Tiffany and Maria Representing Poker in The Amazing Race

by , Sep 28, 2009 | 8:45 am

I watched the season premiere of The Amazing Race last night … and I gotta say, I’m already hooked on the show, but probably for all the wrong reasons.

Guilty pleasure, I suppose. As a man who has misread my own standing and floundered prolifically before, I’m finding it oh-so-enjoyable — cringe-tickley, I’d say — to watch two hot(ish) poker girls (one of whom I kinda-sorta know personally) gloriously stumble for my amusement. Seriously, mocking each other’s failures and belittling successes is the foundation of some of my strongest, most enduring friendships! I think it’s how guys show love.

In the premiere episode of The Amazing Race, we see Tiffany and Maria start out in 1st, drop down to last, and rebound to finish in 7th. In the process they paint themselves (and poker pros) in a less than favorable light.

According to the E! Online blog:

The first team to put a bitter taste in our mouths, however, are unendearing professional poker players Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle, who incurred a two-hour penalty after losing two of their group. The shady duo rival Johnny Fairplay’s dead-grandma fib by telling teammates they work as counselors for a nonprofit organization helping homeless youth…a great lie, if you can keep it up for more than an hour. They couldn’t—when recognized at the airport by a poker fan, they basked in his adulation…within earshot of their amazed competitors. The duo also shared another “savvy” strategy: flirting with cute brothers Sam and Dan McMillen. Both of whom are gay—and playing their cards right by flirting right back with the femmes fatales.

Click below for more highlights, lowlights, and poker-focussed observations from episode 1:

  • Two members of the Harlem Globetrotters get to wear shirts promoting their brand. But no Ultimate Bet paraphernalia. Total bullshit, right?
  • Maria and Tiffany say they don’t like Zev and Kevin — who unbeknownst to them had already shown themselves to be the darling “good guys” of the cast.
  • Zev, who has Asperger’s Syndrome (a type of autism), says he doesn’t get a “warm fuzzy feeling” from Tiffany and Maria.
  • Other TAR players — we’re only one episode in — call them “liars” and “shady”. Gee, such labels attached to an Ultimate Bet pro and associate? Shocking.
  • Maria and Tiffany say they don’t believe Lance is a lawyer. He is, albeit a douchey one.
  • Tiffany believes she and Maria are “rich” … as in wealthy.
  • Maria lets Tiffany down by not eating a golf-ball size chunk of wasabi fast enough.
  • The purple duo go through a spell where they aren’t talking to each other.
  • Tiffany lets down Maria by “losing” two of 20 Japanese tourists when it was her responsibility not to do so. Needle-in-the-haystack search for them on the streets of downtown Tokyo=funny.
  • Maria knows how to make really good Vietnamese food.
  • Tiffany showed she has some skills when it comes to herding ducks.

I’m still rooting for the girls, of course … surely they’ll make it past the halfway point with qualities that seem custom-made for competitive reality TV.

Their post-race interview here, where the purple team begins to come to grips with what they’re really in for.

36 Comments to “Tiffany and Maria Representing Poker in The Amazing Race”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    The Harlem Globetrotters are a more wholesome brand than any online poker site.

  2. DanM

    Right, but technically they cheat at basketball. Just sayin’ …

  3. Uncle Ray

    Must not have had a good football weekend if you passed up SNF. Or was the football outcome clear by you?

    We got a problem in the Central time zone with football at 7:15 or so and TAR at 7:00.

    But since INDY-AZ wasn’t at the top of my list of priorities I got a peek at the show. Being the resident villains on a show like this is not a bad thing. The producers like you to stay around. The conflict makes for better TV.

    And the Globetrooters don’t really cheat because they don’t really PLAY basketball. They are to basketball what professional wrestling is to amateur or olympic wrestling. It’s entertainment, not sport.

  4. BJ Nemeth

    To compare UltimateBet to the Harlem Globetrotters is ludicrous. It’s more like wearing a sports jersey from your favorite team; they just happen to play for them. If you noticed, none of the other players were wearing logos either, even though at least a few owned their own businesses. The anomaly here is the presence of the Globetrotters logo, not the lack of a UltimateBet logo.

    Poker critics are going to say Tiffany & Maria are delusional if they consider themselves to be “rich and successful” poker players. But they’re missing the point, comparing them to players like Negreanu, Ivey, or even online sit-n-go grinders. No, Tiffany and Maria are not millionaires, nor do they have any big tournaments wins.

    But if you look at their situation from a blue-collar perspective, they *are* rich and successful.

    They play a GAME for a living, and at least in Tiffany’s case, receive money for doing it whether they win or lose. (Maria makes her money in cash games.) They go to fancy parties with famous people and get photographed on red carpets and can afford expensive things (clothes, cars, etc.) without having to work a regular job or go into debt.

    The meathead lawyer may have more money than Tiffany & Maria, but how hard does he have to work for it? Compare his average week to Tiffany & Maria’s average week, and survey regular people to see which career they’d rather have.

  5. BJ Nemeth

    In the genre of Reality TV, it’s unfair to compare their lie to Johnny Fairplay on Survivor. It’s much more like the lie that about half a dozen reality contestants have told, hiding their actual occupation to increase their chances or likability in the game. (A former astronaut told people he was just a Navy pilot, a former NFL quarterback told people he was a landscaper, etc.)

  6. BJ Nemeth

    If you’re following TV blogs about the show, I suggest Entertainment Weekly. I’ve never followed “The Amazing Race” before this season, but their other blogs are usually very good.,,20308533,00.html

    This first post is particularly harsh toward Maria & Tiffany.

  7. DanM

    Yeah, I was trying to be semi-humorous with the Harlem Globetrotters and ironic with the comparison to Ultimate Bet. I did find it interesting, though, that they were the only ones with labeled shirts.

    Some old buddhist monk said, “The richest person isn’t he who has the most, but rather he who needs the least.” (Something like that. I’m paraphrasing, but I still dig the quote.)

    So while true about the poker-playing lifestyle, I think we all know that big money in poker can be fleeting. Eskimo Clark, after all, has $2.6 million in tournament winnings. And seeing a 20something celebrate his or her “richness” is statistically more likely to set one up for a fall than future financial comforts. That’s all. Hubris is seldom an attractive quality no matter what color collar you wear. I’m speaking for the masses though … not me personally. I’m still a fan of Team Purple, and appreciate every bit of the entertainment they are providing.

  8. Marvin C

    If you believe “Reality” TV is real and not scripted and edited, you would call “All In” with 7-2 off. For ratings, “Reality” TV needs a villain and these girls are the director’s choice. And after watching, because I too didn’t care who won the SNF game and had seen the High Stakes Poker repeats before.

    What would have Celebrity Apprentice have been without the Annie-Joan fued once Dennis was eliminated?

    What I’m waiting for is the “Clock.” Unfortunately for the girls, they were outed in the fist segment. Also, they can’t be that stupid and not know the brothers are gay, or maybe they can be. Again, it’s scripting and editing.

  9. Kevin Mathers

    Just read the EW blog:

    Green visors?
    Five-card draw?

  10. traction

    Once again poker players continue to perpetuate the image that we are liars and cheats and will do whatever it takes to win. I also find it amusing that these two girls are have put themselves and poker players in the same category as trial lawyers in the view of public opinion. Well done! Good drop in helping this industry continue to sit in the basement of public approval.

  11. traction

    Once again poker players continue to perpetuate the image that we are liars and cheats and will do whatever it takes to win. I also find it amusing that these two girls have put themselves and poker players in the same category as trial lawyers in the view of public opinion. Well done! Good drop in helping this industry continue to sit in the basement of public approval.

  12. BJ Nemeth

    “Reality TV” is in fact *not* scripted — in the industry, they actually call the shows unscripted. (Hollywood is too self-aware to call the shows “Reality TV.”) Yes, editing highlights certain aspects of character and downplays others, but there have been few claims in the past decade of falsely creating aspects of someone’s personality that wasn’t on display.

    Maria & Tiffany are definitely starting out as one of the teams average people will root against, but if you’re looking for fame, then it’s one of the best ways to become memorable.

    While first impressions are very important, the only impression that matters is the one at the end of the show. Does anyone remember their view of Joan Rivers from the first few episodes of “Celebrity Apprentice”? I remember liking her back then, but that was all washed away with later episodes.

  13. California Jen

    BJ, even if they consider themselves “rich” and “successful,” isn’t it the slightest bit tacky for them to say so? Whether it’s true or not in any sense, it lacks class and maturity to say it.

  14. DanM

    In all fairness, only one of them said it.

    And while I might be able to agree with tacky … I don’t think immature is fitting. That would imply they are acting below their age level, and I don’t think that’s the case with a 20something being a 20something.

    I’d say it’s nouveau riche as opposed to old-money.

  15. traction

    Right. Just the same as if the trial lawyer had said he was rich and successful. He would become public enemy #1. It’s no difference for these two immature girls.

  16. California Jen

    Ok, maybe immature was the wrong word, but I’m sticking with classless.

    Their ages are definitely a factor in the way they’re handling the whole situation – lying about doing something like working with the homeless? yeah, no one will figure that one out – but there’s a level of arrogance at play, too.

  17. BJ Nemeth

    Did the “rich and successful” comment come across as classless and tacky? Absolutely.

    Does that mean that they are classless and tacky? Not necessarily. I refuse to judge someone based on soundbites taken out of context.

    Remember, there is a producer on the other side of that camera prompting them with questions, and pushing them to take their answers further. The producer’s goal is to get them to say interesting things, not to make them look classy.

    Traction — If you check comments about the show on mainstream websites, the lawyer is already the most hated guy on the show. It seems that Tiffany and Maria are the team that a lot of people love to hate. The lawyer? They just hate him.

  18. DanM

    Totally agree with BJ on most all of this (he and I are obviously both longtime reality TV junkies) … and where editing does come into play is in the selection of what utterances they use to create the characters … and indeed, they need good guys and bad guys.

    But I think you can look at a dude like Zev — unless he’s faking his medical status — and see how he can’t have any comment spun as bitchy because he doesn’t have a bitchy bone in his body.

    Reality TV lives in the “esta” … meaning in spanish, there are to different types of “to be” verbs … Esta, meaning you are being this way at a certain point in time, and es meaning you are a certain way … like in your soul and essence.

    Reality TV captures the esta, and the masses conclude they are seeing the es. I just did as much with Zev.

  19. BJ Nemeth

    Jen — I think you and I are going to disagree a lot when it comes to “Amazing Race,” but that’s okay, because I still love you. 🙂

    I am biased in Maria & Tiffany’s favor because they’re my friends. I think you are biased against them because they represent an aspect of the poker industry that you hate — women who are “successful” poker players not because of their skill, but because of their marketability.

  20. California Jen

    BJ, I don’t hate them, and it’s only partially because they play up their sexuality to get more attention in the poker industry than their performances would garner. I’m also biased against one of them because of the way she A) found it so easy to ignore “friends” in the media once she went deep in 2008, and B) wasn’t able to take any criticism of her signage with UB in a constructive or positive way.

    Basically, if we can have people representing the poker community in mainstream media (even reality TV), I’d rather have Annie Duke anyday – someone who is well-spoken, mature, and intelligent. Two giggly girls who exaggerate their success and try to smile/flirt their way through situations is cringe-worthy, IMHO.

  21. Marvin C


    If you really believe “Reality” TV isn’t scripted, I want to play you heads up. You will fold for every one of my bluffs and call all of my nut hands. Do you think the girls or “The Clock” as I call her actually said that they were “rich and successful” on the first take? They can claim there is no written script but they can get what they want by asking and reasking the questions until they get the answers they want.

  22. DanM

    UB is another issue altogether. I am pretty sure Greg Raymer, Chris Ferguson, Mike Sexton, or Doyle Brunson wouldn’t be labeled as “liars” or “shady”. Sure, they might not make for as entertaining TV, but I guess it’s just coincidence that UB pros seem to attract these labels.

    ***cringe-worthy, IMHO***
    cringe-tickley, Jen! c’mon, this is fun! and dare i say kind of them to subject themselves to our abuses in an effort to have fun themselves while advancing their careers?

    ***found it so easy to ignore “friends” in the media once she went deep in 2008***
    I can attest that my level of media friendship with Tiffany hasn’t changed one bit since pre-main event 2008. We are as strong of friends today as we have ever been. We say hi when we cross paths and I’d like to believe would still help the other locate an open power-strip outlet when needed.

  23. BJ Nemeth

    I certainly don’t think Maria & Tiffany are representing the poker community, nor do I think that the general public will view them that way.

    “Celebrity Apprentice,” because Annie Duke was there as a celebrity poker player, the same way others were there as actors, singers, or whatever. Poker played a large part in that show, especially with other players showing up to make donations.

    Poker has nothing to do with this show, and win or lose, I don’t think Maria & Tiffany’s appearance will have any larger effect on the game. It’ll definitely affect their status within the industry (primetime network coverage tends to do that), but not the industry itself.

  24. California Jen

    BTW, BJ, I love you too! This discussion wouldn’t feel right if you and I didn’t disagree. 🙂

  25. DanM

    ***I certainly don’t think Maria & Tiffany are representing the poker community, nor do I think that the general public will view them that way.***

    OK, BJ, finally you said something ridiculous.

    Why wouldn’t the general public associate poker players with the few they feel they have gotten to know on TV?

    OF course they would/do. Back in the day, all they knew of poker players was Amarillo Slim … so to them, that was poker.

    If Tiffany and Maria are successful poker pros, and they are [insert pejorative here], then it only makes sense that the masses will think [pejorative] is what it takes to be successful at poker, and therefore almost all people in that profession are similar.

    Not saying it’s right, but that’s how people do it. I suppose I might have stretched things by saying they are representing “poker” … when in reality they are representing “poker pros”.

    Just have a look at the comments on the E! Online blog:

    donna o Sun, Sep 27, 2009, 9:22 PM

    cal Sun, Sep 27, 2009, 10:52 PM
    Celebrities suck, especially the poker players. I hope they lose too!

    No1cherry Sun, Sep 27, 2009, 11:25 PM
    The poker players keep bragging “How they can read prople” and “Think they are falling in love w/the hot brothers from Missouri” while all the while, the queer brothers are laughing about how they’re going to flirt w/the girls and use their being gay to their advantage against the girls. Yeah, these girls are really smart.

    Jaclyn Mon, Sep 28, 2009, 7:34 AM
    those poker players were awful and very overconfident and really welly bitchy my favorite team was zev and jutin, they are so awesome and funny LOVE EM!! my next fav was gary and matt and the harmlem globetrotters, awesome as well

    aj Mon, Sep 28, 2009, 11:43 AM
    CAN NOT STAND the poker players and pray they get eliminated NEXT! Why lie like that to start with? And to use “homeless children” as your lie! What GIANT douche bags they are!

  26. Marvin C

    We are trying to get gambling in general and Poker and Texas HE legalized in Texas. What image does the general public who oppose gambling have of poker players? The image is that we are lyers and cheaters. Because they don’t watch the poker shows, they don’t know about the good work poker players do. They do watch “Realty” TV and get the above images. Thanks, “Clock.”

  27. traction

    BJ definite wrong and Dan correct that they do represent poker players. Your average boob tube watcher will associate poker players with the representations they see on TV. In years past that image was smokey poker rooms and shady old crumudgeons. Moneymaker changed that and it became a chic endeavor that the average man could have success at. Lately it seems our presence in mainstream TV is that of the liar for quick personal gain. Unfortunately it is what it is and until we get better representatives to go on these shows it won’t change. The problem is all the good guys and girls are busy playing poker and working on their game without shouting about it while the pretenders seek TV attention.

  28. traction

    BJ- you are correct though, the lawyer is probably the most hated person. But I find it interesting that most of the classless comments were made by TM yet like you said it is the team that viewers love to hate. I guess they lump the poker players together irrespective of their individual comments and personalities.

    Sidenote- I really wish we could edit previous posts. I can’t stand my misspellings. smoky!

  29. BJ Nemeth

    Dan, the fact that commenters call Maria & Tiffany “poker players” just means they don’t know their names yet. If you read most of the comments, a lot of the teams are referred to in similar ways. Heck, in one of the comments you copied-and-pasted, the two brothers were called “the queer brothers” rather than by name. These are the opening stereotypes the fans use to distinguish the different teams — not judge vast groups of society.

    I also think you’re overlooking the biggest poker stereotype they are breaking simply by their presence — poker isn’t just played by online nerds and old guys in cowboy hats. Maria and Tiffany are young, pretty poker players.

    Nobody watching “Amazing Race” is going to assume that the poker industry is filled with young, pretty poker players, anymore than they are going to think that all gay guys are brothers or that all lawyers are assholes with thick Boston accents.

    Yes, back in the day (20-30 years ago), the only contact the general public had with professional poker was the occasional appearance of Amarillo Slim on “The Tonight Show.” But that’s no longer the case. Even people who don’t watch poker are aware that it is regularly on TV and much different than it used to be.

    This show is about individual achievement in teams of two people, and they are judged by how quickly they complete certain tasks. This is a very different show from “Celebrity Apprentice.”

    “The Amazing Race” is much closer to “Survivor.” Did anyone notice any change in mainstream acceptance of poker when Jean Robert Bellande appeared on that show as the villain? I certainly didn’t. To suggest that Maria & Tiffany’s appearance on “Amazing Race” would hurt poker’s chances of legalization in Texas is absurd. (If anything, I’d argue the opposite.)

  30. DanM

    Philosophical differences, BJ, on the role of quick and recent impressions for societal judgments. I think you overestimate the masses’ ability to NOT make snap decisions on these matters. But you are right, I probably overestimate the impact of any drops in the bucket. But if that’s so, why are we always looking for the next Moneymaker? (Which, btw, I thought Tiffany Michelle would be had she made the final table in 2008.)

    Would never suggest Tiffany and Maria have an impact on Texas elections, any more than a single vote in any election makes a difference (mathematically).

  31. BJ Nemeth

    Tiffany Michelle’s presence on ESPN during the WSOP had a much larger impact on poker than anything she can do on “The Amazing Race.” (Especially if she had gone deep enough to make the November Nine.)

    Because contextually, that was about poker. Contextually, this show is about people running around the world eating wasabi, herding ducks, making soup, and packing mud around trees.

    If anything, I think the takeaway for the mainstream public from this show regarding poker will be this — “Pretty young women play poker?”

  32. DanM

    They really did get lucky that Tiffany happened to have experience with ducks. I still think she loses to Zev in heads-up duck herding though. Would be a close match.

  33. angus

    Its all edited post production, so if they are amped this early as the team everyone should hate then they’ll be a few people watching just to see them fail and ratings will be served by having them fall out in the first few weeks? Or would the producers prefer to have long running villians?

  34. DanM

    i don’t think you’ve got that type of manipulation in this show. if they compete and lose they lose — unless the “speedbump” things are manipulated.

    i see it as more Cannonball Run than Survivor.

  35. Marvin C

    B J:

    When “The Clock” was on ESPN, there were less than 1,000,000 unique eyeballs, the majority of which I would bet are poker players. When the ratings come in for The Amazing Race, it should be closer to 15,000,000 unique eyeballs, 99% which are not poker players. They might be young and women, but not model pretty. They will be remmebered and guilt by association says that poker players will be associated with lying and cheating.

    Guilt by association; all lawyers suck; wall street are crooks; politicians are cooked; and poker players cheat.

    What I got from “The Clock” on ESPN since I don’t know her was that she was playing beyond her ability and thought like many players that she was in the elite group. She isn’t. She is another personality that got some good cards early. Let’s see if she is 1/2 as good as Tilly, Harmon, or Duke.

  36. Poker Shrink

    I will offer one free session to anyone attempting to withdraw from a Reality Show addiction. This does not cover withdrawals from reality itself. Sorry I do not handle football-on-television addictions or NASCAR gewgaw collectors.

    (Statements by the Poker Shrink do not represent the policy nor attitudes of the American Psychological Association nor its members and/or affiliates. Comments represent only the opinions of the author and no one else. All implications that said statements represent a group, class, organization or job category are simply dumb-ass projections by the reader and you should knock it off.)