You won't find Maria Ho seated at a poker table in Las Vegas this weekend.
Instead, the poker star will be immersed in the world of esports, surrounded by some of the top competitors in gaming. Ho is in Newark, New Jersey hosting the Mobile Masters Invitational (M2), a new esports tournament series created by Amazon.
The inaugural Mobile Masters Invitational features popular games on the Amazon Appstore like Hearthstone, Vainglory, and Summoner’s War, with $65,000 in prizes to its winners. Ho is serving as the on-screen host of the event, something she has become familiar with in her roles with Poker Central and Poker Night in America. The event is being aired live on Twitch.
The transition from poker to gaming is a smooth one for Ho, who calls herself an "esports junkie."
"I grew up playing a lot of video games," Ho told PokerNews. "My father went on a business trip to Japan and brought home the original FamiCom — which preceded the Nintendo — when I was about 7 years old, and I was hooked. I started with Super Mario Bros. but when I got older I started playing Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, and Counter-Strike very intensely."
Ho also picked up Heartstone in recent years. The game has quite a bit of crossover from poker, having huge appeal to avid e-gamers like Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier.
"I try to play as often as I can, which is why mobile games are much more accessible to me, seeing as how I travel a lot and am on the road so often that I'm not able to sit and play video games on my desktop for long hours," she said. "Using my Amazon Fire tablet is a lot easier when I want to get a quick game in."
Ho's relationship with Amazon started more than a year and a half ago when the company hired her and two other pro poker players, Doug Polk and Scott Ball, to play three games — poker, Hearthstone, and Pac-Man 365 — against three professional Hearthstone players.
"From there I think they saw how interested I was in esports and became aware of my experience in poker broadcasting so they asked me to host their first ever casual mobile gaming tournament last December, Champions of Fire," said Ho. "With the success of that event we worked on forging a partnership for 2017 that has me not only hosting their Mobile Masters series, but I am also the official ambassador of Amazon's esports initiative."
What does this mean for Ho's poker career? She says still plans to travel the world throughout the year for big tournaments as well as play online from Vancouver. But we can expect to see more of her in front of a camera in the future.
"I enjoy diversifying the things that I am involved in," she said. "I didn't start out in poker with the idea that I would move so heavily into the broadcasting realm but I am never one to pass up on amazing and interesting opportunities even if they can appear a bit challenging at first.
"I still love poker at the end of the day and still am hungry as ever to attain more success in the game. I have high hopes to win a major title in the very near future, and am still working hard on improving my game on a regular basis and make sure that I don't become stagnant in my poker education."
You can follow all of this weekend's Mobile Masters event at Twitch.tv.
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