Very few people get to play for millions of dollars because of a flipament. But, that’s exactly what Huayi “Dallas Alice” Zheng will do this January.
Zheng won a coveted PokerStars‘ Platinum Pass back in June. The $30,000 prize package includes hotel accommodations, travel compensation, and a $25,000 seat in the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship at the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.
Zheng picked up the pass due to some well-timed good fortune. She and nine other women played a high-tension, open-faced flip tournament just before commencing the final table of the Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS) National Championship.
“That was pretty lucky,” Zheng said, in an interview.
For this particular event, groups of three women each were dealt a single hand. They would then flip their hands face up, and the dealer would run out the board as usual.
The winner of the three hands moved onto the next round of the flipament. Play continued like this until nine of the 10 were eliminated.
The person left standing then won the pass. In essence, it was an elaborate high-card drawing for the button. The only difference was that a $30,000 prize package awaited the winner, which raised the pressure for everyone.
For her part, Zheng said she didn’t feel nervous in the initial rounds of the flipament. However, after successfully navigating through the opening heats, she found herself at a heads-up showdown.
At that point, Zheng began to feel a bit of the pressure. After flopping top pair to her opponent’s middle, she said that’s when the nerves kicked in.
“(You’ve come) so far, you know?” she said. “I would (have been) disappointed if she got her (card) on the river.”
However, her pair of jacks held up, and now she’ll play in a tournament with a guaranteed prize pool of $9 million.
Alice has been a quick study at this poker thing
That’s a pretty good deal for someone who heard about the LIPS tournament after it had already begun. Zheng said that she’d busted out of the WSOP Ladies Event, and was railing one of her friends in another tournament.
Another player at the friend’s table recommended that she head over to the event at the Orleans. So she did.
She arrived three hours late to the event. It didn’t matter — she still managed to place ninth and secure the tournament’s biggest prize.
Astonishingly, the Dallas resident has only played poker for three years. Originally from a town just outside of Shanghai, Zheng came to Texas to study information technology management.
Her whole life changed when a friend dragged her to a local cardroom’s $1/$2 game. Despite knowing little about the game, Zheng managed to book a $1,200 win in this game. She was hooked.
“I’m glad I didn’t know (about) poker in school,” she laughed. “Because I don’t think I would have graduated.”
Nowadays, Zheng mostly plays in the $2/$5 and $5/$10 no-limit hold’em games at WinStar World Casino. However, she is considering a move to Florida, because the hour’s drive to WinStar can get old after a time.
The PSPC will be quite a test
Regardless of where she hangs her hat, she has a big task awaiting her in January. The PokerStars Players Championship’s huge prize pool and $25,000 buy-in is sure to attract some of the best players in the world.
Zheng said she feels excited to play with some big names in the poker world, but doesn’t recognize them very well.
The only player she mentioned she could spot would be Joe Cada. As long as the 2009 World Champion isn’t at her table, it’s unlikely Zheng will be starstruck.
However, a $25,000 buy-in tournament is quite a step up for most players, even those as skilled as Zheng. She said she is focusing on improving her tournament play in preparation for the PSPC, with a particular focus on proper pre-flop play.
So, she’s studying pre-flop hand charts for situations where she might have 20 big blinds, 30 big blinds or other circumstances. She also mentioned that one significant difference is that tournament play contains far more heads-up battles than cash games.
To help her sort through all this new material, she said she’s using Piosolver to break down different situations. It’s a lot of work, but Zheng says that she’s enjoying the ride.
“(Playing in) cash games (are) more stable,” she said. “Tournaments are more fun. I never feel nervous in cash games. Tournaments are so emotional.”
So far, that emotion has paid off quite beautifully. She followed up her score in June with a 16th-place finish at the WPT Choctaw Main Event, which scored her almost $24,000 in cash.
There’s no doubt that Zheng will be a tough nut to crack come January. If she gets “pretty lucky” again, there will be an even bigger story to tell.