Facing the Firing Squad: Terrence Chan
MEET TERRENCE CHAN:
Were I to chose one word to describe Terrence Chan, that word would be…. genuine.
Terrence is one of the most genuine people I have ever met and known.
Arguably above all characteristics, Terrence is genuinely curious — about almost everything. He’s genuinely humble. He’s genuinely giving. He’s genuinely focused. He’s genuinely dedicated. And, he’s genuinely good at whatever he pursues, if not great at just about everything he truly sets his mind to accomplishing.
His resume includes several noteworthy achievements, including at least one objective which might have even impacted you personally, particularly if you have spent any time playing online poker over the past decade. It includes the creation of one of the online industry’s most highly-acclaimed organizations. It includes multiple years spent as a highly-successful professional poker player, competing both in live action and online, in cash games as well as major tournaments. Most recently, it also includes an entirely new direction as a professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who competes in international matches. To date, he remains undefeated with a perfect 6-0 record.
Indeed, at an age when most fighters are looking to hang up their gloves, wind down their careers, and move on to other ventures, Terrence muscled up and dove mind and body first into the brutally challenging sport of competitive fighting while approaching the age of 30, defying both the obvious physical complications and his critics, who couldn’t believe that such a bright, naturally-gifted, financially comfortable, highly-accomplished professional would voluntarily chose to pursue such a dangerous activity.
True to his nature, Terrence pushed his mental and physical boundaries to their limits. As of this writing, Terrence is currently returning from his most recent prize fight, a victory in Manila, The Philippines. On his way home, unfazed by the satisfaction of being one of the few undefeated fighters in the sport, Terrence spent some time visiting new places that he’d never been before, satisfying that constant sense of curiosity in search of new experiences and discoveries. That pretty much sums up Terrence.
Within poker, Terrence’s major claim to fame took place much earlier, even prior to what was known as the poker boom. He was instrumental in creating and building the customer support division at the popular website PokerStars.com, which would ultimately become the industry standard, even to this day. Back when PokerStars.com was still a fledgling new company struggling to make its mark in a cut-throat industry, Terrence was there at the beginning. He was given the full financial and administrative support of the company founders Isai Scheinberg and Mark Scheinberg. His mission was create the best customer support staff in the world. Barely 21 at the time, Terrence immersed himself into his new role and within only a few years, PokerStars.com had built a reputation as the best technical and customer support in the game. The victory earned, it was time to move on to new challenges.
Once PokerStars.com became the world’s largest poker website, while still at the top of his profession and only in his mid-20s, Terrence decided to walk away from it all. He decided to pursue something else — this time, taking up a full-time occupation as a professional poker player. Limit Hold’em became his specialty. By 2009, most of his peers ranked him as one of the best in the world at that form of poker. Perpetually humble, Terrence wrote the following at his website: “I am probably best known for playing high-limit hold’em games professionally in the late 2000s. Along the way I managed to win WCOOP and SCOOP titles and achieve some modest success in the WSOP and live poker circuit.” Yet at some point, playing poker wasn’t satisfying enough.
About five years ago, Terrence decided to take on a new poker project. This would turn out to be one of the few things that didn’t succeed, despite his commitment and hard work. He assumed a support role in management at Ultimate Poker, which became the first online poker site to be licensed and open based in the United States. While that project didn’t pay off, Terrence nonetheless learned just as much from the disappointment as from his successes. Undaunted by Ultimate Poker’s closing two years ago, that gave him another opportunity to move into yet another direction. This decision would take even his closest friends by surprise.
At first glance, and especially to the untrained eye, MMA fighting appears to be a brutally tough, almost savage ritual. Yet, at its core, MMA fighting is a physical art and a mental science. There is great respect between competitors. Interestingly, Terrence calls most of his time which is spent training and fighting as his “major hobby and passion.” It should also be noted that Terrence’s MMA pursuits include — Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai boxing, western boxing, and wrestling.
Rarely does a sport have such a gifted participant like Terrence, particularly as a dedicated writer who’s able to communicate the subtle nuances and describe in excruciating details what goes into the demands of training and behind the scenes for those struggling to remain in the ring as professional athletes who are essentially fighting for their careers each and every time the bell rings. Terrence’s immersion into MMA wasn’t just a gimmick. He’s taken the pursuit seriously, and after more than two years and at least one serious injury, he remains determined to continue on and pursue his own ambitions. When he’s not traveling and competing, Terrence lives in Vancouver, BC (Canada).
Please take time to read his story and follow more about Terrence’s pursuits at his website (listed below).
I first met Terrence when we worked together at PokerStars.com, which was 12 years ago. I have marveled at his career since then, and remain even more astounded by the excellent example he sets for us all as someone not just to admire, but emulate, at well.
Thank you, Terrence Chan, for agreeing to face the firing squad.
Link to Terrence Chan’s personal website HERE
Link to Terrence Chan’s poker podcast’s HERE
Follow Terrence Chan on Twitter (@tchanpoker) HERE
TERRENCE CHAN FACES THE FIRING SQUAD:
What are some of the things you stand for?
Self-improvement; humans striving to be slightly better humans every day.
What are some of the things you stand against?
Erosion of personal liberties. Abuses of power. People who don’t flush the toilet all the way down.
What living person do you admire the most, and why?
My friend Matt Hawrilenko, for possibly being the most well-rounded and completely fulfilled human in existence. When we first met, he was one of many brilliant poker players I knew. He then became probably the best all-around poker player I knew. But after putting enough zeroes in his bank account, he managed to walk away from poker and began to pursue his psychology PhD. Instead of trying to bust Phil Ivey heads-up, he’s now counseling war veterans with PTSD. He’s a committed father and family man, and a hell of a friend whether times are good or bad. He’s also way better at Brazilian Jiujitsu than I am, despite starting it two years later than me. Actually in writing this up, I’m starting to hate the guy, to be perfectly honest. Who gave him the right to be that good at everything?
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
I think there is a tendency to romanticize, or view with rose-coloured glasses, historical figures from the past. Especially anyone notable in the political sphere; while they may have done great things, most of them did awfully shitty things too. Many great businessmen and industrialists made wonderful advances to our civilization, but they may have been violent to workers or manipulated government officials to their benefit. Many a great scientist or inventor paved the road to the future, but were often tremendously unhappy in their personal lives.
So I’ll say that while I think it’s great to study historical figures, one must be careful heaping too much admiration on them. I admire anyone who has the courage to truly chase after one’s dreams. Not to daydream idly, but genuinely put in the grind, the sacrifice, and the heartbreak of making that dream a reality.
What living person do you despise?
I don’t think I despise anyone, but those who cause harm to others with violence or theft are certainly going to be near the top of my shit list.
If money were not an object, what profession would you chose?
I’d like to be an MMA instructor, but I don’t feel I’m yet qualified for it. I feel like my fighting career is in a sense an apprenticeship.
As an aside, one wonderful thing about the world today (the first world, anyway) is that we’re getting to a point where a large number of people are able to have their career match their passion. For most of our history, we have drawn a line between the things we do for money, and the things we do for love. Now – in large part thanks to the Internet – those are converging. People are finding niches in the market where if they truly dedicate themselves to their craft, they can often make a living at it.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
Discipline. And also a willingness to accept that I am often wrong about things, even if I refuse to admit it to anyone after the fact.
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
More natural empathy. More spontaneity. I’d like to be more patient in annoying/boring day-to-day situations like waiting for the dentist, or in line at the grocery store.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
[Terrence stares blankly and silently, trying not to use the obvious answer.]
What’s the most unusual time and place you’ve ever visited?
We’ve managed to grow accustomed to it, but the World Series of Poker at the Rio every year is a pretty damn unusual place. You walk down a half-mile hallway and people start selling you everything: “Balance bracelets.” Canned oxygen. Poker lessons. $150 hoodies. Then you walk into a gigantic room packed full of mostly silent people. Camera crews are filming people who are trying to be as expressionless as possible – this is what purgatory must be, right? The room is 80% homogenous, plain-looking young males in hoodies, but once in a while someone is dressed up like a bear or a clown for some reason. Some guy will occasionally interrupt the chip clacking by jumping up on his chair and hollering at the top of his lungs. Another will pass out drunk, 8 hours after having paid $10,000 to enter a tournament where first place is $8 million. This place is the definition of unusual, and what’s alarming is how incredibly normal it’s become for people like us.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
Could not possibly name just one. Montreal. Taiwan. Most of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Morocco. Cuba. Antarctica. Outer space — I’m serious; once it gets down to about $100k and it has an established safety record, sign me up for SpaceX.
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician.
I will always recommend The War of Art to anyone who has a passion.
I’m going to punt on the other two because I don’t have clear runaway favourite movies/musicians.
What upsets you the most?
That there are people who want to control others, restrict their freedom of person and property.
What bores you?
Gossip. Those who find titillation the personal lives of others must surely have a gigantic hole in their own.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
No. It’s not totally inconceivable that there is one; just probabilistically unlikely. And Lady Probability has been too loyal to me for too long, for me to start cheating on her now.
Finally, borrowing from author Peter Thiel in his wonderful book Zero To One: [paraphrasing] “In your view, what’s the one important truth that few people agree on?”
My answer to this question is that if you’re not willing to bet on your prediction, then your prediction is worthless. In the gambling world, we know this, but we are a very small percentage of the overall population. We are in a world where everyone from television to Twitter is a self-proclaimed expert, but so few people are actually putting their money where their mouths are, and betting on their opinions.
[Want more? See a video feature of Terrence Chan shot in Vancouver, created by POKERLISTINGS.COM]
1 — cardplayer.com
2 — assopoker.com
3 — cardplayer.com
4-7 — terrencehanpoker.com