My poker-playing, China-living brother checks in

My parents sure raised some adventurous kids! My youngest brother, Steven, lives in Zhongshan, China and recently disappeared from email for weeks; I knew only that he was headed to Macau with some friends. When he finally resurfaced, he sent me a casual email: “Hey, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I’ve pretty much been out of town for a month.” A month?! Can you imagine me not near a computer for a month? He and I are nothing alike – although he definitely has the travel bug. When I was his age, I was backpacking through Europe! Also, he told his tale of poker tournaments in the Philippines and an embarrassing sunburn with, if I say so myself, Abby-worthy dramatic flair. And now he’s officially been to one country his big sister hasn’t yet made it to! Hmmph.

My brother’s recap email, in his own words:

Macau was great. I ended up winning a poker tournament to play in the Philippines for a week. There, I won about 7000 dollars, or about 75% of the money I earned all last year teaching in China. Best 20 bucks I ever spent.

Philippines was a lot of fun, and we had free hotel rooms for the tournament. We had three days of elimination rounds, leaving the 450 of us down to 120. We then played for 10 hours and ended that day with only 42 finalists, which meant that everyone there had made at least $2000.

On day three, I started with about 200,000 in chips. I worked it up to about 300,000 with 30 people left. I ended up all in against someone who had about 200,000 in chips. I was a slight favorite to win but lost. Thankfully, I got really lucky, and in about 30 minutes I had more than 250,000 again. About 25 people left now…  All in against someone with 200,000, again a slight favorite, and… lost. This left me with only 50,000, and I was soon out, in 23rd place, making 6,8000 dollars. I was happy to win but disappointed I didn’t win either of those hands. Had I’d won either, I would’ve made the last 10 players, been on TV, and made at least 11,000 dollars with a chance at the grand prize of 270,000 dollars. Maybe next time.

After exploring Manila with some of the younger players from the tournament, Tom and I went to Puerto Gallera, a small island. This did not go as smoothly as our time in Manila. We got to the city that has ferries to Puerto Gallera about 15 minutes too late to catch the last one of the day. There were guys there offering to take us on their private boats for the modest sum of about 1000 US dollars. Finally, we found someone who offered to take us for 600 Phillippino dollars, or about 15 US. He told us that the boat was “right around the corner,” which made sense seeing as how we were at the port. After a 20-minute bus ride, we asked him again and got the same response: “right around the corner.”

Have I mentioned that the tournament pays in cash? So I had close to 7000 US dollars on me. I was a bit nervous as we started to ascend a gigantic mountain. You’d think that any ferry would be at sea level, so when he turned to us and said, “Just a minute now,” I knew we were about to get mugged. Well, we arrived at the top of this gigantic hill, and then walked down to sea level, about a 10-minute walk. We got onto the ferry and went to Puerto Gallera. No muggings.

The next day, we wandered around the island, took a boat tour, had some good food … and I got the worst sunburn of my life. When we were eating and lounging around, apparently about one third of my body was out in the sun, and I didn’t notice. So for about six hours, part of me was cooking. When I got back home, after three full days of avoiding the sun, Bill told me I still looked like a Neapolitan ice-cream, the one that’s strawberry on one side, vanilla in the middle and chocolate on the other side. It’s by far the most accurate description. My left side was nicely tanned, I had a ridiculously white strip in the middle where I’d been wearing shorts and a shirt, and my right side was a nice shade of red.

All in all, a great trip though. I was in Zhongshan for a few days, where I was suffering quite a bit from my sunburn before managing to catch a really bad cold.  I’m still getting over it.  I went back to Hong Kong two days ago to get my new visa and returned last night.

How have you been though?  What’s new?



The following two tabs change content below.
I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

Related Content


  1. OMG, your bro sounds fantastic!!! I bet dinner time with your family would be incredibly entertaining. What is your bro doing in China? You need to post a pic of him! 🙂

  2. I love how casual it sounds. Great letter. I’m still laughing…

  3. Ok, where’s the deck of cards? I’m learning how to play poker now!! That’s was a crazy story!! ha ha Andi is right, your dinner conversations with your family must be so random and exotic! 🙂

  4. He wouldn’t send me any of his pictures, because he’s sunburned in all of them! And wearing some kind of hat to block his sunburn from more sun. I’m “shocked” that he’d think I might post one… heehee

  5. He’s sooo dry in the funniest way. We won’t hear from him for ages and then he’ll send us one of these emails like he’s just had a normal walk in the park.

  6. I know! How did I live in Vegas for three years and not learn how to play. Kids these days — they’re so smart! My family talks … a lot.

  7. “This is China” or TIC, as fellow expats called it. It seems like the further south you go, the crazier stuff happens. I lived in the northern part of China, near Beijing. Your brother’s story reminded me of a night in Hong Kong which will live in infamy.

    Does that kind of stuff happen in Costa Rica??

  8. Hi, Sherly! So happy to hear from you! No, this stuff definitely does not happen in Costa Rica — at least in my part. My brother, who clearly doesn’t take after moi, could certainly easily disappear in this country for a month. There’s much sportsbetting and more in San Jose, but my brother wouldn’t like the city. I’ve never been to Beijing! Steven used to come visit when I lived in Las Vegas. But the betting part is another world to me! Where do you live now?

Speak Your Mind