She Was Tired of Her Promising 9-5 Job, So She Became Malaysia’s #1 Female Poker Player



In the middle of 2018, Natalie Teh Siew-po decided to quit her day job at a promising startup called iFlix (Asia’s answer to Netflix) to pursue playing poker full time.

Seven months later, Teh is now ranked 23rd on Malaysia’s all-time money list, the top female poker player in the country, with nearly $200,000 in total earnings. She is also the 25th-ranked female in the world, according to the South China Morning Post.

In an interview with NextShark, Teh tells us she is hoping to clinch at least the top five in the female GPI (Global Poker Index) rank by the end of the year.

When asked how she got started, Teh revealed that she learned how to play poker through experience.

“I’m Chinese, so it helped that I knew ‘Chor Dai Di’ or better known as ‘Big2’ growing up – at least I knew immediately what combos were what and which were superior. We played poker frequently at home games with friends during college – it was a great excuse to get together, compete in something but still kept it social.”

As a pro poker player, Teh says she currently employs a TAG (Tight Aggressive) strategy.

“Can’t really go wrong with that. You automatically make money if you’re tighter/more patient than most players. That has changed a little now, I’m trying to play what’s best for each scenario against different players but I’m still a TAG player in a nutshell.”

Teh says while she prefers traveling and playing live, she occasionally enjoys playing online.

“You get lots of volumes online as well with multiple tables at one go, so it’s great practice,” she noted.

Like Teh, her boyfriend also plays poker professionally and they often travel to tournaments together. She shared that most people assume they met through poker but they actually met during high school.

“Travelling around and playing together has been fun! There haven’t been any negatives… Yet 🙂 we joke all the time that he’s stuck with me now and can’t get rid of me though – for now, it’s still something we laugh about.”

Teh revealed that in the rare cases when they do end up together at the same table, they both felt it best to just be professional and play as they would anybody else.

“I guess we are lucky that neither of us is emotional, so we won’t take it to heart if we bluff each other – it’s just part of the game. We dream of going heads up all the time, especially in the big events. Honestly, we’d probably just chop the money and flip a coin for the trophy and title. It’s happened twice before in local events; he’s won the flip both times so I’m probably due for a win the next time!”

Looking ahead, Teh noted how “retiring” in the world of poker can be a totally different concept.

“When I quit my tech job in a startup mid-2018, poker was only going to be a 6 month test run. For now, it’s indefinite. ‘Retiring’ is an interesting term in the world of poker because one probably never retires from poker – it’s not limited to age. I made a deep run last year in the WSOP 2018 Main Event where the first prize was $8.8 million, and when I got close to it, most friends asked me if I would retire if I won it. I was very certain I wouldn’t. I’m at the early stages of my poker career so I would have continued playing for sure. It’s too interesting to give up.”

According to Teh, a common misconception about professional poker is that it’s all “easy, fun and glamorous.”

“Most people don’t realize that you have to put in lots of hours – more than a normal 9-5 job in fact,” she noted.

“During tournaments, we play 12 hours, sometimes 15 hours a day – it really is a grind. This doesn’t include hours put into improving your game, studying and hand analyses.”

Featured image via Instagram/natalietehsp

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