Maria Ho is only 37 years is old and is a poker Hall of Famer. In 2018, Ho was inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame, which was her first year being eligible. And she has continued to prove she’s worthy of the honor, earning millions of dollars in winnings and recently placing 22nd out of 705 players in the World Series of Poker Main Event. PopCulture.com had a chance to catch up with Ho — who fans might also recognize from American Idol and The Amazing Race — who revealed that she never thought she would be a Hall of Fame poker player.
“I definitely took on poker as a hobby and had no idea I could make a living doing it, let alone a career,” Ho said to PopCulture. “It’s really been my life for the last 15 years. Being inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame was a huge honor for me because I know that women who came before me had a much tougher path to pursue this as a career choice. The fact that it was them that voted me in really made me feel like it’s one of my greatest poker accomplishments. …It’s really important for me to carry that torch and be able to show other women that they can find success in the game and hopefully encourage them to play.”
Ho is one of the best poker players in the world, but her path to the game started in an interesting way. The California native said she was introduced to poker when she was attending the University of California in San Diego. She had a group of friends that would play but “never got the invite.” That led to her gaining more interest in poker.
“Even though I had no knowledge of the game, it made me want to go and see what it was all about,” Ho stated, adding that no women were playing in their game. “One day I just showed up at their dorm room with some beer and I feel like it was the way to gain entry into a college kid’s game.”
“The first time that I played, I was hooked because I’ve always been a competitive person,” Ho continued. “But I really enjoyed the strategy elements of the game, even though I didn’t have any idea what I was going.”
The college games led to Ho learning more about poker and eventually playing in various tournaments. Her first major tournament was the World Series of Poker in 2007 where she was the last woman remaining in the main event, finishing in 38th place. She repeated that accomplishment in 2014, finishing in 77th place out of 6,683 players. In her career, Ho has won over $4 million in live poker tournaments and is also a top commentator, co-hosting tournaments on CBS, ESPN, NBC, Amazon eSports and PokerGo, the top Poker streaming service in the world.
It seems like Ho has nothing to prove in her poker career. However, despite being a Hall of Famer, Ho says she has more things to accomplish. “I was traveling 250 days out of the year prior to the pandemic,” Ho said. “This time where I really have been forced to slow down and travel less, it’s really made me realize how much I enjoy staying in one place. … Even though I’ll never miss a World Series of Poker main event, I think that my time in terms of being that full-time traveling tournament pro is dwindling down. …I do feel like there some things I want to do and accomplish in poker, but I would say I would like to move on to the next thing and there’s so many other things that I’m passionate about. It’s just about finding the right next thing for me.”