This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct 2011 issue of World Gaming magazine.He might not be seven feet tall, or a basketballer for that matter, but Hung-Sheng ‘Shaq’ Lin from Taiwan is making just as much noise as his namesake, but this time in the poker world. After winning a side event last year at the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) he was crowned the Macau Millions Champion this year in April. This has lead his meteoric rise to top of the Asian Poker Player leader board so WGM thought it was time to ask the new poker star a few questions.
As a child what sort of games did you play?
I had some talent for gaming since I was a child. I remember when I was in primary school (6 to 11 years old), my classmates always went to video arcades after school to play games such as Cyclone, Tomahawk and Thunderbird, but I was more interested in a game called Little Mario which was a cross between a slot and video game where you could win coins.
I found early e-games to be very simple. I practiced these games and recorded the best ways to play them all. In the end the game room bosses or owners of grocery shops with those machines would chase me away whenever they saw me, because I could win all the money in the machines.
Did your parents gamble or play cards when you were growing up?
My parents don’t play any gambling or card games. Back then lottery was very popular, and many families were ruined due to that. My parents are very traditional. They think gambling games are losing games. But my dad can play Chinese chess very well.
When did you first start playing poker?
About four years ago! After I finished my military service, my elder brother taught me the game we call ‘American Show Hand’. I found it fascinating and starting playing for free at Absolute Poker. After the cheating scandal at Absolute Poker I looked for other places to explore my passion. While I was searching for relevant news, I found there was a group of passionate poker players communicating at the PTT poker forum in Taiwan. From that point I started to learn the nature and essence of this game.
I’m happy that I’m one of the earliest poker players in the Taiwan poker circle. In this game in which only 15% players are long term winners, I have done well.
How big is the game of poker in Taiwan?
When I started playing, very few people in Taiwan knew what poker was. The poker circle was very small. With the promotion of the game it is becoming more and more popular. With established poker organizations looking to target Taiwan and continued media coverage of the game, poker is set to continue increasing in popularity.
When was your first live poker tournament?
It was early 2009, after I had been playing poker for about a year and a half. I came to Macau during Spring Festival. At that time PokerStars Macau was still at Grand Waldo, but there were barely any players in the poker room. I registered for a tournament, and I remember there were under 30 registrations!
They were paying the top five and I came the third when my pocket tens ran into pocket kings. Celina Lin was also in that tournament. I remember I busted her out on the final table in a coin flip. I had pocket Jacks and she had AK and all the money went into the middle before the flop. At that time I didn’t know she was a celebrity player. I was just happy to discover there are pretty girls playing poker.
What is your biggest poker achievement so far?
It should be being crowned Champion of the Macau Millions in April this year. To be truthful though I was more excited about winning an APPT HK$10k no limit hold’em side event in May 2010. That was the first time I won a major live tournament and lifted the trophy. This tournament also really helped raise my profile in the Taiwan poker circle.
Are there any poker players that you admire?
Actually there isn’t any poker player I admire in particular, but I appreciate those pretty girl players, such as Liv Boeree. If you play in Macau, you can see Jessica Ngu, Celina Lin, etc. I appreciate them all (answered shyly).
How would you describe yourself as a poker player?
I play differently at different times and against different players. I like to describe myself as a weak-tight player. At the PokerStars blog, they tend to describe me as aggressive in the poker action I am involved in. However, my friends know me and like to use phrases like ‘donkey’, ‘Asia Fish of the Year’ and ‘luck box’ to make fun of me. To be honest, I don’t really care what they think of me. My goal is to be clear about how I play and to always bring my best game to the table.
What would you like to achieve as a poker player in the future?
At the beginning of the year, I usually set goals for myself and write it down in my blog (http://shaqssmm.blogspot.com). I set goals for both cash games and tournaments respectively. This year, I will continue to play all the APOY (Asia Player of the Year) tournaments. In regards to cash games, my goal for the second half of the year is to win over HK$500,000. I have better results in tournaments, but I hope I can become a more all-round player.
What do you like doing when you are not playing poker? What are your loves and passions?
First and foremost I am a live poker player in Macau. When I don’t play poker, I like strolling about the streets or going to Zhuhai for a massage. I also like playing electronic games, such as Starcraft2 and League of Legends (LoL). I think those who like playing electronic games usually have good poker potential. The top European poker player Elky is also a Starcraft2 expert. These players tend to have excellent poker sense. They often can see how hands develop and most importantly when to lay down a hand.