Right now I’m sitting on my balcony of my room at the MGM Grand in Sanya, China, while we edge closer to tomorrow’s final table in the WPT National China Main Event. This is our second time to visit gorgeous Hainan, and it got me reflecting on last year’s adventure, when the entire WPT cast came to China for this same event, and we filmed a travel series all over the island.
Here is a shortened version of our overall series that I co-produced with our World Poker Tour and OurGame production teams, broken into three segments that were aired on Fox Sports (US) during WPT Season 14.
Be sure to scroll down to see all three videos!
WPT National China & Binlang Valley
Highlights from the WPT National China poker tournament, which attracted 888 players. While the players were working hard toward reaching the final table, Vince van Patten and I ventured out to Binlang Valley to dive into the tribal culture of the Li people. Costumes and all.
A Note from Binlang Valley
Something fascinating I learned while exploring the tribal culture of the Li people of Hainan, was the tradition of tattooing the ankles, wrists and faces of the women — starting the process between ages 8-12 to mark their transition through puberty. It was mainly a custom to signify what tribe they belonged to, however, during WWII when many women were kidnapped to “comfort” Japanese soldiers, the soldiers considered the tattoos to be ugly, saving the Li women from being taken from their village. Approx 1000 aging women still have their tattoos today.
Yalong Bay Golf Club, MGM Grand Spa & World's Largest Duty Free Store
Mike Sexton, Vince van Patten, Tony Dunst, Matt Savage and Brittany Bell walked across the street to the world-class Yalong Bay Golf Club for a round of golf, while Tugba and I stayed back at the MGM Grand’s Sho Spa for a day of relaxation. That night, Brittany and Tony joined the rest of the Royal Flush Girls at the world’s largest Duty Free Shopping mall, right here on Hainan Island.
Nanshan Temple & Wuzhizhou Coral Island
The biggest highlight of my trip to Sanya would have to be my visit to Nanshan Temple with Mike Sexton. A buddhist temple on stunning grounds spanning over 40,000 square meters. We had a cooking lesson with the temple’s vegan chef, and walked through the sacred statue of Guan Yin, towering over China’s South Sea. While we did that, the rest of the team hopped on a yacht out to the beautiful Wuzhizhou Island.
A Note from Nanshan Temple
One Buddhist philosophy that has helped change my life is mindfulness — living in the present moment. It’ll always be a work in progress, just like going to the gym. Our mind loves to live in the past, holding on to resentment and guilt for what cannot be changed, and it loves to live in the future, gripping on to fear of what might happen. So how much of our lives are we missing if we’re rarely paying attention as it’s happening?
One of the many reasons people love to travel is because it’s an “escape from the mundane”. What if you treated your days in the same way you do when you travel, walking the streets with wonder and taking in the “newness” around you? While the tree you pass daily may not be new, it’s probably the first time you’ve actually noticed it. The more we are present, the more we realise how much we have to appreciate around us.
If you think it sounds like living in lala land, it’s quite the opposite. We connect more with others when we are present. We give ourselves mental clarity to come up with ideas and be more productive in our lives and in work. And who knows, you might even be more aware of opportunities that present themselves around you because you’re not on the 67th mental replay of yesterday’s conversation.