Lina Niu knows when to hold ’em.
The 38-year-old Edmonton woman is more than $140,000 richer after winning the first-ever World Poker Tour Ladies Championship.
Niu has been celebrating in Las Vegas after she trumped the competition on Monday at the Wynn.
“It felt like a dream. It still hasn’t really fully hit me yet,” Niu told CBC.
Her total winnings from the tournament came to $105,136 US.
Niu said knowing all her moves were televised and viewers could see her hand made her decisions all that more nerve-racking.
“If I make this wrong move, everyone else can see exactly what my hand is. I definitely was really nervous going into day three on the final table while knowing that it’s going to be aired and everyone could see my hand. I was worried that I was going to play my hands a lot differently.
“But I would say after a few minutes, I was more comfortable and I’m glad that I didn’t change too much of the way I played being on TV.”
The ladies championship was Niu’s first major live poker tournament, which she was inspired to attend after her seeing boyfriend, Jaspal Brar, win big at poker. Niu paid $1,100 to buy-in to the event but said she felt confident after finding success at a tournament in Edmonton two weeks earlier.
“I’ve always loved poker. I was inspired by [Brar] and decided that I wanted to try to play more tournaments. I just kind of grew into loving it over time,” Niu said.
Between her game-play techniques and all the support she garnered, Niu said she managed to stay focused and play her best game.
“There were a lot of people from Alberta playing other tournaments as well. And when they made a final table, a few of them came and supported. My type of play would definitely be more tight and aggressive, so try not to get in too many hands,” Niu said.
Brar, who has won more than $1 million as a poker player, said he’s happy to enjoy the game with Niu.
“It feels good to play poker together and travel sometime to play cards together,” Brar said.
The World Poker Tour Ladies Championship drew 578 total entries, growing the prize pool to $560,660 — more than double the $200,000 guarantee.
Although Niu’s competition was more experienced than her, Brar said Niu’s play was impressive against Ukrainian pro poker player Olga Lermolcheva at the final table.
“I feel so good about her. I’m so proud of her, and I’m so happy for her,” Brar said.
Niu said she plans to enjoy the holidays and soak up her success before entering more tournaments in the new year.