Archive for December, 2009

Recollection of a decade .. welcoming 2010!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The holidays have always been a time of reflection for me, a time to look back on what has been and look forward to what may be. This is a special time as we end this first decade of the 21st Century. I’d like to end this present year on a cheerful note and make way for a fresh and bright new year with this video from my most recent charity journey.

There are many similarities between this year and this decade for me. I started the decade playing my cash games, first in Las Vegas and then eventually in LA. I learned my game playing LHE, long before No-Limit became the game of choice in poker rooms. I moved into tournament play halfway through the decade in 2005, making my first WSOP final table with Allen Cunningham, CK Hua, Devilfish Ulliott, Scott Fischman, and An Tran. I’ve done well since then, making other final tables around the world and taking down a tournament here and there.

As many of you know, the decade also brought personal loss and struggles for me. I lost my father two years ago after his battle with health problems. I’ve worked hard to honor him and persevere, but it has not been easy for me. I’m afraid as hardened as I’ve become over the years, I’m still very much Daddy’s little girl.

I’ve returned to my homeland of Vietnam throughout the decade. Each time brings me great comfort and fulfillment, but each time there also seems to dig a little hole into my heart. I’m not sure what it is. I wish sometimes I could just grind away there like I do at the poker table, but it takes more out of me than that.

This decade has also been a time where finding balance has been hard. Poker, my marketing partners, tournaments, the hardships of glamorous travel, trying to find some way to stay connected to friends. It hasn’t been easy, and it seems to get more difficult with every blurry week.

And now 2009 comes to an end, a year as difficult for most of us as any has ever been. I’ve been fortunate in many ways, but many of my friends and fans continue to face grave hardship. For those of you who don’t get to Las Vegas, you would be amazed at the many houses for sale. People who were out of work used to be looked down upon; now, it is commonplace to find friends who have been unemployed for a year or more.

Even though I’ve weathered this year fairly well, it has caused me to become more serious and more focused. I’ve always been known for my aggression at the tables, and I think it is time for all of us to become more aggressive in how we make it through 2010. That doesn’t mean being rude or obnoxious, but it does mean taking control of our situation whatever that situation may be. I also think it is a time to protect our self interest without becoming self-centered.

My plan for 2010: to spend more time at the tables in cash games, to achieve my goals for the year in poker, to do fewer things away from the table but be sure they are more meaningful, to slow down a little bit, to take care of myself, and to reach out to a few old friends. Don’t let the year get started without setting goals for yourself.

I want to also thank all of my readers and fans here on my blog, on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Chilipoker, and anywhere else you may bump into me. All of the kind words and encouragement are greatly appreciated.

New Year is the time to unfold new horizons & realize new dreams, to rediscover the strength & faith within you, to rejoice in simple pleasures & gear up for new challenges. Wishing everyone a truly fulfilling 2010!

Cheers!

Less is More!

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I’ve been excited to get this adventure underway and I may have started it off like I was running a sprint when in fact it is more like a marathon… well at least a 10K (I’m talking about a run people, not a tourney, haha.) I am only half way through this trip and I am exhausted. While I might be having trouble keeping my eyes open as I write this, it is a small price to pay to be able to share a hug, a laugh, or a smile, with the people that I am helping.

It’s very fulfilling yet humbling to be back in the place that I was born, giving to those in need. Most of them are very spiritual and through their Buddhist ways they find happiness in their life in which they have few tangible things. Even though I come to Vietnam a few times a year, every trip makes me reflect on and appreciate the simple things that we all sometimes overlook or take for granted. Even though I am here to help them, they actually have helped me also by showing me how they live such simple yet full and meaningful lives.

One of the reasons this charity journey has made me look inside myself more so than any of my previous is because it is by far the toughest that I have ever done. On all of my other endeavors I was up and on the road by 6am every morning to travel to my destination and I always made it back into the city by the end of that day. Not to say that the past trips were a walk in the park but there was a little more comfort and down time.

This trip, a crew of 20 and I were 15 hours outside the city and we continued to travel deeper into the countryside each day. Once we started nearing our furthest destinations I realized that we were unfortunately going to have to cut the last portion of the trip short; the dirt roads were no longer fit for cars because they were mostly sand and full of holes since the floods came through.

I actually made it to one more destination after the roads got bad because it was only about a half hour walk from where the van had gone as far as it could go. The route we took once we left the city allowed me to make several stops along the way to visit and help a poor village in Que Son- Quang Nam , an orphanage for the blind in Thanh Binh, an orphanage for new-born children in Phu Ninh, a village in Phu Yen where the massive typhoon Ketsana occurred, and a temple in Phu Yen that also suffered severe damages from typhoon Ketsana.

(village in Que-Son, Quang Nam)

(orphanage for the blinds in Thanh Binh)

(orphanage for newborn children in Phu Ninh)

(village in Phu Yen where the massive typhoon Ketsana occurred)

(temple in Phu Yen suffers severe damage due to typhoon Ketsana)

We spent a few hours at the temple before heading back on the road back to DaNang, which took almost 9 hours of driving. By the time I made it back to my hotel, which was around 12am, I was super exhausted but couldn’t fall asleep. I finally got about one hour of sleep until I had to get up again and head over to the children’s cancer hospital, where I had chosen 30 kids that were at their last stage, and granted each one of them their last wish.

My next visit was to the elders orphanage, a place that is always on my list to visit every year. It was sad to hear that a few old ladies had passed away since the last time I was there. But I was delighted to see the rest of the other old ladies happy and in good health. I was able to feed them all a nice meal, gave them a 7 item gift bag, boxes of noodles, and 50lb bags of rice.

The orphanage for the new-born was the most touching for me but each stop was very meaningful. I was told many stories along the way and a couple of them about the abandonment of the young and the old were quite heartbreaking. It’s sad that things like this happen but it is a blessing that there are places and people like the ones that I visited that have taken them in to care for them. The whole trip has been a wonderful experience so far and I am looking forward to a little rest and stage two of this little adventure which has already taken me to Saigon and will lead me to Hanoi for the finale.

Cheers!

Happy Liz-Mas

Monday, December 7th, 2009

I hope everyone had a wonderful and fulfilling Thanksgiving. Now that all of the leftovers are gone and the chaos of Black Friday has passed, I imagine that most of you are getting into the Christmas spirit. I am certainly feeling the holiday cheer as you can see from my latest photo shoot for the chilipoker promotion.

This holiday season I am back in Vietnam for the fifth time this year to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate. It’s 4:30am in the city and in a couple of hours i will be on my way a remote area that I have been to and helped out before. I have arranged for supplies to arrive around the same time I do. I am excited to go back but things will be different this time due to the Typhoon Ketsana that they endured in late September that caused massive flood and wind damage to the area. It turns out that a typhoon is no different than a hurricane. According to Wikipedia: “The terms hurricane and typhoon are regionally specific names for a strong “tropical cyclone” hurricane (the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the dateline, or the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E) typhoon (the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline)”

No matter what the storm is called or how it is classified it did severe damage to a large area that already had little and now they have even less. I am in high hopes that I can make a difference to some of the people that have never know luxury and have had what they do consider “luxuries” taken away from them by mother nature.

After my seven days in the area affected by the typhoon I will continue to try to brighten the lives of those who do not have much. As promised I am donating 20% of my winnings from the money finishes of the WSOP Europe and the BC poker championship but that is actually not enough to do all that I want to accomplish. My other plans are to visit the countryside and grant 30 kids their Christmas wishes and devote a day to the elders. I am also excited to revisit the Thien Binh Catholic Orphanage where I had my best birthday ever. Those children and elders truly are inspirational. I wrote a blog about that experience and if you have not read it yet you have some catching up to do. It was such an amazing moment in my life.

I did get some time to myself when I first arrived in Vietnam and I spent it at the temple with my dad. Even though he has made his way into the after life I cherish every moment I get to spend with him. It was a peaceful time of reflection that I really needed so I could prepare for the days to come.

“Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting.” This is a quote that I used recently on facebook but I like it and I think it is very fitting for the holidays and it should be observed year round.

Cheers!