ON THE BUTTON: Maria Ho

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Maria Ho has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. She recently signed as a spokesperson for WinStar Casinos; she contributed a chapter to Winning Women of Poker, and she scored the largest cash in World Series history for a woman. Ante Up’s Chris Cosenza caught up with her at a book signing to see just how she got to this point in her career.

How long have you been playing poker and how’d you get started? I’ve been playing for almost 10 years, professionally for six. I got started in college with some friends who had a home game. I decided to crash their home game and I was kinda beating that game on a regular basis. So I said to myself, “I don’t want to keep taking money from my friends; I’m gonna go take some strangers’ money.” Luckily I went to college where there was an Indian casino so I could play when I was 18.

What’s the best poker advice you’ve ever gotten? You can’t win the tournament in the first hour or the first level or the first day. And I think sometimes players kinda forget that and they get panicked or desperate when they lose some chips, but I think it’s always a marathon mentality, not a sprint. I’ve always taken that to heart.

What advice would you give to an aspiring poker pro? They have to realize there’s this allure of a lifestyle associated with poker that I don’t think is represented of what poker entails. It can take a lot of discipline. It can be really stressful and can be really emotional for some people. I would tell people to realize this is still a job at the end of the day. You need to put in the hours; you need to keep working at your game. You can’t ever just become complacent. … It can be fun and, of course, kind of exciting, but never get too caught up in all the rest of the stuff and just worry about playing the best game you can play.

Speaking of advice, you contributed a chapter to the new book Winning Women of Poker. Tell me about the book and what that experience was like. The book is basically a poker book for women written by women. Being a woman in poker is a very different perspective. I think it’s a great idea for other women to be able to gain the perspective of women poker players who have been doing this for a long time. I know when I started out I would have loved to have a book that let me know what to expect. I totally was thrust into this world and it’s so different for a woman than it is for a man. That’s why I was so excited about this book; it was such a great collaborative effort between so many great female poker players. … So I’m really proud to be a part of it and the fact that all of the proceeds go to Poker Gives, so that’s a great bonus.

How devastating was the online shutdown for you? It wasn’t incredibly devastating. I’ve always been a live player to begin with. Obviously I played online, but it wasn’t something that I ever … really thought would be there forever. We all knew that there was a lot of legislation going around and a lot of questions to the legality of playing online. I just never put all of my eggs in that basket and I’m happy that I didn’t. It’s very unfortunate for the state of poker, but as the numbers have shown at the WSOP, the numbers have been higher actually than previous years, so it proves poker is just in a different climate right now and people will have to adapt to that. But it’s not dead by any means just because online poker is gone.