It’s almost 1,500 miles from Edmonton, Alberta to Las Vegas, Nevada. If you’re going to drive it, it’ll take about 21 hours if you go straight through. Obviously flying is a little bit quicker and the trip time is a little more than three hours. Earlier this week, Lina Niu made the flight from her hometown of Edmonton specifically to play in the WPT Ladies Championship.
Turns out that was a pretty good decision – one of several the 38-year-old made over the last three days. Early Monday morning, Niu defeated Olga Iermolcheva heads-up to win the WPT Ladies Championship and the $105,136 first place prize.
“Today’s been a roller coaster for sure. I started off with chip lead, lost a lot early on and played super tight, got really lucky in some all-in spots. Just got super lucky on the last hand too,” Niu said.
The WPT Ladies Championship drew 578 total entries to push the prize pool to $560,660 – nearly three times the $200,000 guarantee.
Making her win even more impressive, Niu isn’t a full-time poker pro. She runs her own business and plays poker on the side. No Limit Texas Hold’em isn’t even her primary game – but maybe that’s changing.
“I do play poker a lot on the side, $2/$5 PLO usually, but tournaments are my new thing, I think,” Liu said. “I love Hold’em tournaments. They’re so much more fun. You can make more bluffs, you can get people off hands. I feel like PLO is more of a cash game for me.”
A quick look at Lina Niu’s tournament history and it’s very clear she’s not a tournament grinder. Prior to this event, Niu had four career cashes and $16,857 in career earnings – the majority of which came just two weeks ago in a $1,650 buy-in event in Edmonton.
‘I’ve only played the WSOP Ladies event twice, this is my third (ladies tournament). Honestly I don’t have that much experience in tournament poker, I just love it. I thought I’d take a shot in it,” Niu said.
Being under the bright lights that come with a televised WPT final table was something Niu had to adjust for – even if she never quite got totally comfortable in the environment.
“I’ve been nervous all day. I don’t think it got any easier, but I was just super excited to be here,” said Niu.
Having started the day with the chip lead, Niu had to tangle multiple times with Iermolcheva. The Ukrainian poker pro was putting on a clinic for most of the day before reaching heads up, but Niu made the most of her opportunities and gave some good fortune a bit of the credit as well.
“I was really worried about playing heads up with her, but I got her in some good spots and just got lucky I guess, but she was definitely a very tough, tough player,” Niu said.