Susie Zhao, 33, was found dead in a remote parking lot by Oakland County, Michigan local authorities on July 13. Zhao’s body was badly burned, and police are conducting an investigation into the apparent homicide.
Zhao was a professional poker player who went by “Susie Q” at the card table. A regular at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, Zhao raked in nearly a quarter of a million dollars in winnings since 2010.
Many unknowns still surround the case
The motive for the death is unclear.
“You have to determine whether or not this is a coverup, or this may be some sort of retaliatory incident because of her profession,” Det. Lt. Chris Hild said. Police think her death may be connected to gambling in other states.
With that said, Zhao’s friends don’t describe her as the controversial type.
“Surprised, confused, and saddened,” Zhao’s former roommate Yuval Bronshtein said in a statement. “It’s hard to picture her having enemies.”
“Nobody ever remembers her fighting with anybody ever, no conflict, no drama,” her friend Michelle Lagrou added.
Zhao had recently moved from Los Angeles back home to Michigan to “confront challenges in her personal life,” according to friends. The White Lake Township Police Department says her mother was the last person to see her at 5:30 p.m. on July 12.
Authorities found her remains at 8:30 a.m. the next day.
“We still are looking for anybody that may have seen or talked to Susie between Sunday at about 5:30 p.m. and early hours of Monday morning,” an unnamed official said.
The FBI is also helping with the investigation. An autopsy and toxicology reports are pending.
Susie Zhao’s poker competitors mourn her loss
In Zhao’s last World Series of Poker event in 2017, she finished in 697th place and took home over $18,000. At the 2012 WSOP Main Event, she placed 90th, earning over $73,000. That was the biggest win of Zhao’s career.
“She was a really excellent player. One of the best in LA at the level we played at the Commerce Casino, and it’s the biggest poker room in the world,” competitor and friend Bart Hanson said. “I never would have thought anyone would have wanted to do anything to her.
“She had such a great attitude and so much spirit. It’s just awful.”
Fellow poker player Clayton Fletcher echoed those sentiments.
“She was one of the bubbliest and most vivacious opponents I’ve ever had,” he wrote.
Zhao saw herself as “a unicorn” in a male-heavy industry. “I proficiently play high stakes poker for a living,” one of her Twitter profiles reads. “Its kinda weird because I’m a girl.”
She lived in Los Angeles for about a decade. Zhao occasionally appeared on the online poker stream Live at the Bike from the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens. She was a regular at high-stakes cash games in the city.
Susie Zhao’s background
Zhao was originally from Beijing, China, but grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She graduated with a psychology degree from Northwestern University.
Friends say she began playing poker as a teen.
“(Susie) was a free spirit in the truest sense,” friend Meredith Rogowski said. “She played by her own rules. She followed her dreams — absolutely brilliant.”
Witnesses or anyone who has information regarding the death are encouraged to call the White Lake Township Police Department at 248-698-4404 ext. 2381.