Pro poker player says the game is ‘stressful fun’

Playing poker professionally isn’t as easy as it looks, says Toronto native Evelyn Ng.


With most jobs, playing your cards right will land you an important client or a raise. For 31-year-old Evelyn Ng, however, she has to play her cards right or she won’t get paid.

Hailing from Toronto, Ng now lives in Las Vegas and is a professional poker player, a job she’s done for more than 10 years. As a kid, she always had a knack for puzzles and would bet on everything, from board games to billiards.

“I think at a very early age, I realized I was probably smarter,” Ng frankly admits. “Whatever it was, I got people to bet me on. I knew I had an advantage.”

She discovered poker at 18 when she got a job as a card dealer in an underground casino. She discovered professional poker, however, when she met Daniel Negreanu, one of the best pro poker players around. He brought her to Vegas for her 21st birthday and it proved to be an eye-opening experience. “I didn’t realize that people looked at poker as a job,” Ng says. “I realized I could do it too if I applied myself.”

She relocated to Sin City and became a full-time card shark, playing poker for eight hours a day, five days a week. While her parents disapproved of her chosen vocation at first, they warmed up to it after she demonstrated how good she was at it. “My mom went from being very reluctant to discuss my job to walking around with a magazine with my face on it,” she laughs.

Ng has some high-profile successes under her belt already, like the $73,000 she cashed in at the Bellagio last year or her second-place finish at the 2003 World Poker Tour, beating longtime poker virtuosos like Jennifer Harman.

But with high stakes also comes high risk and Ng’s gone broke several times, as many pro players tend to at some point in their careers. “It’s tremendous fun,” she says, but adds it’s also very “stressful fun.”

It all just comes with the job, however, and playing poker for your dinner is much harder than people think, Ng insists. “You’re part mathematician, part actor, part psychologist,” she explains.

“People think it’s an easy living, but it’s a very difficult way to make an easy living.”

Ng says she’ll eventually try her hand at something else, like writing, but for now, she’s more than holding her own in what’s formerly been a men’s club. Ng also attributes part of her success to the fact that she’s an “armchair psychologist” from Toronto.

“Being from Toronto is a huge advantage,” she says. “I was exposed to so many ethnicities and cultures and it gave me a lot of insight to help me think.”