Female professional poker players, Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle from Arcadia, Calif., and Los Angeles, Calif. respectively, are one of the Teams competing on The Amazing Race 15, which premieres with a special two-hour episode on Sunday, Sept. 27 (8:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2009 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
One of my favorite shows on TV is The Amazing Race on CBS. Every season, I pick a team from the beginning that I root for, no matter what! I have a feeling that this season, I’m going to be devoting my rooting time to Tiffany Michelle and her best friend, and fellow poker player, Maria Ho! I had the chance to talk to Tiffany early last week about how she prepared to tackle the race, and why she thinks she might have the advantage over other teams!
Are you excited now that we’re getting so close to the premiere, and you can talk a little about it?
I am so excited. It’s just fun to be able to talk about it. Kind of having to keep things under lock and key. I really suck at keeping quiet about things, especially something so huge and amazing. So just being able to say, yeah, I did it, I was on it, is really, really fun. It seems surreal in the moment while you’re doing the show and while you’re racing and so now to step back and be able to view it, I think it’s going to be a whole new and different experience.
Were you a fan of the show before you got involved?
I had seen bits and pieces of the show, and the bits and pieces that I had seen, I really liked. I thought it looked incredible and challenging. It’s one of the more reputable shows on TV; it has a lot of Emmys, which speaks very highly of it. In regards to relationships, in regards to the ways it challenges people, it’s amazing, even the world travels; the ways your life is changed based on seeing different cultures, I thought was really exciting. Once I knew I was on the show, I went back and watched a ton of episodes, but leading up to the show, I knew about it, it looked really exciting, really interesting, but I wasn’t a die hard, every Sunday night fan.
Did you do any specific physical preparation going into it?
That was the one thing I was worried about was the physical aspect. I’m pretty physical, I work out on a regular basis, and I played a lot of competitive sports growing up. Maria, however, definitely the female girly version of our team. We kind of joke that I’m the man in the relationship, so I made sure to start getting my endurance up, more than I had in the months past. At the same time, we also knew that it’s not solely a physical show. A lot of the teams that have won or made it to the top three weren’t the hugest strongest guys that you would think would do really well. So we knew it was a very mental game, a very psychological game so we kind of prepared on a lot of levels. We talked a lot of strategy and watching different episodes, saying “ok, which detour would you have done, and how would we have gone about doing this?” so there was definitely a physical element. We learned how to drive stick shift just in case that came up.
That always comes up and there’s always that one team that doesn’t know how to drive it!
Yep! Believe me, Maria and I, neither of us had driven stick shift before so one weekend, I called up my dad and said, “Dad, we need to learn how to drive a stick shift” and of course everybody knows how that first stick shift experience is, there’s a lot rumbling in the car, and we quickly determined that Maria was going to be better at stick shift. She’d have the responsibility of taking that, and then I’d have the responsibility of doing anything physical or eating any gross tuff, so we divvied it up. We weren’t too worried about the physical thing, even though that was going to be the weakest thing for Maria and I, we’re not tough guys, but at the same time, we know that the show balances out between mental challenges and physical challenges.
Does the poker career help to handle the mental challenge aspect of it, being skilled at hiding what you’re thinking, or playing?
We were really excited, we felt like our backgrounds as poker players were going to be very beneficial. We’re used to playing very psychological games; we’re used to playing games. A lot of other people coming in with different backgrounds didn’t have a gaming background. We weren’t just going to think of it as a free vacation around the world, we’re sitting there going “oh this is a game, we’re playing for a million dollars, how do we do this, what maneuvers do we have to make, how can we strategize to have the best chances on the show, and at the same time, we’re used to playing for millions of dollars under intense situations, with cameras in our faces, so we really felt like that would be an advantage for us. Where some people, you put a camera in their face, they don’t know how to function any more. Especially competing for a million dollars, in a really intense situation, against all different kinds of competitors, most often for Maria and I, it tends to be men that we’re sitting across from, so we’re very comfortable. We are very comfortable with any kind of challenger that we have to go heads up with. We are very comfortable having a lot of high stakes on the line, when we play our games. We thought a lot of those would translate well into the race.
Did you do a lot of international travel before this?
Yeah, Maria and I, we just felt like we had a really good shot this season, because we’ve traveled all over the world together. We play poker all over the world. We traveled to Europe, and we’ve been in France, and Aruba and Monte Carlo, and London. Maria, specifically, she was born in Taiwan. She speaks Mandarin fluently, so, in regards to Asian cultures and cities, she traveled a lot in Asia, so between the both of us, we’re very comfortable and familiar with traveling around. Obviously, not to the extent that you have to do on a show where you can’t have a cell phone or a map or any of these tools to help you along, but we’re pretty familiar with being in and out of airports and in and out of hotels in foreign locations, so felt like that would be something we would be able to handle pretty easily.
Switching gears quickly – I know you started in the performing arts before poker came around, and now you’re doing both – what is the ultimate role you would love to play?
One of the first roles I had when I got into film and television was on ER. I played a girl at like 16 years old who dies. Like her insides explode from a motorcycle accident, which that’s one of the things that I love about acting. You get to become people and do things that you would never in your life ever get to do, so laying there on a gurney, having blood pouring out of my mouth, as graphic as it sounds, it was the most insane experience that I could ever had. That’s what I love about characters and people. I don’t know, the vampire thing is really hot right now. I think that would be super, super fun. I tend to be a really easy going, optimistic, fun, friendly person, so for some reason, I’m really drawn to dark roles and be someone and say things that are so outside my comfort zone, characteristic, so I don’t know, I tend to really enjoy like really troubled teenagers, or horror films, just something that’s so outside of daily life, it really intrigues me. My parents are like, great; we’re going to have a daughter that’s on like horror films. Woohoo, we’re so excited about that.
Do you get a chance to watch TV?
On and off I do. When we’re traveling a lot, I kind of have to set the TiVo and when I get home, I camp out on the couch for a while, catching up on shows. And then we tend to be in casinos and hotels a lot, where we do get to watch television, but TiVo is an amazing tool for me these days.
I had to get a second one this season!
Oh my god, I can’t believe you could even say a second one, but I think I might get there at some point in my life, so that’s a really good idea. A second TiVo!
That’s all I have for you today – I cannot wait to watch this season. The Amazing Race is one of my favorite shows!
Thank you! We’re excited to be representing for the women. It was an amazing experience and we hope that everyone really enjoys this season!
Amazing Race Season Premiere : Sunday, September 27th at 8:00/7:00c