Malaysian storms poker world after giving up job at Asia’s answer to Netflix
She was part of the team that launched Asia’s answer to Netflix, was once the best female foosball player in Asia and now Natalie Teh Siew-po is taking the poker world by storm.
Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, and still based there, Teh only began playing poker professionally seven months ago when she started “making more from poker than my own job” and already she is the 25th-ranked female in the world after winning around US$150,000.
She is by far the best female player from Malaysia and is sixth overall after growing up playing with her friends at college, who have no doubt why she is succeeding at the top level.
“Generally I’m not a very emotional person, my friends call me a robot all the time and I guess that helps when it comes to poker,” Teh says.
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“It was in college when I first started and we were playing for five or 10 cents US in Malaysia and it’s just progressed ever since.”
Before trying her hand at poker, Teh was a senior product owner for iflix, an online internet streaming service for TV and movies based in Kuala Lumpur.
“I was working for the chief executive of AirAsia, the long haul arm, and he moved on to be the chief executive of iflix in Malaysia and he asked me to go and help him. I wasn’t there from the very beginning but I was there when it launched,” says the 28-year-old.
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“The difference to Netflix is they focus more on emerging markets, we’re more focused on local content for Malaysia, Indonesia and so forth. The potential is huge.
“I think the last valuation I heard was about a billion ringgit, so that’s like US$250 million. I still have shares in the company so I do wish them all the best.”
There’s not many people that would pass up a job at one of Asia’s most exciting start-ups to take a literal gamble on their future, but for Teh it was easy.
“Maybe you can call it a quarter-life crisis. I just paused and thought about what exactly I wanted to do in life for the long-term,” she says.
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“Iflix was fun but I know I never want to work for a company for the rest of my life. It’s just about taking a sabbatical to clear my mind and also travel while playing poker before I decide what I want to do.
“I’ve made more than I did at my job, so that’s a good start. I was happy breaking even and getting to travel for six to eight months, but it’s been a lot better than that so it’s a bonus.
“It has been really interesting, I’ve got really into poker so I’ve decided I’ll keep on going indefinitely until I change my mind.”
Another factor making the move into poker was that Teh’s boyfriend – Christopher Michael Soyza – is also on the circuit and is ranked 15th in the world, meaning they can travel to destinations like Las Vegas, Prague and the Bahamas together.
Teh is no stranger to success at something she started out playing just for fun, once owning the crown of Asia’s premier female foosball player.
“From 17 to 21 I was playing foosball a lot. I started out for fun but I got really good at it so I started travelling around and playing competitions overseas,” she says.
“I was the number one female player in Asia for about three years before I started working, and after that it started slowing down and now it’s poker over foosball.”
While Teh is hesitant to pinpoint any exact link behind her success in the tech world, on the foosball table and in poker, she does know that she would one day like to combine her passions, once she’s content with what she’s achieved in poker.
“It would be a start to be somewhere high up on the female global poker index in 2019, if I could get top 10 or top five that would be a goal,” she says.
“I have always wanted to do something on my own but I don’t really have that big idea yet. It would be a dream to mix poker and tech together.”