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The PokerNews Interview: Maria Ho

The first impression a player might get from Maria Ho, the last woman standing in the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, is that she's a stunning beauty – possibly one of the best-looking poker players in the Main Event. On second glance, Maria has had a few previous cashes and had written for poker sites before, but this virtually unknown UC-San Diego graduate and semi-pro gained more and more attention from fans, press, the cameras and Bodog as the Main Event's player count dwindled. She finished in 38th place, and is now a player to watch – in many ways. Maria's $230,000+ cash means that she'll be a presence on the tourney scene this season. Here's more on this fascinating player.

PokerNews: You were the last woman standing in the Main Event. How would it feel to continue to be the last woman standing, or better yet, the last person standing, in more big poker events?

Mario Ho: To me, it would mean a lot to continue to be consistent in tournaments and to do well in tournaments would be something that I would be proud of, so I definitely would like to see that happen more. I plan to play more tournaments, so hopefully my results will be good.

PN: Tell us how you went out of the Main Event in the hand against Kevin Farry.

MH: Basically, the blinds were 25,000/50,000. There was a 5,000 ante. I had just moved to the table not too long ago, so I didn't really have much information about any of the players at my table. Everybody folded to me; I'm in the small blind. I have about 550,000 or so at that point. I mean, I still had a decent stack, I could still wait for good hands, but I was short-stacked compared to the average. I didn't have that much play left.

Everybody folded to me; I had {a-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}. I made the standard raise of 150,000. The reason I didn't push into him when everybody folded to me was because I felt like – it wasn't really the situation where I needed to just push. I mean, if he had absolutely nothing, I didn't have to risk all my chips. He could wake up with a big hand, so I made it 150. He made it 230,000 on top of my 150, which to me was really weird, because in most instances, if he didn't fold the hand, he would just push all in right there. For him to re-raise it looked like had aces or nothing. I had no read on him; I had no information about him. It really just threw me off, and I think I was hasty about going all in at that point, but I did go all in. He called me, and he had pocket tens.

PN: You took 38th place in the main event, winning $237,865. Would you call that life-changing money?

MH: No, I don't think it's life-changing, because I think as far as what I would want to do – I have a lot of entrepreneurial things that I've always wanted to get involved with, so in terms of that, it's not life changing. But I think it's obviously a lot of money, and of course I'm only 24 years old, so it's great to be able to be kind of financially comfortable and be able to kind of do what you want, and be able to spend it and save some, but also have fun with it. I mean, especially being a poker player, if you want to be on the poker circuit, it can cost upwards of $250,000 a year to play a lot of tournaments. Not that necessarily that's what I'm going to do with it, but I don't believe it's life-changing, no.

PN: Did you go out and buy anything big immediately?

MH: No, I didn't! I couldn't really think of anything I really wanted, so I really didn't spend hardly any of it, even now.

PN: How has your association with Bodog been going since the main event? Are they continuing to sponsor you in more events?

MH: My sponsorship with Bodog was a one-time thing for the Main Event, but for three months following the Main Event, I'm still associated with them. I mean, we've been talking about me being further sponsored by them, but we're still negotiating that. As far as when I do other interviews, or when I appear in articles in different magazines, I'm still sponsored by Bodog for the next three months.

PN: There are more high buy-in events worldwide this year than any other year, whether you stay in the States or go overseas. What are you playing in next, and what other events coming up look interesting to you?

MH: I'm definitely going to be playing in almost all of the upcoming WPT [events]. I'm really looking forward to going to Dublin for the EPT, sometime in mid-October. I'm really looking forward to doing that. I love Europe. And also Turks and Caicos, the new WPT event. That's going to be lots of fun; I heard it's beautiful there. Really looking forward to that one.

PN: What's your very next event, do you think?

MH: My very next event will be Legends of Poker at the Bike. I'm from LA, so I definitely have to play the home-court advantage on that.

PN: You graduated from UC-San Diego recently. What did you study there?

MH: I majored in communications and was a law minor.

PN: Had you intended to use your college degree or did you always have poker in mind?

MH: I definitely never intended to use my degree. It was more just something that – I was interested in communications and law, and I just took that in college because it's something I've been interested in. But I always wanted to take over my family's business, which is real estate development. Poker was something that just popped up along the way in college, and I never – when I was studying in college, I could never see myself playing poker professionally. I guess it's just like an interim thing that I'm doing. Eventually I'm going to have to go into the family business.

PN: Oh, OK. Tell us a little bit about that.

MH: Well, my parents emigrated to America probably 15 years ago, and they've always done real estate back in Taiwan when I was born, and when they came over here, they decided to start a real estate company of their own. They've pretty much been doing that ever since they moved here. It's something that they took the opportunity of being in America to be able to start their own business. It's something that I want to do, just because there's no one else better to take over my parents' company than me, and I want them to be able to see their work go on even after they retire.

PN: Tell us about some of the writing you've been doing for PokerPages.

MH: Well, I no longer write for PokerPages. When I did write for PokerPages, it was a really interesting experience, because when I first started writing for them, I was just kind of new to the poker scene. I had just started playing professionally, and it was a really, really great outlet for me to kind of share my thoughts with other people. And me being able to write about poker, it kind of like tied in to other interests outside of poker, because I've always enjoyed writing, and it's good way to do something besides just play poker.

PN: Are you finding any other opportunities to do any other writing since PokerPages?

MH: There have been a couple opportunities to write for other sites, but I don't know how I feel about writing because – one of my biggest problems is, I had a blog on there and I didn't blog and update nearly enough. I didn't really want to do something unless I could be completely dedicated to it. I don't know why, but I found it hard to find the motivation to update all the time. So I think until I'm ready to really be able to dedicate a part of my time to doing that consistently, I don't think I'll be writing for anybody.

PN: Finally – how do you feel about women's-only poker tournaments in general? Do you plan to enter any of them, or do you prefer the open events?

MH: I wouldn't say that I feel very negative or have a bad impression of how women-only events are, but I played in a few of them, and my very first year at the World Series, actually, I did play the Ladies Event. In general, I find that because the buy-ins are usually so small, the starting stack and the structure are horrible, and it becomes a really big crapshoot.

So it's not that it's a women's only event – when the structure's bad and you don't have a lot of chips to begin with, there's no play involved, so I don't find women's tournaments that I want to play in. Also, sure, there's a little bit of a, "Why are there are only women's only events when we should all be able to play together?" And we shouldn't be singled out like that, but I think it's a good way for some women to – because some women only want to play those events, and that's where they feel comfortable. So it's a really good way for those people to gain some experience playing tournaments, but in general, I don't prefer to play in them. I haven't really played in them for about the last year and a half.

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