Scotty Nguyen won the third-ever $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world championship at the 2008 World Series of Poker in the early hours of the morning today. For the win, he was awarded his fifth gold bracelet, $1,989,120 in prize money, and the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy. The Prince of Poker fought through a final table that was as tough as nails to win the championship, and when he won, he became the only man in poker history to hold both the main event and $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. titles.
His opponents included Patrick Bueno, Huck Seed, Barry Greenstein, Lyle Berman, Matthew Glantz, Erick Lindgren, and Michael DeMichele. The three-handed battle was particularly grueling between Nguyen, DeMichele, and Lindgren, which brought back memories of the epic heads-up battle between Reese and Andy Bloch in the inaugural H.O.R.S.E. world championship. In the end, Nguyen took home the final prize and the glory, and he now has well over $9 million in lifetime winnings. Card Player caught up with Nguyen at the post-final-table press conference, and he talked about how much the win meant to him, how he avoided the mistakes of last year, and why poker fans are so important to him.
Question: Did you really feel like the fans were with you as the tournament went on tonight? How important is the support of your fans to you in such a big tournament?
Scotty Nguyen: The fans are No. 1 for a poker player. Without the fans, I would never be who I am now. We would never have Scotty Nguyen or Phil Hellmuth or Layne Flack; the fame is so important. It’s so important to give the fans what they want and what they need, the good story, the good game. It’s just so important to have the fans behind you.
Q: How much happiness do you feel right now compared with the disappointment of just missing the main event final table last year?
SN: People ask me a lot how that affects me, and I tell them it’s not how you start out, it’s how you finish it. If I win the H.O.R.S.E. event and the main event, I will erase the bad memory from last year, from the mistake I made last year. Last year, the reason I didn’t win was because I made a mistake. I blew it, I was angry, I got personal, and you can’t make things personal when you play the game, you have to enjoy it, you’ve got to be happy. You have to enjoy playing the game.
Last year, I wanted to knock one player out so bad, but instead of knocking him out, I gave him more money. This year, I said no more personal [grudges], I don’t care who it is, if you make me mad, I’m going to walk away. What did you guys see? I walked a lot. If it comes to the point that I blow up, I walk. I’d rather miss 10,000 here, 20,000 there, or the blinds and the antes, but I talk to myself, “Come back, don’t make the same mistake as last year, win this H.O.R.S.E. event and then the main event, and everything will be erased.” That’s what I did.
You’ve got to come back strong; last year is gone, baby, it’s done now. I’ve got to focus on 2008. The main thing was the H.O.R.S.E., Chip Reese, baby, something I want to win … I dreamed of. When you grow up, you want to be the one and only; I’m the one and only to win the main event of the World Series of Poker, a World Poker Tour [event], and the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E., baby. I’m the only man who has done that. That’s something that your kids and you grandkids ... 100 years from now, they’ll remember that -- your grandfather, the only man who has ever done that. That feels so good, because I can taste it, it was my dream to win this event for the past two years. It don’t matter if people tried to make me mad. And I had my wife supporting me. She said, “Honey, you’ve wanted this so bad for the last couple of years, please don’t get mad, don’t get angry, and don’t make the same mistake as 2007.”
Q: Even when you walked out to take a break, there were people who wanted to take photos with you, and you stopped and did it even when you were trying to blow off steam. Why did you do that, even then?
SN: The reason I stop and take pictures with them and sign autographs, the fans … they fly in from all over the world, it’s not just [from the U.S.], they fly here from Germany, Australia, London, and Paris just to come and see you and ask you for pictures and autographs, you can’t say no to them. That’s why the fans are so important to me. That’s why wherever I go I’m the home team, baby. I’m the fan favorite, baby.
Q: Who was your toughest opponent tonight at the final table?
SN: E-Dog [Erick Lindgren], baby. E-Dog’s got to be the toughest one, but no, Barry Greenstein’s got to be the toughest one. When he was gone, it was E-Dog; I focused on him. When E-Dog was gone, baby, everything was like walk to the talk. You see that … not even 20 minutes and it was done. E-Dog would be different, he would have challenged me. Some hands I got no hands at all, and I raised this kid, he just mucked it. E-Dog he might play back at me, and things would be different there. When Barry Greenstein was out of the way, I did’t think anybody could stop me, even E-Dog. He might stop me for an hour or two, but he’s not going to stop me you, know what I mean? This is what I want, baby; this is my dream to win this event. And, you know, 148 players started, the toughest field in the world, the biggest event ever and the toughest field. If I can knock out Phil Ivey, baby, then nobody can stand in my way [laughs].
Q: Which title means more to you, this H.O.R.S.E. title or your main-event win?
SN: The main event, I have it. The H.O.R.S.E. event I won, and it’s so important to me. I want to be the only man ever to win the main event at the World Series, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E., and a WPT event, and I’m the only man who has done that. The only man, baby, that’s so important. Plus, Chip Reese, to remember him, you know, the man is the legend … you know the poker world just misses him so much; he was such a good player and a gentleman. I really wanted to be the first man to win his trophy and remember him. So, this way, I can tell my grandbaby, and she’ll say, “[Grand] daddy was the first man to win the trophy of Chip Reese.” It’s just unbelievable. Thank you so much, Chip.
Q: Now that you, Freddy Deeb, and Chip Reese, all three world-class players, have won this event, do you think that helps grow the legacy of this tournament?
SN: Yes, people, they think that all the professionals can’t win the big events no more. I proved them all wrong, you know, baby. Daniel [Negreanu] won a few days ago; Erick Lindgren won a few days ago, and now me. You know, the best player will come through no matter what. The good player, baby, they will find a way to get there, and we proved that to you guys this year. Nothing but the pros have won, and we going to do that again, and this main event, baby, one of the pros is going to win, and it’ll be me. Scotty Nguyen is going to be Triple Crown, baby, the H.O.R.S.E. event, player of the year, and the main event, that’s my dream Triple Crown.
Q: Is there any such thing as too much bling?
SN: No [laughs]. You know, it’s funny, a couple of weeks ago when I walked in here to play the $2,000 no-limit [hold’em], there were 2,200 or 2,300 players, and when I walked by one of the tables one of the players asked another player, “Have you seen Scotty Nguyen?” And then the other player turned to him and said, “Are you stupid or something, man? Don’t you hear bling, bling, bling just walked in? Don’t you hear anything? That’s Scotty, baby!’ [Laughs] That’s Scotty, baby!
People, they remember what Scotty Nguyen’s style is … it’s not just because I wear my jewelry, bling bling, it’s the way I talk, the way I treat people, the way I treat the fans. More poker players should do something like that for the fans, because most of them don’t get that. They fly all the way across the country to come and see you for pictures and autographs … stop, give that to them. Most of [the pros] are like, no, I have to play. Most of them are like no, no, no, you have to wait for break time … I never say that, ever. Even when I’m playing 100,000-200,000 blinds, I just want to run to the bathroom and they stop me, and I stop. I lost 500,000 just to take pictures with them, because they don’t live here, they fly 10,000 miles just come and see you. Don’t say no to them, enjoy that fact. Without them, they would never have Scotty Nguyen now. You know, so … the game is always here, but the fans, baby, they come and they go, and they might never come back for the next 10 years, so you got to give them what they fly out here for; they fly out here to come see Scotty Nguyen. That’s what I do, that’s why, wherever I go, baby, I’m the home-team favorite.