The Amazing Race’s Maria Ho Interview With Woo

Written by:
Jenny Woo
Published on:
Maria Ho

As many of you know by now, Maria Ho is on the 15th season of The Amazing Race.  Maria's debut started on Sunday September 27th along with Tiffany Michelle and being the only female team on the show.  The two-hour premiere started out in L.A. and brought this season's teams to Tokyo, Japan.  The ladies made a smart move by going undercover as being counselors for a non-profit organization in L.A. versus well paid pro poker players.  Hehe.

I do have to say that it was a stressful start off to say the least for this poker player as Maria and her teammate, Tiffany, came in last in which ended up being a non-elimination pit stop.  Whew - close one!  However, they did incur a two-hour penalty along with an extra task in the next leg of the race in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.  Vietnam is also where these poker pro's cover became uncovered when a fan recognized them immediately.  Whoops!  Needless to say, the two ladies lost some sympathy votes after that but proved they belonged in this race after completing their extra task (which Maria rocked) then   getting down and dirty in mud outlining a Vietnamese tree and still finished 7th.  Oh and did I mention, all the while flirting with two gay brothers.  You go girls!!

Here is what CBS - Amazing Race states about the poker pro duo.  "As a team, these two are well traveled, extremely competitive, strong-minded, savvy players who can deal with any hand they are dealt.  Even though they are known as two of the hottest young females in poker, they are willing to put pretty aside when it is time to battle it out."

Maria and I had the chance to sit down and discuss how this experience came about, how she prepared herself for the race to what she had to give up at this year's WSOP to be on this award winning show.  I look forward in meeting this awesome girl in the very near future as Jenny thinks that she could teach me a thing or two on how to live life to the fullest all the while having too much fun.  Watch The Amazing Race in support of Maria and Tiffany every Sunday at 8 PM EST.

JENNY:  How did you get on the Amazing Race?  We're you approached?  Did you approach the show?

MARIA:  Tiffany and I had wanted to be on it probably for almost a year ago or a little bit more.  We actually had our manager find out what the casting process was like, contact them and see how we would go about applying for the show.  It had turned out that they had already finished casting for last season.  So we kind of just put it off on the back burner and we said that this was definitely something we still wanted to do.  Later on, a couple of months after that, it turned out that they were casting again for the next season.  Tiffany and I jumped on that and we definitely just went through the casting process like everybody else and some how we ended up on the show.  

JENNY:  Was Tiffany always your first choice from the very beginning to have as a teammate?

MARIA:  Yeah, this whole idea to be on this show specifically originated with Tiffany and I.  We had been approached with a few other ideas in terms of reality television and people that were interested in having us for different kinds of shows.  We always thought it would be an interesting way to put our selves out there but we wanted to make sure it was the right format.  Once we came up with the idea - The Amazing Race - it seemed like a complete no brainer because this is a competitive environment; one that we would want to be in and use to but at the same time it's a very pure form of competition.  It's not like some other reality shows where you get voted off by other people or it turns into this popularity contest.  It's really about how well you do and only you and your partner can really affect the outcome of how well you do.  We really liked that idea.  So Tiffany was definitely my first choice.  I hope I was her first choice.  We came up with wanting to do this together and we just thought it really fit who we were.  Since this is also a relationship show, it's really about how strong your friendship or relationship is with the person that you're doing it with.  We definitely knew that that would be one of our strengths because we really do get along really well and we knew that we need to have a united front on this show for purposes of competing of course.

JENNY:  How did you prepare yourself?  Were you constantly going to the gym?  Did you stop drinking?  How did you prep yourself to get to the point where you felt you were ready to go out there and compete with the other teams?

MARIA:  Honestly, we weren't necessarily trying to become "super fit".  We weren't that disciplined in the workout thing but we definitely tried to workout more.  We knew that obviously there's a very physical component of this race and so we wanted to be in better shape than we were; granted it was during the World Series when we had found out that we were going to be on the show and we also left right before the main event.  As far as the drinking is concerned, we all know how well that went (haha) to try to not drink as much.  But as far as mentally preparing, I can honestly say we really tried to do everything we could to be mentally prepared for the show.  I mean, besides watching all the different seasons past and getting a better idea of what we could be doing or where we might be going to trying to factor out all of the relatively unknown factors of the race and just trying to kind of deduce the best that we can - what kind of skills would best serve the purpose of doing well in the race.  You know, we learned how to drive stick shift because from watching past seasons we realized that that was something that comes into play a lot.  So it was just a lot of things that we did to prepare but ultimately you can only prepare so much for something like this because you really have no information and you really just have to fly by the seat of your pants and just hope that you're making all the right and best decisions to get ahead. 

JENNY:  Going back to the WSOP - were you somewhat torn when you found out that filming was going to happen during the main event?  Was there any regret at any point?

MARIA:  No, honestly we knew even before we knew we were going to be on the show that we would have to miss the WSOP Main Event in order to do this.  At that point when we were told that, it was a surprise to us because originally we didn't realize that that was going to be the case.  But once we heard it, Tiffany and I pretty much looked at each other and we were like, "Oh yeah, we're still going to do it."  There was just no second thought in our head that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the Main Event at the World Series of Poker is going to be there every year.  The good thing that Tiffany and I are so blessed and grateful for is that we've already had a highlight from the past Main Events that we've played.  We already have a nice punctuation mark with us being the back to back "last woman standing".  It was a lot easier - I would say - to leave that arena to go and compete in a different arena when you already feel you've done something that you've had some success doing what you've been trying to do in the Main Event.  We wanted to take that success and have it translate and transferred into a completely different environment and hopefully make a mark there too.

JENNY:  Overall, so you see yourself as a competitive person?

MARIA:  Yes.  I definitely can say that I am really competitive - sometimes overly competitive.  I mean, I'm not joking when I say that any games that I play at home with my family - it gets really cut throat because I just know that I have a very very competitive sense about me.  Everything that I've ever done even when it's for fun, even when there's no money involved - in poker obviously we play for money so it's kind of easy to be really competitive.  But honestly, there doesn't even have to be really anything on the line other than bragging rights and I'm kind of a beast (haha).   

JENNY:  Would you be willing to do other shows like the Amazing Race if asked?

MARIA:  I think definitely.  From this experience at least, I realized that it was nothing like what I had expected.  So the good part is is that now I kind of realize that nothing that I see on TV is ever probably going to turn out the way that I thought it would be or how I expected it to be.  I feel much more prepared if another opportunity was to come my way; I'd definitely would say that I'm open to any other possibilities.  But overall, I want to make sure that in everything that I do that I'm very selective about the way that it's portrayed.  With the Amazing Race - it's a seven time Emmy Award winning show and just the whole format of the show, the competitive aspect and the relationship aspect - it's a really really positive show in my opinion and I really want to make sure that I stick with doing things that not only put me in a positive light but poker in general in a positive light for the mainstream media.  So I would definitely be open to anything else but I would be very selective in what it is that I would do.

JENNY:  Getting back to poker  - What did you think of this year's WSOP?

MARIA:  You know, honestly we found out that we weren't going to be on the show right before we went out to the WSOP.  Though I have to admit, it was a little bit hard being completely one hundred percent focused on the World Series and I had a really crazy hectic World Series schedule because hosting for and ESPN 360 - I was also playing about 15 events excluding the Main Event of course.  So I really wanted to make sure that since I couldn't play the Main Event that I could do something good this series.  It was hard to be focused though because the thought of being on The Amazing Race was so exciting but I think I had a good World Series. 

I actually bubbled the final table at the 10K Limit Hold'em event and I think I had a decent showing and I was happy.  Tiffany and I actually lived together this series in Vegas - we rented a house.  It was as relaxing of a time as we could have had given the fact that we were so busy with poker and with preparing for the race.

JENNY:  Besides the 10K, did you cash in any other events?

MARIA:  Yeah.  I know I cashed in two - I had fifteen on my schedule - and I ended up only playing about nine events and I cashed in two of them because I made a lot of day twos.  I mean, I was making it deep in a lot of the events; I felt like I was playing really well.  Overall, I'm happy with what I did this year.

JENNY: Who are you rooting for at the final table?  Phil Ivey?

MARIA:  Yeah.  I hate to state the obvious.  I mean I know that Phil Ivey is the easy go to person but I think it would just be so nice to see a seasoned professional, veteran of the game take it down.  You know, it's really great for poker when an unknown can come in and win the Main Event because it's what's intriguing about poker that you can play against the best on any given day.  Any person can win but I think it's about time for the professionals to take one back and Phil Ivey would be the one to do it.  I actually think that he could raise the awareness of the game a lot more because he's such a big figure in the world of poker and honestly he's such a great player with all the experience that he has.  He definitely deserves to win.

JENNY: Do you think he deserves to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame this year?

MARIA:  You know, I briefly read over the requirements for being inducted and I definitely feel like Phil Ivey does solidify all of those requirements.  Ultimately, I can understand why they took Tom Dwan off the list and all of that.  Although some people on that list might have been around longer than Phil, I definitely still feel like - just all the years of him playing against the passive in the world - I feel like he definitely should be inducted.

JENNY: What do think of the Poker Players Alliance efforts to get online poker legalized?

MARIA:  I really appreciate all of the effort that the PPA has made thus far and they've really been able to reach so many people.  Just watching the World Series of Poker Main Event coverage - you see so many players - not only high profile players but some unknowns wearing the PPA patch.  It just goes to show you that that's the one good thing about poker is that there is a community, there is a sense of getting together and working towards the same cause and obviously poker as a whole can definitely benefit from everything that the PPA does.  So I'm in full support and I am very happy for all the success that they've been able to have.

JENNY:  Are you a big online player or do you stick to live?

MARIA:  I play mainly live.  I think that I enjoy the game more when I play live.  But you know, there definitely is a very big online arena that I want to try to tackle but at this point I enjoy the traveling aspect of live poker so much that it's kind of hard to give that up and stay in my room.  Even though it's nice to be in my pajamas and not have any makeup on, it would be nice to play in the comfort of my own home but I just feel like I enjoy talking to the players, interacting with other people, the feel of the chips and the feel of the cards.  But you know there's so much money to be made online and there are so many great players that I can play against online and hold my skills against them.  I definitely would not ever be opposed to playing more online.

JENNY:  What's your game of choice when you're playing live?

MARIA:  I would say that in tournaments I'm just a big No Limit Hold'em tournament player.  In cash games, for a long long time I've been a mixed cash game player.  Over here in LA at The Commerce and at The Bike (The Bicycle Casino), we play against Jerry Buss and a lot of other people.  We play a pretty big high stakes HORSE game.  So I really enjoy that when I'm playing cash games.

JENNY:  What's next for you in the poker circuit?

MARIA:  Actually, Tiffany and I are going to be heading down to the Aruba Poker Classic in October and then I'm probably going to hop over to Bellagio's Festa al Lago in middle of October from there.  It's going to be actually the first time that I've played poker - I went to a charity tournament for Jerry Yang - I know that you knew about that a little while ago but other than that I haven't played poker since the World Series.  Hopefully I'm not too rusty and I'm actually really excited about getting back to the table.  Being on the race has made me realize that it takes a lot of time to play in a live tournament.  You really have to be able to block off your schedule for five to seven days because that's how long it takes to get to the final table.  So I realize that I might have to cut down a lot on being able to play these tournaments but I'm really really looking forward to it. 

JENNY:  There are a lot of my readers out there that will want to know.  Are you single?  And if so, what's your ideal man?  And does he have to know how to play poker?

MARIA:  Yes, I am single.  The funny thing is as far as if they need to play poker - no, that's not a requirement but they just can't be a bad poker player because I can honestly say that nothing has become more of a turnoff to me than someone who's a bad poker player.  I don't know when along the way that this came about but I find myself noticing - I'll see some hot guys at the poker table and then they'll just make a completely donk play and I'll just be like, "Wow, he's all of a sudden not that cute anymore."  I don't know why that is and I feel so bad that that is so.  They don't have to know how to play poker but they just can't be bad at poker (haha).  Other than that, honestly I really look for a sense of humor and intelligence; those are really important to me.  Of course, I'm not going to lie, there's got to be a physical attraction but to me their personality and the way that they interact with me and my friends is way more important than any of the other stuff.

JENNY:  You're awesome and thank you for sitting down with me.

MARIA:  You're welcome and no problem.

Jenny Woo, Senior International Correspondent