Any chess players who kept their eyes peeled during the Millionaire Maker this week would have been excited to have spotted Qiyu Zhou, better known as Nemo, visiting the tables.
The 22-year old Woman Grandmaster was in Vegas for the International Chess Festival’s National Open event. Despite a grueling chess tourney schedule, she still managed to find the time to slap on a WPTGlobal patch and play a couple of ten-hour days of cards.
Nemo was one of 7,961 players who ponied up $1,500 to play Event #37: $1,500 Millionaire Maker No-Limit Hold’em. With a prize pool of $10.6 million, first place was $1,125,141.
Nemo managed to bag 58k at the end of Day 1. The next day, she survived into the money before hitting the rail in 1,165th place for $2,400.
The bracelet ultimately went to Yuliyan Kolev.
What is this, a crossover episode?
In 2020, The Queen’s Gambit created a bull market for chess sets and old copies of Modeand rn Chess Openings. Poker players rushed into (or back into) pushing wood. Negreanu, Boeree, and Spraggy, all posted pictures of themselves at the chess board (or streamed it in Spraggy’s case).
Now, it seems like the needle is swinging back as more and more high-profile chess players like Nemo try out poker.
WFM Anna Cramling took part in the WCOOP earlier this year, her first time playing poker, ever. While, WFM Alexandra Botez played the WPT Heads Up Championship in Mexico and has played on Hustler Casino Live where she broke Phil Hellmuth and won the lion’s share of Allen Keating’s $1 million loss. Both Nemo and Botez also appeared in an episode of WPT High Stakes Home Game.
Much of this move from chess to poker seems to have been orchestrated by the canny marketing team at WPTGlobal. WPTGlobal put Nemo in the WSOP and arranged for at least one of Botez’s appearances Hustler Casino Live.
In the post-Queen’s Gambit world, most of these chess players have enormous online followings. Nemo’s twitch channel has almost 300k subscribers and the Botez sisters (Alexandra and her younger sister Andrea) have 1.1 million. When chess-celebrities play poker, they bring that game-savvy audience with them.
Plus, players like Nemo bring to the table a definite cool-factor, something that poker has been gradually losing ever since Black Friday raised the bar to entry.
Featured image source: PokerGO