Tiffany Michelle: “Heck Yes I’ll Miss the WSOP for Amazing Race”
With Jenny's two favorite contestants on the Amazing Race eliminated, the show just doesn't seem to have the same excitement. If some of you haven't heard, Tiffany Michelle and Maria Ho were eliminated two Sundays ago (November 1st) on the award winning show. I was crushed to see that the professional poker duo couldn't get through either of the challenges required to get them to the pit stop of that leg of the race but they gave it their all.
I had the chance to sit down with Tiffany Michelle who expressed to Jenny that she enjoys reading my articles and interviews. Thanks girl! We talked about her awesome experience on the show with her partner in crime, Maria Ho and what's coming up for her in the near future. I have to admit, this interview was a fun one for Jenny as it didn't feel like work at all and I can see why Maria wouldn't have done the show without her.
I look forward to one day meeting this amazing girl and hopefully get a few pointers from the fun duo. Read my in depth interview with Tiffany and see what she has planned after this unforgettable experience.
JENNY: I want to start off with the WSOP. Were you somewhat torn when you found out that filming was going to happen during the main event? And do you have any regrets?
TIFFANY: Honestly, when the first idea that we might be able to get on the show came up, that was the first question that was asked. Will you be willing to miss the WSOP? And I pretty quickly said, "Heck yes!" The World Series of Poker is every single year. As a lot of people know, I have my hands involved in a lot of different things not just poker; I'm in a lot of things in the entertainment industry. The chance to do a seven time Emmy award winning show, to compete for a million dollars and take this incredible adventure around the world - it was really easy just to say, "You know what? There will be a World Series next year and it's not going anywhere." So I had to take this chance.
JENNY: I've been keeping up with the show and I love it. You both have definitely opened yourselves up to the public. What's been the response from people who have followed you in the poker circuit, fans, and even people that don't follow poker?
TIFFANY: Specifically the poker world, there's been a lot of support, which I've appreciated. Even though poker is worldwide, it's still a small niche of people; it's kind of a small family. So everyone within the community - I think - has kind of felt like they have something invested in the show this season. The support from them has been wonderful.
I try not to listen to too much of the fan comments, forums, or media backlash. I kind of learned from the World Series in 2008 that everyone has an opinion and most of them are unfounded because people don't know me and they're judging based on something they see on edited TV. I haven't listened to a lot of things; although, I know there's a wide range of people who hate the poker girls and people who love the poker girls on this season. I think it's really across the board and a lot of different responses. However, - specifically at the end with Sunday night's episode - we had a lot of wonderful comments from people just really appreciating our support for each other, our friendship, the effort that we put into the show and how we just fought it out til the end. That's been really nice to hear. At least the period on our entire Amazing Race experience has sounded really positive from the fans' and audiences' point of view.
JENNY: So I only saw the edited version of when you were "found out" that in fact you were successful pro poker players. How did the other teams treat you overall?
TIFFANY: You know what? In the long run, that didn't really make a big difference. Maria and I had decided from a game theory - in a strategic point of view going into the race because that's definitely how we approached it. After seeing season 7 when Rob and Amber were on and a lot of the teams shunned them because they already won a million dollars; they had already been on survivor. We knew how important it was to have teams like you and want to help you. We knew it was going to be detrimental if these teams felt like, "Oh, Tiffany and Maria don't need the million dollars." So we just decided to highlight other aspects of our career. I'm very involved with the Los Angeles Youth Network, which helps to house and assist homeless youth in Los Angeles. I do volunteering and fundraising with them in addition to a lot of other organizations that Maria and I are involved with. We just decided to highlight that instead of highlighting the poker thing because we felt like that was going to be the better way to go knowing that we needed assistance from other teams down the line. And at the end of the day, none of the teams really cared that much. There was that one episode where people had their comments about us but nobody commented on it after that. Our occupations didn't really play a big part in how much people liked or didn't like us on the race.
JENNY: You and Maria got lucky on a couple of occasions with the odds in your favor. First when you came in last on a non elimination leg of the race and then when one of the teams lost their travel docs. What were you both thinking with the possibility of getting eliminated so early in the show? And was there anything said between you and Maria when the cameras were off?
TIFFANY: For the Tokyo leg, at the point when we lost two of our people - which no other team lost anybody from their group - at that point we had a good feeling that it was going to be a non-elimination leg since that one team went home at the start. We felt like if there was going to be a non-elimination, we didn't foresee that two people would go in the very first episode. You never know how it's going to go down. So in Tokyo, there was nothing else we could do. It was out of our hands but we felt like it might be a non-elimination and we were glad that that was the case.
In Cambodia we actually weren't sure that we were in last place. We hadn't seen all of the teams during that entire day as we were going around trying to find the hotel and then in the Russian market. We weren't a hundred percent sure what was going on or if we were in last place. It wasn't like we felt like we were meeting our doom so when we were told that we were still in the race - we hadn't really thought we were out of it at that point. Anytime we were told we were still in the race when we found out we were towards the end, it was like, "Okay, there's another leg." (Haha) Part of you is willing to accept your fate because part of you feels like, "Okay, I just want to go sleep in hotel for a couple of days and take a break." But then the other part of you says, "No, I want this. I want to be in this race. I want to compete for a million dollars and give it a shot."
JENNY: My jaw dropped when you two had to get a new car because of Maria's wonderful driving - and for the record I'm not any better. However, you seem to have kept your composure. Do you think that's because you two are such good friends? Or are you normally a calm person in tough situations?
TIFFANY: It was definitely kind of funny. You saw early on, we had our first little snare when Maria said something to me about always sugar coating things. In our relationship, I am the calm one. She gets more intense; she gets more passionate. She's the one that if someone wants to fight her she's the one that will fight. However, I back down from conflict and I'm always trying to be the peacemaker. It makes the relationship really good and balanced because she's the one that'll say something if something needs to be said and I'm the one that will say, "Shut up!" All along the race, it made sense from watching races past and even seeing other teams this season, you cannot accomplish anything if you lose your mind; if you get frantic, intense and you get angry. So even in moments when something would start to get heated with Maria and I, I would just bite my tongue because in the long run I knew we wanted to win this race. The only way to do that was to keep my ego in check, keep my mouth shut and try to keep calm because it's so intense and being calm and being efficient is the only way that you're going to do well. That's definitely the dynamic of our relationship.
JENNY: You formed somewhat of an alliance with the two gay brothers in which you guys rocked it as a foursome. They finally came out to the rest of the teams on the leg of the race that you were eliminated. Were you truly shocked or had an idea all along?
TIFFANY: From day one, when we saw the other teams, we pegged them as the token gay team for the season - which you didn't see. We had a feeling because most seasons has the gay team. We thought, "Oh, that would be Sam and Dan." Then they talked about having girlfriends so then we didn't think much about it. They actually told us in Vietnam. We knew early on in the season but we did become friends and have an alliance so we all got really really close. Before it came out that we were poker players, we told Sam and Dan that we were poker players. So we all were just really honest and it wasn't even from a race point of view; we instantly became really good friends. We were like, "Dude, we want to make it through this race with you guys." We weren't shocked and we knew early on. I think a lot of the audience thought something when we said things like, "We're falling in love with these guys." And when we talked about how cute they were and that we wanted to have their children, whereas we just really genuinely had a great platonic bond with them.
JENNY: The task that resulted to your elimination was also an emotional one. Anyone could see that it affected you physically - your hands being most affected. But was it mentally challenging as well going back and forth to those two challenges?
TIFFANY: You know what Jenny? We spent almost three hours trying both sides of the detour. We were in soaking wet clothing. It was freezing outside. Actually, towards the end of the golf challenge, the EMT had to come out and take me off the field and make sure that I wasn't getting hypothermia - which is why at the end of that footage I'm wearing a jacket. We did "Carnival Dinger", "Golf Cove", "Dinger", and then we ended on the "Golf". The second time on the Carnival Dinger with so many attempts - that hammer actually weighed over 40 lbs so just to lift it was really hard and then to even hit the thing. We had the feeling that I was going to be the one to do it because I'm the stronger between Maria and I; she would just do her attempt because we had to rotate but then I would really give my attempt. There was one point where I said, "Let's hug it out." I just sat there, I looked up at it (Carnival Dinger) and for the first time in my life I thought, "Oh my gosh. I cannot do this." And I really have a "moment" in life when I feel that way - I'm very confident in what I'm able to do. I feel like I'm a really tough, strong chick. I am willing to crush through anything. For the first time, to have this vulnerability and this sense of defeat of "I've met this thing that I can't do." In one sense, it's so emotional and frustrating yet at the same time it's so humbling and there's a sense of surrender when you just realize, "I gave it my all and now I have to walk away." And I hate to be the person to walk away. I hate it, hate it, hate it! But there's a sense of peace in "there's nothing more I can do here." So that's what we handed out because all we could do was hold on to each other and cry over, "Wow, this really bites! But there's nothing more we can do." As long as we gave it our all, you can't have any regrets walking away.
JENNY: Well I have to say that I loved it when you and Maria said, "Let's hug it out." I love that. You two remind me of my best friend and I. Also, the moment the two of you just couldn't do it any longer and when Phil Keoghan (host of The Amazing Race) came up to the both of you and said that he was told that you wanted to quit. I loved the fact that you said - I'm paraphrasing- but you said, "We're not quitting the game but we just can't go any further." And I applaud you for that.
TIFFANY: Thank you.
JENNY: With that said, did you find the show more physically challenging than expected?
TIFFANY: Oh my gosh. Going into it we were humbled within the first episode. Going into it you have to be confident otherwise you shouldn't be on the show. But after the first leg Maria and I were saying, "Holy cow! What did we get ourselves into? We so do not belong here." (Haha) However, as competitors that's when you realize you need to get the job done. It was a million times harder than I thought even after watching past seasons. That's the funny thing, all our friends and family have their comments, "You should have done this. You should have done that." But in the moment, there are a lot of things that you can't see that don't translate on TV. Simply, in the Dubai desert when I'm searching for water, I was there for over an hour. It looks on TV it took us five minutes. Even getting from one location to another - whether we're walking, running, or driving - all you see is us arriving or riding to a place; you can't see the hours that we had to walk to get somewhere. There was a lot of unexpectedness. Even the weather in Dubai - it didn't translate to you - "Oh, just dig over there. There's plenty over there. There's water." (Haha) So it was a million times harder. Actually, every single team, they said every season the same thing happens, after the first leg they say, "Oh! Whoa! This is going to be hard." (Haha)
JENNY: What's your most memorable moment?
TIFFANY: The entire thing is one big memorable moment. A lot of people ask if it's fun and I say, "I don't think I could use the word fun. It was amazing." It's the most mentally, physically, emotionally thing I've ever done and so rewarding and I wouldn't trade it for the world. So there were only a few times that I actually had moments of enjoyment in which one of those were earlier in Vietnam - the "E-Waste" challenge sitting down there putting on these gloves, using these power tools with these goggles, sitting with all these guys who are Vietnamese locals and who were cracking up at how I was taking apart these things. That was just a moment that everyone was rooting for me. I was asking the locals, "Where do I throw this? How do I do this?" I had a moment of light heartedness compared to the intensity of the race. Actually believe it or not, in the Dubai desert as well, I feel like I was in a movie. Here I was standing in these sand dunes - and it goes back to being a viewer when you watch something on TV and then when you actually go out - I'm standing here with sand as far as the eye can see thinking, "What direction do I begin to walk to even search for these urns buried in the desert?" It was just a moment - I don't know - I felt like I was in a movie and I might die in a desert like you see in a movie. It wasn't necessarily fun but it was a moment that stands out in my head as, "Wow! What a crazy adventure I took."
JENNY: Do you think the show and the experience tested your friendship with Maria overall?
TIFFANY: I don't know if it tested our friendship but it definitely strengthened our friendship. For such good of friends that we've been, we found out so much more about each other that we didn't know going into it. Even when we talk about the moments where Maria would kind of get intense, I've never seen that intensity towards me before; that was just an interesting dynamic to work with. I would think, "Oh where is this coming from?" (Haha) There was a certain amount of intensity and pressure that you don't really get to experience with your girlfriends on a daily basis. So we learned a lot about each other. At the end of the day, we came out with so much more respect for each other. I mean, you can tell on that very last episode, we were just there on that field holding each other and crying because we were all each other had. It just bonds you together, not just as a team but also with several of the other teams that we had walked away with life long friendships with. Nobody else gets it except this other person. There's just something so beautiful to look into this person's eyes and say, "I know you know what's up." (Haha)
TIFFANY: I wanted to be there and she was the only other person that was there as well. So we definitely have something special going on from here on out that I can't say that I have with anyone else.
JENNY: I'm so glad to hear that. Going back to the WSOP - did you play in any events?
TIFFANY: I played in some of the No Limit events. I made a couple good day two's a few of the tournaments but nothing spectacular. It was definitely hard to focus on playing at poker when you're about to go on the adventure of your lifetime. I'd get home at night, I'd get my jogging shoes out, I'd go work out; we learned how to drive stick so we were sitting there practicing driving stick. There were a lot of other things on our mind. I also made sure going into this to make sure not to put pressure on myself. So if I wasn't under pressure, I couldn't be disappointed with any of the results that I had. I had a great time playing. It was the first time that I got to sit down kind of in a professional sense and play a bunch of tournaments at the World Series so that was really exciting.
JENNY: What are your thoughts on Phil Ivey making it the final table? And is he the one you'll be rooting for?
TIFFANY: I mean Phil Ivey is the man! (Haha) Of course, I'll be rooting for him. Let's be honest, Phil Ivey is so cute. It's not going to be too hard to have to sit there and stare at his face. I think everyone in the poker community is just so happy that someone can get there - that one of their own can get there. I think it gives the rest of us hope. It gives a lot of the professionals hope - the Chris Ferguson's, the Doyle Brunson's, and the Daniel Negreanu's - it's "oh I can actually get there" and it's not this impossible thing. I'm really happy for Ivey and I'm really excited.
JENNY: So what's next? What's going on with you in the poker circuit?
TIFFANY: Actually I kind of said and stuck my foot in my mouth - not to be a downer - "There's no way that 2009 will be able to compare to 2008 because of my Main Event run." And then here comes the Amazing Race. This is now in my life probably more of a highlight than the Main Event. So now I won't put my foot in my mouth again and I'm saying, "How can I top it next year?" (Haha) I'm thinking the only thing I can possibly do is a Presidential Campaign.
There's nothing specific that's planned right now. Maria and I are looking forward in playing poker for the first time now that we've had a long break from it. We're actually really looking forward to sitting down at the table. We're going to Vancouver for the BC Poker Championship in a couple of weeks and then we'll be in Vegas for the Five Diamond. So there's definitely some poker. I'm kind of looking forward to getting back to my film and television career in which I've taken a nice long break. I'm looking forward in auditioning again. There's also a clothing line that I've recently launched. There are many things going in my path.
JENNY: Thank you so much Tiffany for sitting down with me.
TIFFANY: You're welcome Jenny.
Jenny Woo, Gambling911.com Senior International Correspondent