The Double Threat of Maria Ho: Premier Poker Player & World-Savvy Traveler

Maria Ho: World Traveler and World-Class Poker Player
Maria Ho: World Traveler and World-Class Poker Player

Maria Ho, who is currently ranked in the world’s top 3 best female poker players (she’s been last woman standing in two World Series of Poker finals) is also extremely well traveled, globe trotting on frequent trips to Europe, the Caribbean, and Australasia. However, you might know her best as a contestant on the 15th season of award-winning CBS show, The Amazing Race.

Born in Taiwan, Maria moved to LA with her parents and sister at the age of 4. She attended the University of California at San Diego and received a degree in communication studies and a minor in law. It was then that she picked up poker, playing occasionally for fun with friends. After graduating, Maria moved back to Los Angeles and built enough confidence and skill set to pursue poker professionally. Taking the industry by storm just one year after launching her career, Maria played in The World Series of Poker and, in 2007 and was The Last Woman Standing, finishing 38th out of over 6,000 players. In 2011, she won the same title, finishing 27th at the World Series of Poker Europe main event, which—to date—makes her the first and only player to ever hold both titles at the 2 tournaments’ main events, which have earned her more than $1.6 million in the short course of her whirlwind career.

We recently caught up with Maria to discuss poker-playing prowess and world-class travel.

What would be your top 5 tips for poker playing novices?

  1. Study and apply yourself to the game. There is always something more to learn    about poker and tons of resources to help you become a great player.
  1. Be humble and realize there is always room for improvement. Be willing to honestly look at the holes in your game and correct them.

  1. Don’t be results oriented. Losing is inevitable. You can’t win every single tournament you enter, so don’t let loss discourage you. Always focus on playing your best game and be proud when you do so, regardless of the immediate result.
  1. Practice good bankroll management. Play within your means. Once you’ve started consistently winning at a specific stakes game, then move up to the next level. Being a good poker player isn’t about being a “baller,” it’s about having consistent results.
  1. Leave your ego at the door, and err on the side of aggression.

What other games do you enjoy in the casino? Any top tips?

Because of the amount of control you have, which decreases the luck factor, poker is the absolute best game that you can play in the casino, giving you the best bang for your buck and R.O.I. (return on investment). So my #1 tip is to learn—and play—poker if you don’t want to be the sucker at the casino. But every once in a while, when I feel like messing around, I’ll sit down at a blackjack table for some mindless fun.

My own personal top tip? Don’t ever play roulette. In my opinion, you’re just flushing money down a toilet!

Since you frequently travel to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, on your poker-playing tour, what are your favorite things to do, see, and eat?

I would love to! Here it goes…


Favorite Restaurant: The Atlantic at the Crown Casino.

To See/ Do: Visit one of the animal habitats (any one). You can get up close and personal with kangaroos and koalas. Having a little joey eat out of the palm of your hand is the most amazing and priceless experience.

Favorite Store: You can’t go wrong taking a stroll down Collins Street (in Melbourne) for some five-star designer shopping.


Favorite Restaurant: L’Arpege (in Paris). Their tasting menu is focused on veggies, which is unique, and it’s ranked #16 on Pellegrino’s “World’s Best Restaurants.”

To See/ Do: Pretty much any of the cliché Paris tourist stops are worth visiting. The Eiffel Tower, of course, is a must-visit. The Louvre is also a must-see. And the Palace of Versailles is one of the most gorgeous landscapes I’ve ever visited—it transports you to a time of monarchy where everything was lavish and extravagant.


To See/ Do: Go to Queenstown, which is so beautiful—it’s picture perfect. Also, if you dare, go paragliding off one of the mountain ranges in this spectacular region.

Favorite Restaurant: If you’re missing American comforts you can find the best cheeseburger at Fergburger.

Favorite Store: DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME INSIDE A STORE! The scenic views in New Zealand are breathtaking and out of this world. Save your shopping list for your next trip and spend as much time as you can with Mother Nature, when in NZ.

What are your top 5 travel essentials?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to just five, but I guess I would have to say:

  1. My iPad
  2. A few protein bars, just in case hunger strikes and I have limited options
  3. Lulu Lemon Yoga Pants (So comfy!)
  4. Hand sanitizer (Playing poker can be a dirty business)
  5. A pair of heels—You never know when you’ll have to run off to a social engagement and quickly switch from airplane-comfy to cute-girl, without warning. Always be prepared!

Any good travel tips learned on The Amazing Race?

To travel the world, you never actually need more than what fits in a single backpack.

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