WSOP 2015: Celina Lin on the Vegas experience (and that hand)

If you've ever wondered what you'd do in the first level of the World Series Main Event when a player shoves and you look down at aces, the answer is you call. What happens next though comes with no guarantees, except for a little buzz on social media.

Just ask Celina Lin. The Team Pro had flown half way around the world for the Main Event. It started so well. Seated on table one, Lin took it as good news that she didn't recognise anyone, not even the new guy who arrived at her table in a cap, messy hair and a beard.

"I didn't recognise him but he seemed to know all his stuff and said hi to everyone. I didn't think that much of it."
The two of them tangled in a hand that cost Lin some chips. But almost immediately got a chance to get her chips in good. The other guy had kings, Lin had aces. So she did what she had to.

"He goes 'I'm all in'. So I'm 'CALL!' and he starts complaining."

If you don't already know what happens next I'll tell you in a second. But it seems right to bluster a little while longer to give Lin time to stop reading and maybe look away.


As the picture shows, the aces had been good on the flop, but not on the turn. All of a sudden, and within the first level of the Main Event, Lin was out.

"In the back of my mind my biggest issue was 'why did it have to be this one?'" she said, never really giving up laughing about the story. "But it was a little painful. It was on PokerNews, and then Terrence Chan said, 'you didn't tell me it was about Gavin Smith!'"

Turns out Smith had been the man in the cap, the man with the beard, and the man with the kings. That would be a difficult fold for anyone in this spot, but for his part he had other reasons.

"To be honest, as a pro I just go, well, I played it right. That's all that matters," said Lin. Like all pros, she's had her fair share of moments like this. At the APPT Seoul earlier this year she was sent to the rail in fourth place after losing key pots while ahead. The same goes for the tournaments she plays back home in Macau.

"It's just over and over again," she said, more amused than bitter. "The chances are the next tournament I play I'll run super good."

Taking the trip to Las Vegas in the first place was something Lin thought hard about. She speaks openly about treating her career like a business, and weighed up the ROI this trip, what with the flight, the place to stay, the buy-ins, plus the 30 per cent tax deducted on any winnings. All that would be pitted against the possible return.

"The players here are a lot easier to play against than the ones I've played in Macau," she said. "In Macau you have really aggressive players. If they've got a gut-shot draw of any kind, they just go all in with you. It doesn't matter. They blow the pot out of proportion. But the players here are passive. So it's really easy to slowly chip up.

This is a point worth reflecting on. If you haven't been to a poker tournament in Asia it's a different game, one that can leave the ill-prepared dumbfounded and broke, and wondering if that hadn't just played high stakes chicken. But Lin also reaps the benefits in what is one of poker's new boom markets.

"In terms of the passion people have for it, the growth has been just phenomenal," she said. "It's like the new golf for the higher classes in China. So it gives poker a good spin. Back in the days, as we know, it's always been seen as a shady type of game. Now it's become the game for the high class elite, actors, and pop stars."

That means the game has benefitted, but Lin too. She has a solid reputation for being one of the best players in the region. That helps her when it comes to winning big pots, but also when it comes to planning for the future.

"It's something that I find always constantly challenging me," said Lin. "I need to feel that in my life to feel fulfilled, in terms of feeling accomplished every day. Poker is able to provide that.

celina_randy.jpgCelina Lin with Randy Lew, appearing on Twitch near you

"At the moment I've been doing Twitch streaming, and it's grown quite well. And people seem to like what it is that I do. So for me it's just like constantly building my brand. Prior to coming to World Series I felt like I was restricted to being regional. But the fact that my English ability is quite good I feel like if I took it global I would do just fine as well. So for me, I do look to venture out a little bit more.

In terms of that exposure to the game, and to a new audience, the trip has been a great success, albeit a costly one thanks to that man Smith with his two kings.

"I gained 50 followers on twitter because of that hand!" she said, laughing again. "I'm not sure it's worth ten thousand dollars!"

Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.