CC: What is your name, and where do you live currently?
Terrence: My name is Terrence Chan, and I live nomadically; I spend a couple months a year in my home town of Vancouver, British Columbia, I spend the WSOP in Las Vegas, and the rest of the time (mostly the winter months) in San Jose, Costa Rica.
CC: Tell me about how you started playing poker, as well as how long you’ve been playing.
Terrence: I started playing poker in 1999. I got into poker because my cousin was going into the casinos to play blackjack, and I was sneaking in (I was only 18) to hang out with him and play as well. One day we went to a casino that had these strange looking tables where everyone sat down really low and were all firing chips into the middle of the table without any sense of order, unlike the rest of the table games. I found out that this was some variant of poker (indeed it was 4/8 limit Holdem). Once I got bored with blackjack, I began to learn more and more about this game and started playing regularly.
CC: Take us through how you came to the decision to play fulltime.
Terrence: It wasn’t an easy decision, because I really liked my job at PokerStars . I made a lot of friends there, and had been there from the beginning. But even though the job kept me very busy, I was still making good money playing online (mostly $200 SNGs), even though I wasn’t playing very many hours per week.
It finally all turned when a group of friends – all twenty-something’s who played online for a living – came down from Vancouver to visit me in Costa Rica. They spent a week in Costa Rica, then left. And it got me to thinking, “why is it that I shouldn’t have this kind of freedom? I love my job, but why should I be up at 8am every morning and be there all day, deal with crises in the middle of the night, only get a couple weeks vacation a year, and make less money per hour than I’m making playing poker?” And so even though I think working at PokerStars would be the best job I could have if I had to have a job, it didn’t make sense for me to have a job any more.
CC: Where do you play?
Terrence: These days, I play almost everywhere I can get a high limit (minimum 100/200) game. So that’s PokerStars , the OnGame network, the Cryptologic network, Full Tilt , the B2B network, the Tribeca network…probably missing a couple here.
When I’m in Costa Rica or Vancouver I probably play over 99% online. The games there just aren’t big enough, especially when you consider you’re getting anywhere from 2-10 times as many hands online. For the WSOP I’ll be interested to see what kind of action I can get live. I’m not a mixed games specialist, and I don’t know if I’ll be available to find a holdem-only game at limits high enough to make it worthwhile to play.
CC: Do you focus on HU and short-handed limit?
Terrence: Yes, for the last 6-7 months I’ve found a niche playing shorthanded limit. Before that I focused on NL cash games, and before that I was mostly a SNG player.
CC: What are the challenges of being successful long-term with what I assume to be a fairly small pool of players (for HU and short-handed limit)?
Terrence: Getting action is a big challenge! On some of the smaller sites, I don’t get any action any more. On the bigger sites, sometimes it’s only the tough players that are sitting, guys that aren’t really worth playing.
CC: You seem to have a network of other players that you are friends with. How important is it to have a support network? How do you use them?
Terrence: It’s sometimes nice to have a few friends who play around the same limits, because then at least you can talk to them and say, “hey, have you ever played this guy?”, “yeah, I think he’s okay but he has this mistake and this hole and this tendency”. Sometimes it’s more like “omg, you’re playing him? Can I buy a piece?”
CC: You cashed twice in last year’s WSOP, but you seem to play tournaments infrequently. First, tell us about your WSOP last year. How many events did you play?
Terrence: I think I played 12 or 13 events last year. I took a loss, overall, but not a huge one. My cashes were a 12th and a 24th, so they can’t be the most exciting cashes ever. The 12th place finish was in the $5000 pot-limit holdem where Johnny Chan won his historic 10th bracelet. I was actually knocked out in 12th by Phil Laak; we got all-in with my QQ against his AK. He won the race making a straight on the river. When we counted off the chips, he had me covered by three chips. I like to think that had I won that hand, I would have gone on to 2nd place like Phil did, making it a Chan vs. Chan final.
The 24th place was extremely disappointing. It was the $1000 NLHE rebuy event. I came into the second day second in chips. I think I even took over the chip lead at some point during the second day. But once again I wasn’t able to win the critical race; this time it was AJ vs. KQ to take out over half of my stack, and I think AK vs. 99 for the remainder of it.
CC: How did you prepare for the WSOP last year?
Terrence: I didn’t, really. I perhaps should have played more NLHE, but I’ve been running well playing limit and I haven’t had time to play NL. But I think the rust will come off quickly, because for many months I was playing NL ring games day after day.
CC: What are your keys to prepare for a big tournament?
Terrence: Just getting some rest, and feeling good about your self, I suppose. I don’t think a tournament is something you really “cram” for, like a final exam. If you’ve been playing and thinking about the game, then you’re going to be prepared. But it’s not like you can read and memorize the Dan Harrington books (as good as they are), for example, the night before the WSOP starting day and think you will have an edge over the field.
CC: How do you feel your HU expertise impacts your tournament play?
Terrence: Well, it mostly means that if I get down to HU, I’m going to feel better about my chances! I probably won’t make a deal with anyone HU for that reason. On the other hand, at that stage of a tournament, the stacks usually aren’t so deep that any one player has a huge edge. So it’s nice to have, but when both guys only have about 25 BB, either player has a realistic shot of winning.
CC: Tell us about your plan for the WSOP tourneys. Are you setting goals for this year’s World Series?
Terrence: I don’t think it’s realistic to set specific goals. There’s too much variance in tournament poker to say “I want to win X dollars”. And if you set a goal like making cashes or final tables, that goal might distract you from the real goal – winning money. What will I try to do? I guess I’ll try to win every single event I enter. I probably won’t, though.
CC: Finally, how fast have you been able to get your new Porsche on the highway as well as on the Strip?
Terrence: I’m not that stupid. There has to be someone in the Nevada State Highway Patrol who plays poker.