Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Chiliconnect, Charity & Lady Gaga!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

There’s been a lot happening in the last few weeks! Be prepared. I’m going to cover a lot in this space today. 😉

First, I have to talk about the major excitement at Chilipoker. Well, it’s big news in all of poker, really! Chilipoker just released its new innovation called Chiliconnect. Bill Rini talked about it on his blog before it was launched or connect to Chilipoker. He talked about seeing the sample of the program that let the players connect to Facebook and Twitter from their online poker accounts so they could post updates as they played, but that wasn’t the best part. The best thing was that players can make side bets as they play. They can do last-longers, sell their action and buy action from others, and make all kinds of side bets. Bets are accepted or rejected and settled by the program, meaning the accounts are paid automatically.

Wow, right?! In the words of Charlie Sheen, that is so winning!

I can’t tell you how exciting this is. I play on Chilipoker all the time, but it’s always too hard to make side bets with people who are on the other side of the world. This solves that problem and makes every game you play so much more interesting. Even placing a $1 or $2 last-longer bet with someone at your table or in a tournament makes that game more fun. The software is so easy to use, and everything is explained so well. There is so much more to this than just Facebook and Twitter updates, and I hope players will love the betting action as much as I do! I really think that part of the software will be the biggest hit of all.

The best part of this is that Chilipoker listened to its players. They tuned in to what players wanted and made it happen. They worked on this for a long time, got the input of many players, and did something that no other online poker site has been able to do. Chiliconnect is the best thing to happen to online poker in so long, and I’m so proud to represent the site that did something so great!

Second, I recently attended the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational at ARIA. I’ve been a special guest at MJ’s charity events before, and I knew I couldn’t miss this one. Well, actually, I didn’t take part in the golf part, but I did go to ARIA and was there till the tournament ended. It was fun! There were two groups of players, Group A for the amateur players, and Group B for the celebrities. I watched everything play down at the final table, and Michael actually played well! He ended up coming in third place.

Next up was something I did at the beginning of the month that was just amazing. I went to the Lady Gaga concert at the MGM Grand here in Vegas! I’ve always liked her music, and was really excited about the show, but I had no idea how awesome it would really be!

When I first got my tickets, I wasn’t very happy about the seats, so I spoke with one of my host and ended up getting second row in front of the stage. It was a perfect view! I brought my friends Joy and Ruth with me, we later saw Mike Matusow and his girlfriend Annie LePage there also, we all were seated in the same section. And we all just loved the show! I have to say that this was truly one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, and I’d see her again in a minute. She was a great performer and never took a break to rest once, only took a few minutes between some songs to change outfits. She danced and sang the whole time, and she also gave a lot of speeches to her audience. Those were motivational with great messages, and she seemed to speak from experience, so sincere and genuine. She said things like “You are beautiful!” and “You are perfect!” She was very specific about telling people to be proud of themselves and of who they are, and that’s a message that a lot of people need to hear these days. And on top of everything, she looked fabulous! 🙂

I urge anyone who likes Lady Gaga to try to go to her concert. She’s incredible! I tried to get some pictures, but they just don’t capture the whole event. You have to be there to see it all! I also tried to take some videos to post to Twitter, but I was having problems doing that. I should’ve just taken some longer videos to post later, but my whole point was to try to give my friends an idea of how great it all was. Go to her concert if you can!

Another big thing on my plate lately has been Vietnam. You all know that I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to take care of the people in my home country. There are so many there with so little, very poor people who don’t even have enough rice to eat. And there are temples that need repairs. One of those temples came to my attention from a friend, Linh, who has helped me organize many of my charity visits and projects there. Several years ago, she told me that money was needed for a project, and I gave it to her. Later, she sent me some pictures of a temple, pictures of her and a monk – who turned out to be the master monk – holding things like paintings, plates and kitchen utensils, books, etc. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but later, Linh told me that my donation saved that temple from closing its doors due to damage caused by a hurricane and lack of finances and allowed them to buy everything that’s being used or seen at the temple. What an amazing feeling! Even better, I met the master monk at Chua Long Hoa on my last trip to Vietnam, and he emotionally told me that I saved this temple, a place that is his lifelong dream of a temple where people can come to learn Buddhism and pray. I felt extremely touched and honoured to have been given this opportunity to help.

It was then that I learned that the roof was leaking, and the whole top of the building was in horrible shape. In the room where the main Buddha is displayed, the roof leaks, flooding the room and raining directly on to the Buddha. I immediately told Linh that I wanted to contribute the money to replace the roofs. As the project went on, it was obvious that it was going to take more than a few repairs, so I told them to do everything necessary, including replacing some columns and main boards. It took a long time, but the whole project will now be done in a few weeks. I can’t wait to go see it. I just know that the master monk and the people who pray there are so happy, and that means everything to me!

I’m going to plan my next trip back to Vietnam for after the WSOP. It will be a good time to go. I not only want to see that temple, but I want to organize another praying ceremony for my dad and do some charity work while I’m there.

Speaking of poker, I was recently honored with a Maven Award from Women Poker Player Magazine. I had won the humanitarian award for my charity work, and I just received the crystal award yesterday. It was so fragile that they didn’t want to mail it, so Jane Goldberg drove to my lace in Las Vegas and hand delivered the award as she was afraid it might break if sent by postal! How very kind of her. It’s lovely.

Also in poker, I’m getting ready to head off to San Remo, Italy for the EPT stop there this month. After that, I’ll be back in Las Vegas for the 25K WPT World Championship at the Bellagio, and then it’s WSOP time! I’m going to hit the Series super hard this year. I’m very determined, and my focus will be better than in a long time. It’s definitely poker season, and I’m ready for it!

Cheers!

The Nicaraguans Who Touched My Heart

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

What a trip!

I just returned this weekend from my trip to Nicaragua with Shannon Elizabeth for the Feed the Children organization. I have to say that it was different than what I expected. My usual solo trips to Vietnam involve truckloads of food that feed entire towns, and I’m always able to help out in numerous ways. This charity mission tied my hands a bit, as I was there with a bigger organization and couldn’t personally help as many people as I wanted. But, Feed the Children is very well organized and the volunteers know what they’re doing, so it was a different experience. And the good part was that I got to know some of the people in the villages better and on a more personal level than I usually do. And the two girls who touched us the most were a gift that I couldn’t have imagined being more gratifying or inspiring. Overall, it was an amazing trip!

Let’s start from the beginning…

A few us of in the large group that was going were on the same connecting flight to Managua, including Ace Young, Ryan Young, Drake Bell, Thomas Scriven, Chelsea Staub and her girlfriend Kelly. We got there on the evening of the 10th and were escorted to the VIP lounge and was assisted with immigration and customs, which took about 30 minutes. We each had a separate private vehicle outside for each of us, and our group had about a dozen security guards surrounding us at all times. (We weren’t going to the safest parts of the country after all.) We arrived at the hotel, and I went to meet with Emma and the documentary production crew. Shannon didn’t arrive until an hour and a half later, but I shared with her our information about the girls we were to meet the following day. I was exhausted, though, and I had been feeling sick for two days, so I went to my room to get some sleep.

But there wasn’t much time to sleep, as we had to get up by 7:30am and be ready to leave the hotel by 9:00am. We were again greeted by private cars because each of us had different missions to do that day. It took about 40 minutes to get to the home of the two sisters that Shannon and I were to visit, and once we arrived, we had to park at the bottom of the hill because the dirt road leading to their house was full of huge potholes. We left the car behind and walked up the hill to meet the girls in the town of villa Nueva. Luckily, we had a translator with us because the family didn’t know a word of English, and we didn’t know much Spanish.

We entered their tiny, hot, stuffy, shack that was quite dirty but it was their home. They showed us around and told us about themselves and their lives, though some of the information we got from the Feed the Children organizers before we went to see them.

Luz Marina Sanchez was 11 and Yahoska Sanchez Perez was 13. The adorable girls were both in the fourth grade and went to school in the evenings because their days were filled with keeping house, running errands for the family, and taking risks in the dangerous streets just to take care of the family and village. The girls also spent time collecting aluminum cans from the streets and exchanging them for a little extra money for the family, and sometimes they went door-to-door selling bread to the villagers for money. They lived with their aunt, Dona Maria Luisa, who took them in eight years ago because their father died and their mother was under psychiatric care. The extended family all lived together, and with a cousin expecting a baby, there was going to be ten in the family, all living in a small hut made of sticks, old scraps of wood, and flattened tin cans. The aunt’s son-in-law was the only person working in the family and supporting all of them.

The situation immediately touched my heart because Shannon and I got to know the sisters, who were just the sweetest girls! We asked them about their lives – what they liked and disliked, what they wished for, etc. It was mostly Yahoska who did the talking; she was quite brave and talkative, while Marina was shy at first but eventually warmed up to us. They told us a lot about their lives. And when we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, Yahoska told us she wanted to be a lawyer. (Great goal!) Marina said she wanted to be a doctor, and when I asked her what kind, she said a pediatrician! I already had a vision in my mind before she said it of her as a pediatrician, which comes from the fact that I love children so much, but when she said it I almost fell off the bed! I felt an instant connection with little Marina.

At one point, we had a sad moment when Yahoska put her head down and sadly told us that she wished she could get a proper education so she could be what she wants when she gets older. She told us that she wanted to provide a better life for her family, be able to buy medication for her mom that would make her better, and keep her family from suffering. Then she pointed to the roof and said that their home was collapsing. (It was true; the wooden pole that held up the roof was moldy and weak.) They told us how they even sometimes sell their clothes for money just so they can eat.

We asked them about their parents, and they said their dad was out, as if they didn’t even know that he was dead. They referred to their caretaker aunt as their mom, who didn’t seem like a warm, loving person to us. But no matter what, when we asked them if they felt happy, they both smiled these huge smiles and said “Yes!” Knowing what a hard life they lead, their enthusiasm about being happy girls was even more touching.

After more than an hour of chatting with them, we got to surprise them with something from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. They delivered bunk beds for the girls, as well as school uniforms and school supplies. We told the girls we had a surprise and we told the girls to close their eyes and cover them with their hands. We led them to the front of their shack and showed them the bunk beds with new mattresses, and they got big smiles on their faces. They seemed happy but not as happy as we hoped! They both got on the bed and felt it, and Shannon and I went over to check out the mattresses, which looked more like bean-bag comforters than mattresses. We were a little disappointed, but we would try to change that later. But the girls were happy enough, and as we went to leave, Yahoska ran up to give Shannon a big hug and said, “God bless you!” We were almost in tears and left with the most amazing feeling of having gotten to know these two beautiful girls.

On our way back to the hotel, Shannon and I talked about doing something personal and special for the girls, something that would make them happy and help their wishes come true. As we were working out the details, we decided to head out to a local restaurant for a meal with others in the group and then do some sightseeing. We went to a place with active volcanoes and then to a local market. We didn’t buy much, except Ace bought this UGLY devil’s mask. And on our way back to the hotel, about 15 minutes later, we got into a car accident! The security guards driving behind us rammed into our car by accident! We were all okay, but Shannon and I insisted to Ace that his mask had too much negative energy!

The next morning, the entire group went to the Feed the Children food center, and our group was rather large, including the production crew, Dean Cain, Drake Bell, Thomas Scriven, Kyle and Chris Massey, Chelsea Staub, David and Laura McKenzie, Ace and Ryan Young, Shannon, and me. We met a large group of kids who were given meals, and we saw how the center operates on a daily basis while we interacted with the kids. The crew took notice of how connected Shannon and I had become with Yahoska and Marina the day before, so they arranged for them to arrive at school early so we could feed them ourselves. That second day with the girls, they were more open, playful, and happy. Marina was much more talkative and attached to me, which was the greatest feeling! We played with the girls and the other kids for awhile. When we were supposed to leave, Luz Marina, asked me something very strange and unexpected. She asked me if I could give her some money for notebooks. It made me wonder if her aunt hadn’t asked her to say that so she could just get money. I told Marina I didn’t have any money but I was sure she’d be fine and very happy soon. When I went to say goodbye to Yahoska, she hugged me and asked me the same question Marina did! That made me sure that their aunt was just trying to get them to ask me for money. So sad! I told her the same thing, that I didn’t have any money. And the sweet girl that she is, she grabbed my hand and drew a picture on it – a star, a heart, and two rounded lines on each side of the star. I had to take a picture of it!

We left the school to return to the hotel, and Shannon and I immediately went across the street to the hotel to shop for the items the girls wished for and anything they might need or want. We bought it all! And luckily for us, our eight security guards were able to help carry the bags! LOL. We bought new mattresses, bedding sheets and pillows, Barbie dolls, notebooks, backpacks, reading books, kids’ story books, a bible (Yahoska had an old bible in her school bag that morning), pencil sharpeners, crayons, markers, and English language books. Then we had our driver take us straight to the girls’ home to surprise them. They had no idea we were coming, so they just lit up with the biggest smiles when they saw us and ran up to us with huge hugs. They were so happy just to see us, and when we said we had gifts, they were even happier. We showed them their new things, and their eyes were wide and happy! The look on Marina’s face when I showed her the notebooks was just priceless! I’ll never forget those faces that day.

We went with the girls back to their sleeping area and helped them with their mattresses, showed them how to put the sheets on their beds properly, and sat with them as they read their books. They are so smart and read so well, and it was obvious how much they loved reading and learning. We took the price tags off everything, including the dolls, so their aunt couldn’t take them and sell them. It was no guarantee that she wouldn’t do that, but we really could only pray that she allowed the girls to keep their gifts. The Feed the Children social worker who was with us spoke to the girls in Spanish, and she told Marina that I will sponsor her and told Yahoska that Shannon will sponsor her. They jumped up and down, smiled from ear to ear, and gave us the biggest hugs!

Monica, the social worker, then asked the girls some questions. Yahoska was asked if she would ever forget Shannon, and she said, “No, I’ll never forget!” Marina was asked what makes her the happiest in her life, and she said, “The love that they have given me today.” Just to hear that from such a shy little girl was so touching… By that time everyone was in tears, and the girls cried as they hugged us. Yahoska kept asking us to “please don’t go!” but we had to leave. I should also mention that Feed the Children gave the aunt a brand new stove for cooking, which will hopefully keep her happy for awhile.

We asked the girls to write to us and let us know how they’re doing in school and life and how they’re progressing, and we told them we would write letters to them, too. I can’t tell you how I’m looking forward to writing the first letter and hearing back from them! There were so many tears during those days – happy and sad – but those personal visits with the girls were the highlights of the trip for sure! I still can’t stop looking at the pictures and thinking of ways to help the girls achieve their dreams and have the lives they deserve.

Anyone who wants to help Feed the Children can go to www.FeedTheChildren.org. And I encourage anyone who can do it to go on a mission, meet these children face to face, and see their lives for yourselves. It will change your life, I promise you!

Cheers!

Feed the Children

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The relaxation after the World Series of Poker has been wonderful. 🙂

It’s hard to even realize how tough the WSOP grind can be until it’s over. Suddenly, you don’t have a tournament to race to, you’re not spending thousands of dollars every few days on a tournament, and you’re not fighting every germ you come into contact with. It’s always fun to play a lot of poker and see friends that you don’t see most of the year, but the rest period after it’s all over is very calm and centering.

In the last few weeks, I did take a break from Las Vegas to visit some friends in Los Angeles, and I even got to spend some time shopping, partying, among many other things with my very close girlfriend Shannon Elizabeth. And it was then that I made a decision about where I’m going to spend some time in the next few weeks.

Nicaragua!

I was considering doing some charity work in Vietnam, but when Shannon talked to me about her upcoming trip to Nicaragua for Feed the Children, I was so excited to make the trip with her. I’ll get back to Vietnam in the next few months, I’m sure, but this new adventure gives me the chance to help other people in need as well. We’re going on an aid mission for this nonprofit organization, and we’ll be helping children by providing food and clean water, helping create shelters, and giving them other supplies that they don’t have. It’s something most of us take for granted, but many children don’t even have food in their lives every day. Shannon is no stranger to doing charity work, and I figure that both of us together can do some great things!

(photo courtesy of FeedtheChildren.org)

Another exciting thing about this trip is that Associated Television International is working with Feed the children to shoot a documentary about this trip. This 60-minute documentary will give people a first-hand look at our experience, seeing the poverty and helping make their lives a little better. But the major point of the documentary will be to show the rest of the world what kinds of problems exist in these parts of the world and what needs to be done to help.

For more information about Feed the Children and how you can help, visit www.FeedTheChildren.org.

And I leave in a few days! I’ve got my shots to prevent me from getting any of the local diseases… Ouch! I hate getting shots! But I know it’s all for the right reasons. I’m so looking forward to doing this project and getting involved in helping the people of Nicaragua.

Thanks for all of the recent birthday wishes, as it really made my day even more wonderful! The most precious gift I received, in addition to the love from everyone, was this lovely Lakshmi statue and some meditation items from Shannon. So sweet! After she helped me schedule an immediate appointment for Jace to see her vet to handle a problem with his breathing, which turns out to be asthma, we ended up going out to dinner for sushi that night. Shannon was so considerate on my birthday, understanding that I wanted to keep it low-key, even though she surprised me with good friends Tracy Wagner and Matt Mazzant showing up to dinner! It was a wonderful birthday, and big thanks to the three of them for making it extra special!

I think this year is going to be a good one for me, and once I get back from Central America, I’ll be preparing to get back to poker with the first few events in Europe. It should be an interesting few months, and I’ll keep you updated as best I can!

Cheers!

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!

The BEST Birthday Gift Ever!

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

My second stop on my six-week travel venture around the globe was Vietnam. I wanted to start off my trip by doing what I love to do more then anything else…helping charitable causes and doing what I can to make someone else’s life a little bit easier and if what I do brings a smile to persons face, that just makes it that much more fulfilling for me.

However, this trip it was those I was trying to help that helped me in a way that I am truly grateful for and they made a special day in my life the most memorable day for me so far…MY BIRTHDAY!

Believe it or not, I have never been the kind of person that goes out and has a party every year August 2 comes around. I don’t find anything wrong with anyone that wants to celebrate their birthday and have a big party. I just have never had that same urge. I usually spend my birthday with family and close friends doing something low key. And the times I am traveling during my birthday, I usually spend it alone in my hotel room reflecting on things that has happened in my life and the things I can do to change my life for the better before my next birthday comes around. I am not telling everyone this so you feel sad or bad for me because I am alone on that day, it is a choice I make and it is how I like spending my birthday.

This year was different though. This year I got the best birthday gift ever! I was at my hotel in Saigon when a couple of my close friends asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday. I explained to them just as I explained above about what I normally do on my birthdays. But I told them this year I want to do something a little bit different. I told them, I want to help others on my birthday. I don’t want to spend it alone and I don’t go out partying but I do want to do something that will bring joy to others on that day.

After talking with my friends, one suggested I visit this orphanage he knows about that is in need of money so the children in the orphanage can go to school and get an education. He told me the place was about a 2-hour drive from Saigon and that the Sister that takes care of the place and the people there would appreciate any donation. I spoke with my friend some more and got the details I needed about things they do there. I knew after our conversation, I not only had to go meet these people but I had to go there and give them any kind of help and aide I could. Donating money is not a problem and I know that always helps but I wanted to do more. I then asked my friend to set up a time we could be there on August 2 and I asked him to not let them know that my purpose for being there was to donate—I wanted to surprise them.

Aside from the monetary donation I planned on giving them so the children there could get proper schooling, I arrange to have 2 truckloads of 100 lbs rice, a truckload of cooking oil, and a truckload of milk to be brought in with me. I was very excited to get to our destination the morning of my birthday. Honestly, I cannot recall ever being that excited about it being my birthday. And I believe that is because I really wasn’t excited about what day it was—I was excited about what I was doing that day.

When I arrived at the Thien Binh Catholic Orphanage, I was the one that got the surprise of a lifetime!

I was greeted by 130 smiling, laughing, excited kids and the gracious woman that has been running the orphanage since 1972 “Sister 7” (that is what I was asked to call her). I could not believe my eyes. I looked at my friend and asked if he’d told them why I was there and what I was bringing. He simply replied, “No, you asked me not to and I didn’t.”

Not really knowing what was going on and what I may be interrupting, I slowly got out of the car. I could see that they had set up what looked like some kind of celebration or party so I turned to my friend with a puzzled look on my face and he simply said, “Oh, I did tell them today was your birthday and they know who you are so they wanted to surprise you.”

I was not only immensely touched but I was speechless. And as I got closer to the table they had set up, I saw it. They had a HUGE birthday cake for me! On it was “Happy Birthday Liz” with a picture of the Queen of Hearts. I could not believe it. I have never gotten a birthday gift that was that thoughtful and it truly was priceless for me. And to add icing to the cake, all of the kids sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Sister 7 (who I am told use to be a Princess that lived in the royal palace of Thailand) then wished me happy birthday and gave me many good blessings. I thanked her and gave her the money her orphanage needed so the kids there could go to school.

I also spent that morning meeting the kids and talking with them as we handed out the cake I cut. I then went to the trucks that had come in with the rice, cooking oil, and milk I arranged to have brought there and helped unload them. I wanted to make sure the orphanage got what I arranged to be delivered and that everything was there for them.

Once all of the unloading was done, I got a chance to tour the orphanage and it was an awakening moment for me. This orphanage is not only for children, but for mentally handicapped adults, and elders as well. Those living there range in ages from 6 months to 80 years old. The children that are brought there either lost both of their parents or were abandoned by them. The elders that remain there either have no family to care for them or like the children, abandoned by the family they do have. Sister 7 has maintained the orphanage with the help of those that have grown up with her there and the influences she has that will give aide to help all of the people there.

As I walked around, I was so surprised to see so many happy and cheerful faces just living life, enjoying life, and full of joy. I say it was an “awakening” moment for me because I thought how do these people do it? I mean, how can someone be so fulfilled with a life in a small village with really no resources and nowhere to go? I could see what they have and it is so little compared to what I have and what I have seen in my life. I know that thought may sound horrible to some of you but I am being completely honest when I tell you that is what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking it because I think I’m better then anyone of them. I was thinking it because really I was seeing first hand how in so many ways, they are much better people then most of the people I know…including myself. I mean, they are true survivors and they know what it means to enjoy the smallest things in life. They cherish their life and they know how to live with what is given to them without expecting or chasing for more. And that is something I truly admire. 

This experience has truly made this the BEST birthday I have ever had!

Cheers!

Blame it on Rio

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

I’m back in Vegas everyone!! I participated in my first WSOP event a couple of days ago. Event # 14 $2500 Limit Holdem (6-handed). I quickly built my chip stack to 13k after the first four levels of play, but ended up busting out late in Day 1 after going completely card dead after the dinner break. I’ve been back in Las Vegas for a week now. I was hoping to play in a few earlier events but as soon as I drove back from LA, I woke up the next morning with a bad cold flu. I had to wait almost a week until I was able to play my first event.

(photo courtesy of MadeInPoker.com)
(photo courtesy of Pokernews.com)
(photo courtesy of Pokernews.com)
(13k chip stack after 4th level before dinner break)

Since my last update, I made a sudden decision during my last week stay in London to hop on a plane back to Vietnam and spent a week there. I did some charity work for a few days and had an opportunity to clear my head from poker. This was my goal for staying in Europe and Asia for the entire month leading up to the WSOP, to mentally prepare myself for the WSOP and get myself spiritually and emotionally in the right state of mind.

While I was travelling through Vietnam, I had some amazing personal experiences that are a little difficult to explain. Through charity work, family, and friends, I was able to meet some very wonderful people in my recent visits. Some of the most wonderfully charitable and humble people I have ever met in my life. I had some eye opening experiences and moments that I cannot possibly explain in a blog. Let’s just say that I have a deeper understanding for life and my place in this world. I’d like to send out a very special thank you to Thay Hung, anh Phan, chi Thuy, and anh Banh for all the things they have done for me to make this charity journey a complete success!

(Xin thành kính cảm tạ Thầy Hùng (Hà Nội), người đã dành trọn tâm huyết cho chuyến làm từ thiện này. Và cũng xin chân thành cảm ơn anh Phán, chị Thuý, và anh Bằng đã cùng chung sức cho chuyến từ thiện này.)

Now that I am back in the states again, I am excited about playing poker again. I rarely get to step completely away from poker and I feel completely refreshed and with a strong desire to play really hard and put in the effort that is necessary when you are trying to navigate through some of these very deep and competitive WSOP fields.

I’ve only had a chance to play 1 day so far but I’ve noticed a trend where there are more and more unrecognizable faces every year. I am pretty sure some of these guys and gals are experienced and successful internet players so I always need to take caution and not assume I have a huge edge just because I don’t recognize somebody.

I also want to congratulate my friend Steve Sung for winning Event #4 for his first WSOP bracelet. Steve took home a cool $771,000. I’ve known Steve for a couple years now and he’s a really good guy and I’m extremely happy for him. And what Phil Ivey did in Event #8 isn’t very surprising at all but still amazing. Ivey is truly an amazing player and I heard rumors that he won close to $10,000,000 on a side bet for winning the Seven to Deuce event.

I’m hoping to have some of the same kind of success too and right now, I’m trying to figure out which events I want to play next. I believe there are 56 events this year so I have a long ways to go still and I’m trying to pace myself. I don’t want to burn myself out and throw money away when I enter a tournament. I really want to win every tournament I play.

I think there are a number of different places you can get WSOP results and updates. Keep your eyes out for me. Hopefully, I’ll make some big waves in one of these events soon and generate some excitement. Until then, I will keep you posted on my progress. I look forward to catching up with old friends in Vegas and most importantly enjoying myself but don’t be fooled. I really want to win that bracelet and will give each and every WSOP event my absolute best effort.

Cheers!

Dear Santa,

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Merry almost Christmas everyone! I think I have been a pretty good girl this year so I wrote to Santa and requested a few things. Before I show you my letter to Santa I wanted to talk briefly about this past week.

I haven’t blogged in almost a week now because I was busy playing in the Bellagio Five Diamond Classic. I am not going to talk about it too much here but you can read about it on my Pokerlistings blog which will be posted in a couple days.

Also, it is snowing right now in Vegas! It’s providing me the inspiration to write this blog. I already feel more festive. Although, admittedly, I am not a big fan of snow!! I grew up in Colorado and I have had enough snow for an entire lifetime. But I will make an exception because it’s almost Christmas. The two certainly go hand in hand. Well on to the letter…

Dear Santa,

This is Liz Lieu and I wanted to wish you a happy and festive 2008. I hope this letter reaches you well. I have had quite a year but you already know that. I feel pretty confident I was a good girl this year so here is my wish list and I hope you can make as many of them come true as possible.

(photo courtesy of Phu Vu)

It would be nice if you could arrange for my dad to visit me in my dreams. I’m not sure if you can make that happen or not. Maybe that request should go to God. But just in case, I thought I would ask you as well. I sure do miss him and would love to have him appear in one of my dreams in 2009.

I would love to receive a little puppy. Something small and feisty! Maybe she can scare all of the mean and evil people away. I think a cute little puppy would make my Christmas.

I wish you could deliver a “Secret Santa” who can step up and help me in my Charity efforts in Vietnam. I go back to Vietnam 3x a year and I never have enough to give to help everyone. I get together with Charity organizations and I’d buy staples of supplies and deliver them to the most impoverished areas of Vietnam. I also deliver money and supplies to the Children’s Cancer Hospital, the Elder Orphanages, the Children’s Orphanages, and to numerous Temples. The poverty and suffering is very eye opening.

If you cannot deliver a charitable check, how about passing on some good luck to help me win a Main Event in 2009. Just a little luck is all. If you cannot deliver good luck, why don’t we just eliminate some of the bad luck? I’m getting a little weary of poker players doubling up on me through 2 outers or 5 outers. Thanks, I would appreciate it!! 

Okay this list is getting a little lengthy Santa, I have to apologize. But another great item you could pass along would be the opportunity for my immediate family to spend more time together. All of us. My mother, sister, nieces, nephews and brother-in-law.

I wish for happiness and health for my Mom. She is starting to get a little older and it would put my mind at ease if she could stay healthy for this coming year and is happy with life.

Okay, my last request is a little self indulgent but it would be a terrific gift for the upcoming Vietnam trip. I would love to take some professional quality pictures of everything I encounter on my charity missions. One of those Nikon or Canon professional cameras would be perfect for the job!!

 

Well Santa, I could keep going but I know you’re awfully busy and this will pretty much take care of it for now. I understand that you might not be able to give me everything I request and honestly I would be happy if you gave me any one of the items I requested. I can work on the rest of the wish list on my own but if you felt it in your heart to deliver me more than one of those gifts, I would be very appreciative. Thanks Santa!! I will leave some cookies and milk for you. If you can just turn the lights off on the way out. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Liz Lieu

The Best and Worst of Times

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

After a seventeen hour flight, I’ve finally arrived back in Vietnam on the 29th of July.  Eight months have already pass by since my last visit back to my homeland for my father’s 100th day praying ceremony, amazing how time flies by so quick. And now I find myself back again. This time is for the one-year anniversary of my beloved father’s passing and also I will be spending a few weeks doing my charity work.

I spent my first two days in Saigon to spend some time with my father at Lam Te Temple. Then I hopped on a flight to DaNang with my cousin, niece, and nephew for four days to start my charity journey along with my Teacher monk. As soon we got off the plane, I grabbed a taxi and headed straight to my Teacher monk’s temple to prepare all the necessities needed for the early trip the next day.

We were off and on the road by 6 am, drove five hours on rough bumpy roads to finally reach our destination. By the time we arrived, all the villagers were already at the temple waiting patiently.

Before I began passing out the much-needed food to these villagers, a ceremony was conducted by my Teacher Monk to honor me with blessings. I slipped into a blue robe throughout the ceremony which represents my status as his disciple. Being granted  Buddhism relics is one of the most precious gift for a temple, and I felt honored when my Teacher Monk showed me the 3 relics that was granted to his temple in DaNang.

It was time to distribute the supplies to the villagers when the ceremony ended. There are more than 200 homes in that village so it took us about 2 hours to give out all the supplies. As an appreciation, the villagers prepared a vegetarian feast at the temple for me and my family. This charity journey took over 15 hours on the road, but it was all well worth it!

It was my birthday the day after our charity trip. However, it wasn’t a good time for celebration because I’m here to mourn for my dad. I decided to go the temple to spend a peaceful birthday, my Teacher Monk conducted a four hour ceremony to pray for both my father and I.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my family, friends, and fans for all the kind birthday wishes. Much love to you all!

I spent the rest of that evening and the following day just playing online at Chilipoker. Then took an evening flight back to Saigon. I’m currently still in Saigon right now preparing a big praying ceremony for my dad’s anniversary on the 18th of August. I’ll be here till the end of the month, then I’m off to Macau. Take care till then.

Cheers!