Interview: Terry Fan

1. When and why did you start playing poker? When did you decide to play poker for a living?

I first learned about poker in 2005 during my student exchange year in the US. The next year I deposited $100 with my mom's credit card (Later, I told her it was for an book purchase—lol, please don't do this at home.) and played Party poker's Sunday 200k GTD and finished 4th for $14k USD. That's when I learned that if you're good at poker, you can really make some serious money. I didn't just jump into professional poker right away, though. I used that money, along with my WSOP 2006 ME min cash money, to pay for my tuition for a Master’s degree at Northwestern University. After I graduated, I actually got a job as a business consultant and worked for about 4 months while just playing poker on the side. During the corporate job period, I was making twice as much from poker as I was from my normal job, so I decided to quit and pursue my freedom and greater financial opportunity. That's why I turned pro in 2009.

2. What is your favorite playground? Online Poker? Live Poker? Tournaments? Cash Games?

At first I liked live poker, but then I started to like online poker more. Nowadays, I like a mix of both. When I first started, I was playing MTT and SNGS, but I switched to the online 6max cash game. It wasn't until late 2012 that I switched back to MTT (thus all the scores on after 2013). These days I definitely prefer to play both online and live MTT with very occasional cash games just to kill time.

3. You took part in the WSOP this year. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience?

It was the most unexpected and amazing WSOP grind in my entire poker career. I came to the series without expecting anything at all. Seriously, it's WSOP, where the best of the world gathers to compete for the bracelet and the grand prize, and a bunch of amateurs and recreational players come in and have fun. I know I'm not the best player in the world, and I still make a lot of mistakes here and there. All I was doing during the whole series was trying to make the best possible decision on the table and let the variance ride itself. I did alter my strategy a bit for the series, and it worked perfectly. On top of that, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the top players in the world and play with them, and I definitely learned a few things. Overall, I definitely improved as a player this summer, and the great run has given me a confidence boost.

4. You are currently the WSOP Asian Player of the Year according to the GPI. How do you feel about it? Will you take part in the WSOPE in Germany?

I feel amazing! Never did I really expect that, to be very honest with you. It's literally the best accomplishment ever in my career so far, and I hope this can inspire more Asian players to join the great game of poker down the road. Poker has definitely changed my life and made me a better person. I will participate the WSOPE because I've never been to Germany, and I think it's a great opportunity to add one more stop to my life resume.

Terry Phan

Terry Fan (Photo Antonio Abrego)

5. What are your goals as poker player for the next few years?

My goal as poker player for the next few years is to improve to my ability and promote the game to the world. I would love some opportunities to share with the world how poker can change one's life in a good way. It's a great way to change your life if you are not satisfied with whatever you are doing now. It's a great way to meet tons of awesome people from all walks of life. It's a great way to be your own boss while maintaining the freedom to focus on what actually matters to you (for example, family, important events, charity, your own passion, etc.). I know this because it has improved my life and made me a better person (yup, I was sort of a snob before, and poker has taught me a lot of life lessons.). One day I want to be able to use poker to give back to society and help those who are in need by contributing to the greater good.

6. Can you tell us a bit more about the Poker Scene in Taiwan?

I feel like the poker scene in Taiwan is improving slowly. There are no legalized casinos, but there are a bunch of home games running among friends, which is a good thing. Also, there are more and more people playing on Fulpot poker, which I represent, so that’s great. I hope to see a poker boom in Asia in the next few years, and if I can help that along in any way, I'd be more than happy to do so.

7. As poker player, what are your strengths/weaknesses?

To be quite honest, I think my strength is my ability to adapt and customize my strategy to each different opponent while keeping my basic strategy in check. I believe that my weakness is the math aspect of the game. There are players out there who know most of the math down to the decimals, but I rely mostly on observing my opponents at the table, getting into their heads, knowing what they are thinking and their strategy. I believe if I work harder on my weakness, my game will be more fine tuned than before.

8. Do you have any role models/mentors?

My mentor/role model in poker is the long-established pro, Nam Le, and his brother, Tommy Le. The Le family changed my life, and I owe them my life for what they have done for me, period. They helped me greatly when I was at my lowest. They believed in me, taught me many things about life, poker, and diet that made me the Terry Fan everyone sees now. To this date, I can't be more grateful for having them in my life. They are literally the best thing that has ever happened in my life thus far. To have someone willing to give you a hand when you need it the most is amazing. I wasn't the most likable guy before, and I was out of shape, fat, overweight, whatever you call it. Then, they flew me over to their house in LA to stay with them for two months to work on a poker project. During those 2 months, I picked up the Bulletproof diet (thanks Nam!), which changed my lifestyle and helped me lose 66 lbs in 11 months, and I learned a lot about how Nam and Tommy are so successful in life and poker. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn't have changed and had the results that I’ve had. I credit all of my success to their selfless help. They are also the reason why I keep telling myself that one day I want to be able to help people change their lives, as they helped me change mine before.

9. Money talk: What is your biggest score in a tournament?

What is your biggest pot won in Cash Games? My biggest score was the 2013 Macau Poker Cup win for about $228k USD (biggest Asia event ever held back then). My biggest pot won in a cash game was just about $20k USD on a 50/100 game on Fulpot poker.


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