Mystery Surrounds Death of High-Stakes Pro Poker Player Found 'Badly Burned' in Michigan

A fellow pro poker player described Susie Zhao, 33, as "one of the bubbliest and most vivacious opponents I've ever had"

Susie Zhao
Susie Zhao. Photo: Facebook

The possible killing of a competitive poker player has police in Michigan asking what might have happened to her.

White Lake Township Police are seeking the public's help to solve what they call the "mysterious death" of 33-year-old Susie Zhao, whose "badly burned" body was discovered at 8:05 a.m. July 13 in the parking lot of a state recreation area, according to a police news release. The location is on the outskirts of suburban Detroit, in Oakland County.

Zhao, of Waterford Township in Oakland County, had recently moved back to the area from Los Angeles to be with family and deal with matters in her personal life, her friend Yuval Bronshtein told Detroit TV station WXYZ.

"It's hard to picture her having enemies," said Bronshtein.

According to, Zhao identified herself as a professional poker player whose competitive success included several deep runs in the World Series of Poker Main Event, where in 2012 she earned $73,805 with a 90th place finish.

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A fellow player, Clayton Fletcher, wrote in a tweet: "She was one of the bubbliest and most vivacious opponents I've ever had. She was a very strong player who also liked to have fun at the table."

In a follow-up tweet, he added: "[S]he's just one of those people who make a really strong impression."

Another fellow competitor and friend, Bart Hanson, told WXYZ: "She really was an excellent player. One of the best in L.A. at the level we played at the Commerce Casino and it's the biggest poker room in the world."

He added: "I never would have thought anyone would've wanted to do anything to her."

Hanson wrote in a tweet: "She had such a great attitude and so much spirit. It's just awful."

A cause of death is unknown, as autopsy and toxicology results from the Oakland County Medical Examiner are pending, reports Detroit TV station WDIV.

Police are asking for anyone who saw Zhao between July 11 and 13, or who might otherwise have information that could help their investigation, to call Detective Lt. Christopher Hild at 248-698-4404, ext. 2381.

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