Jinho “YellOw” Hong is a former professional StarCraft player who plays under the alias YellOw. In 2012, he became the coach of the Xenics Storm League of Legends pro gaming team. He has now made a transition to poker and is sponsored by the online brand J88Poker.
Somuchpoker: First of all, congratulations! 2019 has been a great year for you as a poker player. You won the Asian Poker Tour Championships Event in Taiwan and the J88Poker Tour Shanghai Main Event.
How do you feel about these first successes on the Asian Poker Circuit?
Jinho “YellOw” Hong: Although, I have been playing poker for a long time, I didn’t expect much because I lacked experience in live tournaments. So, getting such good results right away makes me really happy and I look forward to my future results.
SMP: Before entering the Asian poker scene, you were a famous StarCraft player playing at the highest level under the name, “YellOw”.
Can you tell us more about this “life” before poker?
J.H: My pro gamer career started at the age of 19 and I played until I was 30. So, for about 10 years I was a pro gamer playing under the ID, YellOw, and now many people still remember me as YellOw.
After retiring from being a pro gamer I’ve been working as a TV broadcaster for about 5 years, and now I’ve challenged myself to become a poker player.
SMP: How were you introduced to the game of poker? Was it via your former rival, Lim Yo Hwan, “Boxer”?
J.H: No, he didn’t introduce me to the game. I’ve met a lot of poker players before Lim Yohwan made his debut as a professional poker player. However, I had to delay this challenge because of my primary job in Korea, and still I wanted to do it before it was too late. So, that is how I started this challenge. I’ve been playing online poker a lot on PokerStars and some other sites since the beginning of the 2000s.
SMP: Both of you have joined the J88poker team. How is being part of this team helping you as a poker player?
J.H: J88Poker is helping me to participate in live tournaments in many ways. And, of course, I am trying to be more responsible and get good results. 🙂
SMP: Do you have a mentor to help you with this transition to poker?
J.H: When I first started playing poker, I was greatly influenced by the poker player, Kim Gab Yong. At the EPT Prague he finished 9th in the Main Event, and also won a side event. He is a marvelous Korean player.
SMP: You are not the only one who has made this transition. A lot of top professional video game players have done the same, Elky, etc. How do you explain that?
J.H: There are many reasons why pro gamers are transitioning to poker; they tend to like match games, psychological warfare, and, well, I don’t do it much anymore, but before, I used to play multi-tables online, up to 16 tables at the same time. Pro gamers often do that, as they are good at playing simultaneous games.
SMP: In the past 10 years, we have seen esports booming, with more and more money awarded as prizes during the biggest competitions. At the same, time poker is growing far more slowly, and even stagnating, in some parts of the world.
What is your view on that? You do not have any regrets that you’ll miss what could be the “golden age” of esports?
J.H: Esports or poker, I believe both fields will have good times. It’s true, esports is now closer to the golden age than at the time of my pro gamer career, but I think my age has already passed the point of being an elite esports gamer. For poker players, on the contrary, there is no age limit, and it’s a merit of poker. So, I am not sad that I am playing poker now. Right now, it’s much more interesting for me. 🙂
SMP: In your country, Korea, you have been celebrated for your achievement as a pro gamer. Do you think you can get the same recognition if your poker career keeps growing, or do you think poker has a different image in Korea?
J.H: In Korea, the perception of poker is a little bit more negative than in other countries. That’s why, in Korea, it’s difficult to say that you are a poker player. So, I hope that Korean players get more prizes at the WSOP, that will change the perception of poker in Korea to a more positive one.
SMP: As mentioned at the start of this interview, you had a great year at the poker tables. What are your goals for 2020? And, speaking more generally, what you would like to accomplish as a player?
J.H: At first, I didn’t have big expectations for live tournaments in 2019, but I managed to get good results, as the field was mostly Asian.
However, I would like to have a bigger dream for 2020. My goal is to join the European / International circuit and to play a major Final Table with great players.
Hong Jinho is currently a team pro of j88poker.com, an Asian online poker platform. Besides that, they also have their own offline series – J88PT. The next one will be held in the Philippines on March 24 – 29.