Macau’s casinos may be down on their luck, but at least one part of the gambling industry is thriving.
“Poker attracts a different segment of people than those who have historically come to play baccarat or other table games,” Lin said.
Professionally, Lin has her own impressive track record in Macau. In 2009, Lin became the first female poker player to win the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon main event. Three years later she won again, making her the first person ever to place first twice. The second time, she took home more than $110,000 in winnings.
According to the Global Poker Index, Lin ranks fourth in China, and first among the country’s female players.
Originally from Shanghai, Lin got her accidental start in poker in Melbourne, Australia. In 2004, a friend flagged her down to try her luck in the Crown Casino Poker room.
“That night I had no idea what I was doing, and somehow the players on my table couldn’t figure me out, so I won a lot that night,” Lin told Business Insider.
After that, Lin said she started reading everything she could on the topic and within three weeks had built up a bankroll of $10,000. Now Lin plays professionally in tournaments for PokerStars and is based in Macau.
Although Macau has far fewer poker rooms and tables than America or Australia, the stakes and buy-ins are much higher. While most poker rooms start at $1-$2, Macau’s start at $3-$6. The difficulty of the game remains the same, however, making Macau poker games a great value, she said.
For Lin, success in poker comes down to discipline.
“The worst part is probably playing through the unlucky times when the improbable math goes against you,” Lin said. “When it happens several times in a row, it can really test your resolve. That’s when discipline really separates the amateur from the professional.”
Learning discipline also applies to making the right play, managing money, staying grounded, and trying to improve constantly, she said. Lin said it’s necessary even just for living in Macau.
“Being in Macau, you’re always surrounded by temptations that can make a winning poker player into a losing person,” she told Business Insider. “It’s fine to have fun, and Macau has plenty of fun things to do, but you can’t just party every day and ruin your brain. It’s especially true when your business is a mind sport and requires you to have a fresh head for decision-making.”
Lin said professional players consider poker to be like operating their own businesses, with its inherent risks. This type of thinking especially appealed to Lin, who said she ran her side businesses in college. Back then, she made money by fixing computers and buying overseas items in bulk and reselling them on eBay.
Poker aligns with Lin’s passion for games.
“I love games in general,” she said. “Poker just happens to pay the bills the best. But in my spare time I still play games. It can be board games, computer games, or other card games.”
“I’m not satisfied being the last female standing in a tournament,” she said. “I want to be the winner and the person getting the champion’s trophy. I think that’s the only way to properly represent women in a way that earns respect.”