On September 27th, the 15th installment of the CBS reality franchise “Amazing Race” will kick off at 8:00pm ET. Appearing will be professional poker players Tiffany Michelle and Maria Ho, the last women standing in the 2008 and 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Events, respectively. Michelle sat down with Poker News Daily to preview the season.
Poker News Daily: Congratulations on appearing on “Amazing Race.” Tell us how the opportunity came up.
Michelle: Maria Ho and I have been friends for a while and bonded even more recently. There was lots of talk of us doing a reality television show. We agreed that if we did anything, it’d be “Amazing Race.” We thought we’d be an interesting team. With the competition and challenge of the show, it’d be right up our alley. We could take our poker playing background and use it on “Amazing Race.” We had a chance to go through the casting process and were in Las Vegas playing tournaments when we got the call. It was definitely hard to head back to the tables during the WSOP knowing we’d be traveling the world soon.
PND: Had you watched previous seasons of “Amazing Race”?
Michelle: I hadn’t seen a full season, but saw the show on different occasions. It looked challenging and was out of my league. I think it looked fun.
PND: The cast features Harlem Globetrotters and a former Miss America. Talk about the competition that you’ll face on “Amazing Race.”
Michelle: We were surprised to learn that we were the only all-female team this season. We felt pressure to represent women and knew that no all-female team had ever won “Amazing Race.” We thought that our competition consisted of young, big, athletic people. That was going to be our weakness, but we knew that the race tests your mental and physical skills.
PND: Past seasons of “Amazing Race” have included stops in the four corners of the globe. Talk about being able to travel the world.
Michelle: It was a very life-changing experience. I live a wonderful and blessed life. I get to travel and stay in nice hotels. We have a life of luxury and don’t have to sweat it out. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, mentally and emotionally. I came home and had a whole new appreciation for my life. I feel like I’m so full after the experience.
PND: Talk about your relationship with Maria Ho.
Michelle: I wouldn’t have done “Amazing Race” without her. You have to trust and feel comfortable with your partner. I was excited to share this experience with her. We travel together on the poker circuit already. We’re 10 times closer now.
PND: Is there anything you can take away from Annie Duke’s appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice” that could have helped you on “Amazing Race”?
Michelle: “Celebrity Apprentice” is a different format than “Amazing Race.” You’re competing against different people on your own. On the race, you have a team. There’s not that direct competition and you have the opportunity to work together in a group. We wanted to represent poker well after what happened between Annie and Joan Rivers. We wanted to come off the best that we could. We wanted to play a clean game and give poker players a good name. Also for us, we’re controversial and wanted to show people a different side.
PND: You’re hosting a Hollywood premier of “Amazing Race” that will likely include Tammy and Victor, who won last season’s installment of the reality show. Did they provide any advice before you set out?
Michelle: We got to go to a Labor Day barbeque at Victor’s house. A lot of people who were on “Amazing Race” were there and you felt like a big family. These people know exactly what you went through. Within a few minutes of being there, I felt like I had known them forever. It’s wonderful being a part of something special.
PND: What preparations did you make before the show began filming?
Michelle: I ran out and bought running shoes. I got my cardio up because I knew there was a lot of running involved. Also, we learned how to drive a stick shift. Maria was much better than I was at that, so she was responsible. We watched past episodes and talked about them. We prepped for the unknown as much as we could. I got my butt in the gym and got in touch with the outdoors.
PND: You mentioned in a blog entry before you left that poker will always be around, but doing “Amazing Race” was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Was it hard walking away from this year’s WSOP Main Event to film?
Michelle: There wasn’t even a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do the show. What I did last year in the Main Event was amazing. As hopeful as I could be to repeat that, I was happy with that punctuation. The Main Event comes around every year and poker is always there. Not only was this an amazing challenge, but it was also an opportunity to be a part of an Emmy Award winning show. To get to do it with someone else sounded like a fun time.