Meet Manlee Wan, the poker player who applies maths to win matches

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Issue 89, Page 4
Word count: 1139
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Being the only Asian in the celebrity team of this year’s Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), Chinese Manlee Wan said Macau was not an easy place to win big money for poker players because of the different sets of rules.

The 25-year-old Scottish-born Manlee spoke to the Macau Daily Times exclusively in Manila where the first-ever APPT was hosted by, a worldwide online poker site with more than nine million members.

The televised event began on Friday afternoon at Hyatt Casino Manila and was concluded at 3am yesterday. American Brett Parise beat 254 worldwide players to take home nearly $US180,000 and a seat to the APPT Grand Final in Sydney in December.

Manlee was invited to be one of the eight celebrities to compete in the tournament for a share of the $US600,000 prize pool.

The other high-profile players included 41-year-old Joe Hachem from Melbourne, 32-year-old Daniel Negreanu and 24-year-old Vanessa Rousso, both from Las Vegas.

The young Chinese poker player has been described by the APPT as the new breed of poker player. Manlee first raised his profile in 2003 when he finished runner-up to Chris Moneymaker in the PokerStars satellite that led to Moneymaker reaching, and subsequently, winning the World Series of Poker main event. He was one of the highest-ranking online players in which earned him a complimentary trip to the Philippines.

Maths student

The 25-year-old told the Macau Daily Times he first picked up blackjack in 1990 when he was having Mathematics classes at the University of Glasgow and realised that the winning possibility could be calculated.

Since then, Manlee had participated in various poker events, adding that he had made more than $US300,000 throughout his poker life.

In 2003, at the age of 21, he first appeared in an international poker event held annually in Las Vegas – the World Series of Poker, in which he was the youngest contestant among 800 players.

Having played poker almost everywhere in the world, Manlee speaks Spanish, Russian, German, Arabic, and Japanese, apart from his four tongues of Hakka, English, Cantonese and Mandarin. He said Russia was the easiest destination to win poker as the country did not know the rules very well; whereas it was “hard to win in Macau even though you had an accurate calculation on the winning possibility”.

He had come to Macau in June for the World Series of Mahjong Event. Although he said he was not good at playing the typical Chinese game, he admitted it was his curiosity that drove him to buy a seat in the tournament.

Banned at Vegas

During his stay in the former Portuguese colony, Manlee told the Macau Daily Times that he did not go to gamble in casinos because he believed that “people could never make money there”.

“Otherwise, how can the casinos make any profit?”

He said he had a history of being banned from playing card games in Las Vegas casinos because the people knew he was counting cards as a member of a professional team.

“The manager came to me and said I could gamble anything else but absolutely no card games – all sorts of card games,” Manlee said.

“One time I was in the Monte Carlo casino where it was full of players at the table. But I was the only one to be asked to cash out my chips and left the premises.”

At that time, Manlee did not even reach 21 which was the legitimate age for entering casinos in Las Vegas. He confessed most players who counted cards – including himself – used counterfeit identification to cash out winning chips.

“It’s because the casinos would put us in record, if they suspected we were cheating or calculating the cards.”

In the APPT Manila, Manlee was knocked out after losing the last 6,000 tournament dollars chips in a bet just before 9pm on the first day of the live event.

The young Chinese poker player, however, told the Macau Daily Times that he was not disappointed with his early elimination because he did not aim at winning any big money there.

“I could have given up the games earlier on that day, but I chose to stay a little bit longer was because I wanted to be covered by more media – at that time a lot of people were taking pictures of me.

“Seriously, I didn’t aim at winning money from there,” Manlee said.

He told the Macau Daily Times that he had very bad social skills and was lacking in body language because “he had played too many online poker games”.

“That’s why the prize money wasn’t my motivation. I just wanted to try to apply mathematics and psychology in poker and see if it worked.”

Body language

Apart from counting cards, Manlee said he liked to observe people’s body language as one of his gaming strategies.

“If people are having small hands, they’re usually very tense and they blink their eyes much more frequently – that’s why some players like wearing sunglasses.

“On the other hand, if people are having big hands, their hands tend to tremble a lot and heat beat jumps – their veins on the neck can tell because they’re very alert on every player’s bet.”

He said 80 per cent of the APPT players were very professional and knew how to conceal both their physical and psychological reactions.

The APPT celebrity said he spent his winning money on purchasing a piece of land in Ukraine recently and built a three-level villa in a holiday resort. However, he said he planned to sell it very soon.

“I was so immature and silly at that time. I didn’t know how I should spend my winning money and when I was travelling in Ukraine last time, I saw a pretty good piece of land facing the sea, and I spent less than 20 minutes before I decided to purchase it.

“But I think I’ll just put the profit into a bank in England where the fixed interest is very high. I’m not bothered to do any investment and I have no incentive to earn more,” Manlee said.

After playing poker and travelling around the world over the past years, Manlee said he would like to find a stable job in Scotland and spend more time with his family. However, the first condition was, he said, it had to be a relaxed and easy job.

“I’m a very lazy person and I don’t really do things very seriously. And I don’t care how much I’ll get paid.”

However, before all these things could happen, Manlee said he would still make his way to Korea next month and Sydney in December for the APPT Grand Final.

In addition, next year’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas was definitely not to be missed.


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