Susie Zhao Wiki – Biography
Zhao was a professional poker player with earnings over a span of 11 years totaling $152,852, according to her World Series of Poker player profile. Rogowski grew up with Zhao.
She recently moved back into her parents’ home in Michigan after living in Las Vegas and California for a decade.
A poker player. A traveler. Someone described as bubbly, playful, and tough. Someone who seemed to never show her hand — even outside of the gambling world.
Susie Zhao Age
Susie Zhao has died at the age of 33 years.
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They became friends in sixth grade when they rode the same bus to school then they’d walk home from the bus stop together.
After graduation, Zhao went to Northwestern University on a scholarship to study mathematics but ended up switching to psychology.
But her real love was poker, Rogowski said.
While her high school friends were working minimum wage jobs, Rogowski said Zhao took her high school graduation money and doubled it at a Michigan casino.
“Throughout college, she played online poker. … She would sit at a computer for eight hours and play online poker,” Rogowski said. “She would play multiple games at once. It was not unexpected that she (chose that career). We were happy for her.”
Cause of Death
Susie Zhao, 33, the woman whose body was found badly burned on the early morning of July 13 in the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area in White Lake Township, Michigan. Authorities believe she was killed in the recreation area then her body was set ablaze, although her cause of death has not yet been released.
The case has left friends and colleagues in shock.
“She did not let on if there were any problems in her life,” said longtime friend Meredith Rogowski, 32. “That was common. She was very good at concealing anything — concealing her hand as you’d say.”
The recreation area where Zhao’s body was found was last checked by a Department of Natural Resources officer at 11:45 p.m. on July 12, Hild said. At that time, Zhao was nowhere in sight, which makes police believe she was killed sometime between then and the next morning around 8 when her body was found.
Hild said Zhao was wearing jogging pants, tennis shoes, and a jogging-type top when her body was found. The medical examiner has preliminary results on the cause of death, Hild said but is waiting to release it pending other toxicology reports.
The White Lake Township Police Department is investigating with FBI assistance.
“We’re just heartbroken. Heartbroken for her mother. Her friends are trying to do anything we can to support her family right now,” Rogowski said. “To me, looking for a reason for what happened is sort of useless because obviously anyone who would do something like that is not in their right mind.”
Friends & Family Tributes
Bryce Yockey, 32, of Los Angeles met Zhao around 2012 through their circle of poker friends. Throughout the next few years, he said he formed a tight-knit friendship with Zhao and traveled with her.
“She was fun, silly and quirky,” he said. “Very intelligent, kind, and good-hearted, she liked to play games. She was creative and always had a side project that she was working on. She was kind of like one of the boys.”
Yockey said that when he heard of his friend’s death he was in disbelief.
“(Her death) feels so random and senseless in a way,” Yockey said. “This is so out of the left field. … What happened?”
Reports have speculated that Zhao’s death could be related to her involvement in the poker world. Yockey said she wasn’t the type of person who didn’t pay her debts, or who would leave somewhere to avoid it.
White Lake Township Police Detective Lt. Christopher Hild said police have not been able to connect anything that ties her career to her death.
“We’re looking at every avenue — whether it was part of her hitchhiking — she used to hitchhike quite a bit. She got rides with people she didn’t know frequently,” Hild said. “So did she run into the wrong person or does this have something to do with her history that nobody is aware of? That’s what we’re digging into right now.”
Rogowski said her friend didn’t let on about her reasons for moving back to the area. All Zhao would say is that she was pursuing new opportunities in poker, such as coaching and commentating.
“She was really vague,” she said. “Hearing that she may have had personal problems going on was a surprise to me because she always presented her situation as if nothing was going on. I had no reason to think otherwise.”
But Zhao’s new journey in Michigan wouldn’t last long, with her mother seeing her for the last time at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 12, Hild said. Zhao had returned from a trip to see friends earlier in the day.
When her parents returned that evening at about 10:30 p.m., Zhao was nowhere to be found.
Hild said Zhao’s vehicle recently was impounded by the police department prior to her death for traffic-related offenses. Police are looking into whether Zhao was picked up that evening and talking to neighbors about what they saw.