PCA 2012: Women dominating on and off the tables
Two women dominate the television stage at the moment, although only one of them has a shot at winning the PCA Main Event.
Natalie Hof is the German presenter for PokerStars.tv, a chipper young television personality bringing energy and life to the German audience. But she looked ready to kill a man who had casually walked behind her as she was gearing up to her stand-up with a backdrop of the main event playing behind her. There he was, swaggering past, carrying a pink drink in a plastic cup.
Hof's expression was a ruthless. Who cares if there was no other way to get by? You were in the shot. Move it or lose it.
He moved it, much to the amusement of the crew.
With the coast clear (and Vanessa Selbst, on her way back to her seat in the high roller, complying with a request not to walk past) Hof, no longer rattled, got the job done and in the can.
Twenty feet away another woman dominates the scene.
Xuan Liu is the current chip leader in the main event with 13 players remaining. Not for her the bother of menacing a lout with the pink drink. Instead, she appears to be a picture of composure, control, playing the tournament of her life.
Menace of a different kind: Xuan Liu
Liu has spent the past 18 months convincing the poker world that she is the genuine article. Few have found any reason to doubt it.
Her first big result came in San Remo, in an Italian Poker Tour side event in 2010 where she beat Claudio Pagano, father of Luca, to her first title and $64,376. Less than six months later, Liu was back in San Remo for the European Poker Tour. There she finished third, earning a career best $524,705. If people had noticed her before then, they were now.
Liu is now the rising star of poker, another graduate of Waterloo University that has produced former winners Glenn Chorny, Mike McDonald and Steve Paul before her (among others), forever polite, humble and trailed by a pack of young single poker players hoping to carry her books.
If you asked any of them if she was PCA main event champion material they'd put their own egos aside to say "yes", albeit hoping she'd heard them saying so.