Meet Li Yan: one of China’s passionate poker players

Is there such a thing as a recreational poker professional? Seems like an oxymoron because either you are a recreational player or a pro. How can you be both?

With poker booming in China, more and more players are being exposed to the game, and many are falling in love with it. These players join big poker events and sometimes run very well however their daily bread and butter is not poker They participate in the tournaments because they “love it” and any chance they get to play, they do.

In today’s Chinese poker scene, one player stands out for her passion for the game, Li Yan, who has been running very well for the past two years.

Li Yan – Photo Neil Stoddart (Courtesy of PokerStars)

For Li Yan’s love of the game

Alike every poker player, Li Yan is in it because she loves the game. She tasted her first big poker tournament in 2014 at the APPT Beijing and since then, has been seen battling it out at the felt against some of the best poker professionals in the world. However, despite the joy that poker gives her, it still comes secondary to what really keeps her busy in life, being a stockbroker. Both professions are similar to some extent, handling bankroll, trading cash/chips, and looking for that small edge in a highly competitive market, but since it takes priority, Li Yan only plays poker when the time and opportunity arises. And she only plays tournament poker. In a brief chat with Somuchpoker in Beijing, she expressed,

“I love tournaments more than cash games because every level in a tournament is a different game. I like tournaments because it is challenging. I think cash games are so boring.”

Li Yan’s impressive stats

As a rec-pro, Li Yan ranks quite high in her country despite having just started a few years back. She is currently ranked 40th in China’s All-Time-Money list. One of  Li Yan’s first big cashes was in April 2015 at the APPT Seoul where she came in 5th place at the High Rollers event for a US$28,256 payout. That was her first five-digit score and from there it would only accumulate.

On the road to her next big payday were several four-digit sums until the next APPT Seoul came rolling around in June 2016. She once again attacked the High Rollers table and finished in 2nd place for a huge US$67,283 scoop. By the way she was playing, it was just a matter of time before she finally landed a title and trophy to shelf. And she did.

Li Yan – Photo Long Guan (Courtesy of PokerStars)

In August 2016, she stormed into APPT 10 Manila ready for another attempt at the High Rollers event and this time, amidst her many fans and friends cheering at the rail, she nailed it for her best poker moment. Li Yan shipped in the US$74,889 first prize, her largest payout to date.

This year, Li Yan has already cashed in eight events including a 7th place finish at the inaugural PokerStars Championship Macau HKD 42,400 High Roller event pocketing US$67,037.

Li Yan’s poker idols

While Li Yan has her share of fans that idolize her, she too has her own poker idols. One of them is her best friend, poker pro Celina Lin. Li Yan told us that she talks to friends to improve her game, and what better friend to share and discuss with than Lin to help her along the way.

Another poker idol and friend is Steve O’Dwyer who is one of the highest ranked poker pros in the world. Last month, O’Dwyer won the PokerStars Championship Macau Super High Roller event and cashed in over US$1 million. His totem charm was a mango given to him by Li Yan who caringly felt he was hungry. Upon giving it to him, she told him it was a “lucky mango”. Li Yan shared that whatever gift she gives him brings good luck. And it was indeed.

Li Yan’s poker ambitions

Although Li Yan doesn’t play as often as her friends, she still has poker goals. In addition to winning many more events, she aims to reach the GPI top 100 worldwide. Although she still has a long way to go, at the moment she is at a respectable 413th rank, if her passion for the game continues to be at high gear, then it will no doubt fuel her to reach her goals as we’ve seen these past few years.

Article by Triccia David

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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