details of what he was eating and a neat little anecdote about a baseball game. But with characteristic intern's oversight, Villegas missed the big story staring him in the face: what on earth is with the menagerie in front of Niu's chips?
"The frog is my wife's, the Legos come from my son and the doll is from my daughter," Niu said today, pointing at each of the crowd of trinkets one-by-one. He was referring, specifically, to a dazzling jewel-bedecked frog, perched on a lily pad and carrying a green 25-denomination chip in its mouth; a tiny black Batman figure sitting atop a 5,000 chip; a tiny white Batman figure sitting on the 1,000 chips and a child's doll laying flat on her back with one hand raised in the air, too big to fit on any chips.
"It came in a huge box," Niu said of the doll, which kind of looks as if it's been mown down by a taxi it is trying to hail. "And she actually gave me an even bigger one before." Niu then flicked through an enormous roll of photos on his smart-phone to find a picture of a similar gaggle of models he took to the last MPC Red Dragon tournament, which included the ever-present frog as well as a Lego ninja and a doll of Snow White.
Niu's children -- Ryder, 6, and Makayla, 4 -- take a keen interest in their father's poker progress and are always sure to ask whether their gifts helped him at the tables. Niu said that so far his daughter's dolls have a 100 per cent success rate when pushed forward with an all in shove, but the Legos are somewhat less successful.
"My son always asks me if his Legos were lucky, and I say, er, 'Yes!'"
Although he has an enormous number of other roles to fill day-to-day (including father, husband and TV star), Niu's poker career is beginning to take shape. He has a 30th and an 18th place finish at Macau Poker Cup events in the past couple of years, and he is now regularly sponsored by PokerStars to appear on the APPT.
In the time I was talking to him, Niu demonstrated a keen willingness to taken on all comers at the tables, winning a fair-sized pot from Wei Qiu Zhong. Zhong had opened to 300 from the cut off and Niu called from the big blind.
The two saw a flop of 3♠[10h]6♣ , which both checked. The 3♥ turned ad Niu bet 400, then called after Zhong raised to 1,000. The 2♠ came on the river, which Niu checked again, prompting a 2,300 bet from Zhong. Niu thought for a moment, then called, and Zhong mucked without showing.
One hopes neither the Lego Batmen nor the taxi-cab-hailing doll will be called into action today as Niu looks to play through the seven levels and into day two. But the field is getting ever bigger -- and ever stronger -- here at APPT Macau, so we may need to see some bat-power at some point.
A reminder on how to follow our coverage from Macau. There is hand-by-hand coverage at the top of the main APPT Macau page, which includes chip counts. Feature coverage will filter in beneath the panel. All the information about the Asia Pacific Poker Tour is on the APPT site, and PokerStars Macau also has its own home.
*A jumped up, former PokerStars Blog intern who is for some reason now allowed to commit his drivel to print instead of just buy Jamba Juice and count chips for the senior writers. That's why this Blog is going down the pan.