let Liz Lieu's looks fool you; she's a terror
at the poker table with an aggressive style of
play. Her friends describe her as Beauty and the
Beast; a beauty away from the table and a beast
when you're up against her at the tables. Liz
has only been playing tournament poker for about
a year and has already won $379,000; keep reading
to find out how this high limit cash game player
got hooked on tournaments, her controversial first
big tournament win, and why being a pro is tougher
than it looks.
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PL: Tell us about getting back
to back Aces cracked?
LL: You just have to bring up
the bad memories! At the Rio I was the chip leader
on day 4 and got Aces on the button, a middle
position player made a 15k raise, I then made
it double his raise; the small blind thinks for
a little bit and then moves all in for almost
$100k, of course I call; he flips up pocket 3’s.
The flop comes 5-6-7 so now he has a lot more
outs than he should have, turns a rag and the
river is a 3. So after that I was crippled.
It sucks but what can you do!
The second one was the $25k one. I had aces the
flop came KQ9, I bet out; he goes all in I call
and he flips over pocket kings. At the Bay 101
this year the same exact thing happened, same
exact flop and everything. I knew it was a scary
flop because the small blind called a double raise
preflop meaning they either had a big pair or
high cards; but I didn’t have much left
in chips, maybe $6-$7k. So that’s 3 consecutive
main events where I’ve had aces cracked.
PL: How do you play differently
in tournaments vs. cash games?
LL: I don’t really play
too differently, except in cash games when you’re
running bad you can always get up and take a break
and cut my losses. In tournaments if you’re
running bad you are stuck there. My basic strategy
is the same, the first thing I do is size up the
table to see if it’s loose or tight and
base my strategy on that.
PL: How about as the tournament
goes on, how does your strategy change?
LL: My strategy stays the same,
as the tournament goes on and the tables combine,
my strategy just varies based on who I’m
PL: What’s the first WSOP
event you’re playing?
LL: The $1,500 on July 27tth.
PL: Isn’t that event the
one that you made your big tournament splash in
LL: Yes it was, and I hope to
do it again! Back to Back! That’s when I
first started getting into tournaments. I had
played a few events at the Commerce but I hadn’t
given tournaments all that I had yet; but I was
always getting very close to the money in every
tournament I played. At the time my strategy was
more like a live game player because I really
didn’t know how tournaments worked. For
example, whenever a tournament gets close to the
bubble, everyone locks up their chips. When I
first started tournaments at the Commerce I always
played to win...I don’t want to just get
my money back, I want to win. I’m a very
aggressive player, so I’m willing to push
my luck...so of course I bubbled, bubbled and
I told John Phan that I’m not playing tournaments
anymore since you end up playing for 12 hours
and end up with nothing when I could be downstairs
playing in the $400/$800 game making a lot more
He talked me into playing the World
Series last year; I made the final table and
got hooked. It’s that simple.
PL: You and John Phan are part
of the poker team at MartinsPoker.com,
how did you get hooked up with the Knife (Martin
LL: Martin actually personally
asked me to join the team which was a huge honor.
PL: To the casual fan it seems
as though you came on the poker scene very quickly,
when in reality you’ve been a winning cash
player for years out in California, does it ever
bother you to be lumped in with other female players
that haven’t really earned their “stripes”?
LL: No, you know what; it doesn’t
bother me at all. I want to see a female player
win a bracelet this year. I think all the females
that are known are good...otherwise they wouldn’t
have lasted this long.
PL: There do seem to be a few
female players that have just come on the scene
and signed big deals with some poker
sites without having achieved much at the tables...
LL: The newcomers you’re
talking about seem to play well and I think they’re
going to make it. Everyone has to start somewhere;
as you play more you learn more. When I played
my first final table I was nervous as hell. I
was up against 5 bracelet winners in Allen Cunningham,
Scott Fischman, Devil Fish, An Tran, and Can Hua.
PL: Who was the toughest of
LL: Allen was the toughest....he
got all my chips!
PL: You have a lot of friends
in the poker world, how tough is it to play against
people you like? You are basically going after
each others livelihood day in and day out.
LL: We all know that everyone
does this for a living and we’re friends,
but at the table we’re not. Even when it
comes to my best friend, John, I tell him to go
at it. There is no mercy. I tell him check raise
me all you want because I’m going to do
it to you!
However, there are some players that will just
check it on the river no matter what comes, they’ll
play the hand out and then on the river they’ll
just check. That’s not my style.
PL: Would you want to be on
the show High Stakes Poker?
LL: I wouldn’t mind it,
because I play that level anyway. I don’t
really know how the show works. Now I have a business
manager and less to worry about, so maybe in the
PL: It sounds like you’re
going to be making big waves at the WSOP this
year; you have a press kit, business manager...
LL: I hope so; I plan on playing
all the Limit and No-Limit Hold’em events
PL: Do you plan on playing any
of the other non-hold’em events?
LL: No, I’m not very strong
in those other games and I never play in a game
that I don’t have an edge. You never want
to play in a game when you know you’re the
donkey. Until I’m at the same level at Stud
and Omaha that I am with hold’em, I’ll
stick with hold’em.
PL: There’s enough hold’em
to play anyhow...
LL: Exactly...the rest of the
time I’ll just enjoy the sun!
PL: You also play some online
and don’t seem to shy away from the big
online names, you played a live $600k heads-up
match with Eric Sagstrom (Eric123) and have played
Dustin “Neverwin” Woolf, how did that
Sagstrom match come about?
LL: We were both playing in
the $200/$400 game on MartinsPoker heads up and
he was catching cards and I was running bad and
was stubborn and didn’t quit when I should
have. I ended up losing $32k and later on someone
told me that he called me a bitch in Swedish.
So Martin had a talk with him and told Eric that
he didn’t think that Eric could beat me
live heads-up, so we agreed to the three matches.
We decide on three because one match wouldn’t
really prove anything.
I won two out of three, there was a lot of luck
involved and he’s a great player. There
were ALOT of bad beats.
PL: It was a limit game, so
you couldn’t just shove your chips in and
get lucky so it probably took a long time.
LL: In a heads-up match like
that there is a lot of luck involved, there is
also a lot of skill but the luck ran both ways
for each of us. (To read a detailed account of
the match: Click
PL: On your website LizLieu.net
you’re described as a poker diva, what exactly
is a poker diva?
LL: Other players actually gave
me that name...
PL: Do you consider yourself
LL: Well there are a couple
ways the word diva can be taken, good and bad
(laughs). A poker diva is just someone who’s
good at what they do...right? I’m not saying
I’m the best, just that I’m good at
what I do. I also have expensive tastes in clothing
and my lifestyle got the other players to give
me that nickname.
PL: You WERE easy to spot at
last years WSOP...
LL: Laughs...why was that?
PL: Uhhh...the ipod headphones...and
the colorful dress...
LL: I didn’t have my ipod
on ALL the time! Everybody in that room has an
PL: What do you listen to while
LL: A lot of hip hop, some reggae,
love songs, it depends on the mood. No alternative
and No rock-n-roll.
PL: I’ve tried the ipod
before, but it seems to interfere with my interaction
at the table, how does it affect your listening
to the table talk and getting a feel for the table?
LL: To tell you the truth, I
am so used to wearing it...I was playing a tourney
at Foxwoods and it was so big they had some of
us playing in the main poker room which didn’t
allow ipods...I couldn’t wait for them to
break our table.
PL: Early in tournaments I can
definitely see the advantage to an ipod so stave
off some of the boredom...last year I saw one
player watching “The color of money”
on a small DVD player...that guy was bored...
LL: Laughs...especially in tournaments...it
gets so boring because some players play so slow.
I think some do it on purpose to put players on
tilt. It has its pluses and minuses, you may miss
some vocal tells, but sometimes especially for
a girl it’s a good excuse to not have to
talk to someone.
PL: Any advice for young players
to turn pro?
LL: Don’t play it! It
is not as easy as people make it out to be, it’s
very very stressful. The lifestyle is great but
it’s such a roller coaster that it’s
PL: Do you still enjoy playing
the game or do you get burned out?
LL: I haven’t played a
lot of live games lately due to all the travel
so I’ve played a lot online on MartinsPoker,
so I haven’t had a chance to get burned
out. I’ve really gotten into online lately
and to tell the truth, I’ve learned a lot
playing online. The foreign players are very very
good and I’ve picked up on a lot of things.
PL: You used to work as a poker
dealer in the past? How did you like it?
LL: I really didn’t work
that much, I really did it to get the experience
because I wanted to become a pro. It was one of
the best ways to learn the game, I’d try
and put the players on a hand and see if I was
PL: So would you recommend becoming
a dealer to someone who wanted to learn and become
LL: No...When I dealt the majority
of the dealers would get knots in their shoulder
and back muscles from all the repetition. I feel
for the dealers, they have a tough job.
PL: We’ve talked to a
lot of young male players and they’ve talked
about how hard it is to maintain a relationship
due to the poker lifestyle, do you find the same
thing as a woman?
LL: Yes...it is very difficult.
You need to find someone that understands the
poker lifestyle. If you end up with a guy who’s
not a poker player and you come home and tell
them, “Oh honey, I just lost sixty thousand”...they
would hit the roof...they wouldn’t understand.
On the other hand when you find a poker player,
how many good guys are poker players, how many
of the good ones are already taken?
For me, relationships have been very difficult.
PL: Do you ever see a time when
you might take a step back and only play a few
events per year?
LL: Eventually...but I’m
never going to give up poker. It’s the only
thing I’m really good at and interested
in. However, I don’t want to be playing
poker 24/7 when I’m older, I want to do
other things as well. The way poker is booming
there are all kinds of opportunities; you never
know I might get lucky.
PL: Seems like there is a new
poker show every week...how do you like playing
the made for TV events? They seem to be good exposure?
LL: Sometimes exposure is good
and sometimes it’s bad...there is a good
side and a downside to everything. Maybe a few
years down the road I’ll give up poker and
become a housewife.
PL: I doubt that, you’ll
probably start up a housewives poker game and
take their grocery money.
LL: You know what...you’re
probably right! I don’t think I could stay
PL: Tell us about your charity
LL: At the beginning of this
year I decided to give something back and started
doing some charity work. I’ve been through
a lot in my life, family problems...it made me
cherish my view of life and now that I have the
opportunity to give...this is so hard to explain...
It’s a blessing to be able to help people;
and I really believe in what comes around goes
around. I told some poker writers that if/when
I win my first trophy is when the charity work
will start. This way of thinking gives me motivation
to do well, and I did, I won the $1k event at
PL: You actually took a lot
of heat online for the way that tournament ended
(some people accuse Liz of buying the title for
LL: I did take a lot of heat;
a lot of people don’t really understand
why I did what I did and if they did, I think
it would have been different.
I had done that interview where I said I would
donate money to charity if I won an event two
days before the $1k event at the Commerce; I asked
a very well known friend of mine if he had any
recommendations for a charity to donate to if
I won. I had been thinking about 2 or 3 if I won
one of the big ones...and without hesitation he
said MS (Multiple Sclerosis), I asked why and
he said because my mother is going through it;
he told me that every penny helps and that he
donates all of his promotional money towards MS.
I thought it was a great idea and promised him
if I won I would give the majority of my donation
While I was playing the event I had this weird
feeling that someone was helping me play...at
the third or fourth level I was down to about
$1k in chips and climbed all the way back to the
chip lead; then I took a huge beat and was knocked
back to $24k near the end of the day.
The next morning I got an email from my friend’s
mother, thanking me. She told me, “a thousand
words cannot tell you how much I appreciate your
gesture.” That email really got to me, it
was so touching. That day I was playing my A game,
hitting cards and was big chip leader all the
way through. When we got to 3 handed the short
stack offered a deal, and I said lets calculate
it out. The deal seemed fine to us and we split
the prize money. We decided to leave $10k out
of the split to give us something to play for;
once we get to heads-up the other player has a
2 to 1 lead over me; and we played for about 10
to 15 more minutes and I was crippled at one point
but had climbed back to even. Then we ended up
chopping a huge pot and he had 2 more chips than
I did. So rather than play 3 to 4 more hours I
offered him a deal. He would get $7k of the remaining
$10k and I would get the title. These are my exact
words, “I would be more than happy to play
this out with you but because I want to keep a
promise to a friend and the only way I can is
to win and I want to be fair so I will give you
So basically it was a gift to your friend and
LL: Exactly, I’m a $400/$800
player and this is a $1k event in which we had
already made a deal; the money didn’t really
matter to me...I wanted to lock it up for my friend.
It wasn’t for publicity like some people
think. I wasn’t playing a big name pro that
I’d be afraid of, he was a regular player,
and I offered him the $7k so he wouldn’t
feel as if he got cheated out of anything by making
I took the criticism kind of poorly since a lot
of people who criticized me didn’t really
know the details. The person who reported on that
tournament asked me for a few minutes after the
tourney but I got distracted by the tournament
director and the tourney photographer and told
him I’d meet him in a few minutes; I never
got a chance to talk to him and he wrote the story
the next day that was completely wrong. He wrote
that when the deal was made I was completely dominated
in chips, and he didn’t know why I did what
I did...he just wrote what he thought had happened.
When I read the report, I got upset since it
was not true; I talked to the tourney director
about the chip count before the deal and she confirmed
what I remembered.
PL: Did you ever talk to him
about the report?
LL: He asked me what was wrong
about his report, I told him the chip count was
wrong, and that the title was misleading.
PL: You’re not still feeling
any affects from that story?
LL: Not really, people can say
what they want, but I know I did the right thing.
The people close to me know why I did the deal.
No matter what you do, you cannot please everybody.
The only thing that saddens me is that a lot of
people need help so badmouthing people that want
to help may actually keep some people from helping.
PL: So tell us a little more
LL: The two people I respect
the most in poker are Barry Greenstein and Martin
(de Knijff), he’s so generous and when he
approached me with the endorsement deal; I told
him I wanted to do a lot of charity work. He told
me that when your part of his team you are just
like family and they would help in any way they
could; so I joined the team and have been playing
there ever since.
PL: Thanks a lot Liz and good
luck at the World Series.
LL: Thanks guys.
You can check out Liz's blog at her website LizLieu.net
and play poker with her at MartinsPoker.com
this and other interviews in the Lizard Lounge
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