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» Thuy Doan Interview

By: Zimba
August 16th, 2010 (12:38pm)

Thuy DoanThuy Doan, 24, has a very interesting and inspiring poker story to share.  She was born in Vietnam and moved  to Virginia when she was 7.  She lived there until the age of 23 when she packed up everything to move to the west coast and focus on live poker.  She has been playing NLHE on and off for over four years; online the first three years and now live predominately. She is a regular blogger for PokerRoad where she shared her story of her battle with cancer, losing a leg and remaining positive in the face of adversity.

We heard on the ESPN WSOP coverage recently that you attended college with the Dang brothers, Hac and Di (trex313 and urindanger)? Is this how you were introduced to poker?

The Dang brothers were 4th years at the University of Virginia when I was a 1st year. We had a lot of friends in common so I hung out with them quite a bit. They were a part of a group of friends that played online cash games and it was through spending a lot of time with the guys within that group that I found my way into poker. The Dangs were and still are everyone’s idols. They burned through the stakes while everyone learned gradually and they were supportive enough to help us out along the way. It’s been really inspiring watching them grow from $5/10 on Party Poker to playing nosebleeds.

Thuy, share with us your poker development and journey, playing as high as $25-50?Thuy at  table

Oh no, I’m definitely not a feared regular at $25/50. I only play that high if taking a shot in a good game.

My usual game is live $10/20 NL. My biggest edge is that I have very good emotional control. In the beginning it was an entirely different story. I began at NL25 on Party Poker as a total scrub trying to clear bonuses. I was passionate about the game from the very beginning due to a combination of factors: the potential to make money and pay for rent without getting a part-time job, the fact that it’s so complex and challenging, and the similarities to a video game. This is a tad embarrassing to admit but I had some experience sitting in front of a computer for hours clicking away, trying very hard to move up levels. That’s right, in a time very distant from now I played Starcraft. You can laugh, it’s ok.

It took me about a year to go from being a total newbie in low stakes to multi-tabling mid-stakes. I moved up and down quite a bit my first 3 years, up due to learning quick while the games were soft and down due to them becoming tougher over time. During the summers I spent quite a bit of time in Vegas. That’s where I started meeting more people in the community, learning about the business side of poker and venturing into the live games. I realized that if you’re a good female poker player it’s an excellent business decision to play live tournaments and cash games for exposure and networking. After college, which was a year ago, I made the transition.  I had to take some time off for medical reasons, but now I’m back to chasing the dream of making it big in the poker world.  

Thuy staredownDo you like to play online too or prefer to play live? Which do you think is easier and why?

Both have their pros and cons. Online poker has significantly more action, helps you learn faster, and allows you to travel or live wherever without much hassle. The idea of being able to go all over the world with your laptop, play whenever you want and be able to support yourself is probably most people’s dream. Live poker is softer because people haven’t played as many hands but it’s dreadfully boring, limits your freedom to work when and where you want, and worst of all there’s no “turn off chat” button.

Could you give our readers some advice in terms of rising up and down through the stakes?

Bankroll management is essential, as well as something that most people struggle with which is moving down in stakes if the time calls for it. I’ve certainly had a difficult time with it in the past. It’s tough on your ego and to let go of inflated expectations.
Thuy at WSOP
You were featured on this year’s ESPN WSOP coverage. How did it feel to play in front of the cameras and share your story with the world? Are you excited for your next TV table?

It was really cool making my ESPN debut and hearing from my friends and family who watched it. My mom was really proud. I’m glad that the story got out. There are a lot of people who have challenges of their own and if they can remember that a good attitude is everything then it’ll help significantly. I’m still setting my sights on making the final table of some televised tournament. Hopefully by then I’ll learn how to smile for the cameras and actually take down a couple pots. =)

You have proven yourself as a very strong, tenacious person who is able to overcome adversity and come out on the other side with a smile on your face. Can you tell us how you maintain such a great attitude and strength?

I always look at the big picture and overall I’m incredibly grateful for the life I live. Being able to move to the U.S., escape poverty and receive an education is like winning the lottery. Losing my leg to cancer was horrific but if I was just a poor Vietnamese village woman with the diagnoses, I’d probably be dead. You just have to keep some things in perspective. Being grateful and positive about your life in the big picture certainly helps to stunt the emotional pain of losing days at the poker table.

Thuy rehabs her legSome players complain about tough draws, bad beats and other silly things. Do you think it is important to be able to really keep everything in perspective... that poker is really one long session?

It would probably help if players stop becoming so emotionally invested in winning at the tables every single day. Learn to care about other things and other people so that if things don’t go well at the table you can think “It’s ok, I have a lot of other things in my life that are going well. Poker is just money.”

What do you like to do when not playing poker?

Cooking is my favorite hobby. I also like learning languages, shopping, shooting pool, etc. Right now I’m working on Spanish and Vietnamese.

Can you tell us something about yourself that most people probably do not know?

I can raise both my eyebrows one at a time, in a “Do you smell what the Rock is cookin?” fashion.  -.^

Do you have any amusing stories from the WSOP this year that you can share with us?

This wasn’t from this year but in 2008 I was telling a non-poker friend about how I was knocked out of the final table of a WSOP event with a pocket pair versus overcards. I told her it was a coin flip. She gasped and said “What! They flipped a coin?”
Thuy Doan's shaved head friends
How important is it to have a close group of poker friends to share strategy with?

Having poker friends that you communicate with on a regular basis is very important. They help you fix your leaks and think about different aspects of the game. This is why men have an edge in learning the game over women, because it’s much easier for guys to form a close-knit group.

What are some the key mistakes you see players making at the larger cash games? What can others do to capitalise on such mistakes?

I would tell you but then you know what would have to happen. -.^

Congratulations on the launch of your own website One element of it is your interest and involvement in real estate. Can you tell us a little about that and the services you offer?

I’ve been involved with real estate since I was 18. I’ve just recently launched a Realtor matchmaker service which is an out-of-the-box concept that very few other agents are pursuing. It’s a free service for buyers and sellers who are ready to hire a Realtor but don’t want the hassle of looking for one. You don’t want to pick a random name from the phonebook and it’s a pain to call around talking to different people. My team does all the work for you. We interview agents and pre-screen them for things such as expertise and ethics violations. We pick one that is a good match and put you two in contact. If you like him/her and make a real estate transaction through them then we receive a thank you kickback from the agent. I’m pledging a percentage of my profits from this to a charity that helps children who need prosthesis.


(*Thuy recommends as a wonderful charity run by Jordan Thomas who lost legs in a boating accident and devoted his life to helping others)

During your poker career have you ever experience a remarkable downswing? If so how did you deal with it? Do you have specific bankroll rules you adhere too?

There was one colossal downswing a while ago that nearly broke me. After rapidly moving up stakes online I lost over 2/3 of my bankroll over months. I was emotionally destroyed and was sick at even the thought of poker. I stopped playing for a while, couldn’t watch it on TV, and stopped talking to my poker friends. It seemed like a good idea to cash out the rest of my money and quit. I decided to be stubborn and work on my leaks instead and things turned around. I don’t have a specific bankroll rule right now but I always keep it at a level that I’m comfortable with.
Dwan with shaved head
What is the best thing about playing poker professionally? And what is the worst?

The best thing about playing poker professionally is the ability to have so much control over your life. The worst is the lack of financial stability which includes healthcare benefits.

Did you have any a-ha moments in your career where suddenly everything clicked and you were able to just crush opponents? Does being a female player make things different - would you have any advice specifically for other female players?

I can’t pinpoint the exact moments when more advanced poker concepts clicked but I would guess that the early ones happened after playing for a year. This is probably when I started thinking more about the other person’s point of view than mine. When you’re a female, people are more willing to help you learn the game. I would advise anybody to get some mentors and women specifically to not be afraid of getting into the game just because it’s male-dominated.

Thuy in white jacketFor all our single male readers out there, can you tell us if you are single? What kind of guys do you like and what do they need to do to win you over?

I’m single :). Guys who are down to earth, good conversationalists, funny, smart, confident yet humble, treat people well, take care of themselves, ambitious, have a good outlook on life, and appreciate a good cook are attractive.

If you could leave our readers with one piece of advice for poker and for life what would it be?

Don’t limit yourself to just being or becoming a good poker player. It’s one thing to be proud of but don’t let it be the only thing.

What is your favorite fun poker phrase/slang/acronym?


If the poker industry disappeared completely, what other career would you most like to attempt?

I'd probably want to open a restaurant.

If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?

Mom’s Vietnamese-style pork ribs and home-made eggrolls. Maybe a whole bucket of them so that I could go into a food coma. I can’t eat this stuff right now due to a food bet.

When your poker career is over, what would you most like to be remembered for?

For being a tough player that was respected and who helped to represent the poker community in a good light.


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