I’m discreetly guided past the security gate and led upstairs to a white door. There are no signs that allude to the character of the destination. No outsiders are to know what happens here and you must be invited to be allowed in.

I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s uncomfortable. I’m a petite 22-year-old Vietnamese college girl and the room I enter is filled with cigar smoke and wealthy 40-70-year-old Argentine men. They stare and lean in to talk to each other.

My Spanish isn’t good enough to understand them yet but whenever someone says “La china” I can guess who he’s talking about. Once the cards are dealt the intimidation dissipates like dry ice. I don’t fit in but poker is our common ground and the felt is my backyard.

How did I end up in these kinds of situations, playing cards with strangers? I remember a conversation with my friend Di that ultimately led me down this path. I was a freshman in college and needed money. “How long would it take me to earn $10 per hour if I started learning poker?” “One month,” he responded. I had to give it a shot!

A $100 deposit onto Party Poker began my obsession. I was a big fish. My bankroll went busto through “expert” plays such as believing that a pair was the nuts. I failed but didn’t want to give up. With more time I could learn to beat the game. A second deposit followed and it would be my last.

Through college I had intentions of pursuing a normal career after graduation. As time went by though, it became difficult to brainstorm other jobs that I could be equally passionate about and challenged by. The more I played and became integrated into the online poker community the more I realized that my journey wasn’t ready to end. It’s in my blood and I have miles to travel.

The idea of going pro was unsettling. There are few other occupations that are equally volatile to your finances and emotions. At times it feels like you’re plucking money off of trees. A $100 pair of earphones is an easy buy because it’s the same price as a pre-flop raise.

Other times it feels like you’re bleeding money. One losing day is followed by another, then another, then another…. If you’re persistent enough to survive these times then the rewards of poker can make big changes to your life. It’s already done wonders to mine and I look forward to seeing what other doors it opens.

This May I graduated from college at the age of 23 and uprooted my stable life for poker. I packed my possessions into my car like jigsaw pieces and drove for three days from Virginia to Las Vegas for the WSOP. Now that it’s over I’ve settled in Los Angeles, the city of Angels…the city of dreams. Here in this buzzing city, is my new home and my new life.

I’ll take you along on my journey into becoming a better and hopefully fierce poker player. I’m excited to join the Poker Road community to tell a story of a road less traveled. Who knows where it will lead…