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Final Table Takedown: Ky ‘Suited Superman’ Nguyen Displays Nerves Of Steel At WPT Gardens

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Aug 09, 2023


Ky Nguyen credit: World Poker TourKy Nguyen was born in Vietnam in 1986 to a family that embraced gambling. From Nguyen’s grandma to his cousins, they often gathered to test their luck every Tet Holiday (Lunar New Year) with their LiXi (lucky money).

At the age of 17, Nguyen left his family and Vietnam behind to come to America to study abroad. After finishing his undergraduate studies in Oregon, he landed an engineering job in Los Angeles. It was there that he found and fell in love with the game of poker, playing at night while simultaneously grinding his way through graduate school.

At first, it was just a hobby. But then Nguyen took down the 2016 Liz Flynt Fall Poker Classic at Hustler Casino for $53,303. This was when he started playing at the Hustler more frequently, and taking the game more seriously.

Nguyen grinded thousands of hours in the $5-$5 cash games, launching his ‘Suited Superman’ Instagram poker blog. He would post pictures of his stacks and hand discussions, getting a lot of engagement with other poker players. It wasn’t long before he was appearing on live streamed cash games and building a following. This caught the eye of Hustler Casino, and Nguyen accepted an offer from General Manager Shaun Yaple to be an ambassador for the property.

The global pandemic threw a wrench in his live poker plans, but Nguyen used the time to polish up his pot-limit Omaha game online. The move paid off with two final tables at the PokerGO Tour PLO Series in March. This summer, he managed to cash in all three of the biggest buy-in PLO events on the WSOP schedule, making the money in the $10,000, $25,000, and $50,000 buy-in championships.

But his biggest score came in May, when he took down the World Poker Tour main event at the Gardens Casino for a huge $357,380 payday.

Card Player caught up with Nguyen to talk about his breakthrough win and a couple of key hands he played during the event.

Event: WPT Gardens Poker Championship
Buy-In: $5,250
Entrants: 346
Prize Pool: $1,678,098
First-Place Prize: $357,380

Craig Tapscott: This is our second interview together. A little before you won the WPT at Gardens Casino, you asked about doing another, and I said you’d have to win a tournament first.

Ky Nguyen: I said, ‘Okay. I will win an event very soon.’ And a few weeks later, I did just that.

CT: You run a very popular Instagram account with your ‘Suited Superman’ alias. What have you learned about people and the game from sharing so much of your poker life there?

KN: Poker to me, is a microcosm of life. It teaches me many traits and skills that are valuable. Poker has given me a lot both monetarily and in terms of networking. So much that I would like to give back to the community somehow.

Once my blog took off, I soon realized that it’s a two-way street. When I share what I learned about the game from my perspectives to my followers, I receive a lot of feedback from them, which creates many healthy and constructive discussions that have positive ripple effects among everyone.

I enjoy meeting like-minded poker players in the community who like to network and make the game more fun. My hope is that one day I will be one of the ambassadors for the game and travel all over the world to promote it.

Stacks: Ky Nguyen – 4,325,000 (43 BB) Ryan Salunga – 7,075,000 (70 BB)
Blinds: 50,000-100,000 with a 100,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 4

KN: This was hand no. 35 of the final table overall. I was second in chips out of four players left.

Nguyen raised to 200,000 from the button holding 6Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit.

CT: Was this a standard raise with this hand from the button? Any other factors come into play?

KN: This hand is at the bottom of my opening range. It is a little bit risky of a move, however, third and fourth place in chips were not super short, so I needed to stay aggressive to accumulate chips and not to drop below them.

Salunga called from the big blind.

Flop: AHeart Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Diamond Suit

Salunga checked.

CT: What was the best play here with this huge draw?

KN: Typically, I’m going to check back a lot of flops in position with two shorter stacks than me at the table. However, this board was very good for both my range, being an ace-high flop, and my hand, since I have monster straight and flush-draw combos.

Nguyen bet 100,000.

KN: I was setting myself up for multiple barrels depending on the runouts. Betting small here gives me more options on future streets.

Salunga called.

Turn: 4Heart Suit

CT: The gin card.

KN: Yes. The turn comes the magical 4Heart Suit, giving me the nut straight with the diamond-flush-redraw. Not only was this an amazing card for my hand, but also it was music to my ears that Ryan decided to lead out…

Salunga bet 450,000.

CT: Was it time to raise or continue to let him fire into the nuts?

KN: Well, I had a decision to make between calling to trap and raising. I thought the latter option was superior because there were many draws available (front and backdoor flush draws). If Salunga had a five, I wanted to get all the chips in the middle before an action-killing river card arrived.

Nguyen raised to 1,350,000.

CT: Why did you choose that sizing?

KN: I gathered up a big raise to deny equity if he had a draw, and to set up a river shove that would give him a good price to call.

Salunga moved all-in over the top, and Nguyen snap called. Salunga revealed QDiamond Suit 5Spade Suit.

KN: He doesn’t want to see many river cards out of position with a vulnerable straight, so I understand his decision to three-bet shove.

River: 6Heart Suit

CT: Wow. That had to hurt.

KN: It did. The dealer slowly delivered the 6Heart Suit on the river, giving both of us the same six-high straight. It was a devastating beat at this stage of the tournament for me. I would have been a big chip leader had one of the three outs not come.

Nguyen and Salunga split the pot of 8,700,000.

CT: I felt your pain when I watched that final table.

KN: To be honest, that was the only point in the tournament where I felt, maybe I wasn’t meant to win the tournament. But that thought quickly vanished, as I told myself to refocus and set my eyes on the goal. I think my years of experience in high pressure spots in poker really helped me overcome that defeated feeling quickly. 

Stacks: Ky Nguyen – 3,675,000 (24.5 BB) Ryan Salunga – 10,950,000 (73 BB)
Blinds: 75,000-150,000 with a 150,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 3

KN: I was second in chips for this hand.

Nguyen raised to 300,000 from the button holding JClub Suit 10Club Suit, and Salunga called from the big blind.

Flop: 10Spade Suit 7Spade Suit 7Club Suit

Salunga led out for 250,000.

KN: This was the first decision point of the hand, and it was an easy one for me. I fully expected Ryan to apply pressure as he had been doing all day. I was forced to play somewhat defensively and bluff catch more often with Chris Lee (third place) having less chips than me.

CT: Did you have a solid read on Ryan’s playing style?

KN: In my two days of playing with Ryan leading up to the final table, I’d seen him show down with a couple of gut shots that he often took the lead into the preflop raiser instead of a standard check-raise line. I thought calling was the only logical option here.

Nguyen called.

Turn: 3Diamond Suit

KN: The turn was an inconsequential three, and he bet big.

Salunga bet 1,200,000.

KN: That was more than one-third of my remaining stack.

CT: How did you perceive his bet sizing in this spot?

KN: This was a very polarized bet. He was saying he had trip sevens or better, or a draw without showdown value. Since the board is very wet with many draws available such as a flush draw, straight draw, etc., so I decided to take one off.

Nguyen called.

KN: I made the call with my top pair thinking I would re-evaluate based on the river card. But then to my surprise and everyone else’s in the HyperX Arena….

Salunga moved all in dark.

CT: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that in this big of an event.

KN: I know. It was such a wild move at the huge stage of a big WPT tournament. I was in total shock. But not for long, because the dealer peels off the river card…

River: 8Heart Suit

CT: This had to be a tough decision.

KN: It was a huge decision for my tournament life. If I folded, I would still have 13 big blinds for the next hand. If I called and I was right, I would take over the chip lead and have a huge opportunity to close out the tournament.

CT: And if you were wrong?

KN: I would have been out. To be honest, pay jump money wasn’t in my mind at all during that moment. I just wanted to make the right decision.

CT: What was running through your mind?

KN: A few thoughts crossed my mind. I think I had one of the best bluff catchers that had arrived at the river. I blocked the gutshot straight such as J-9 that he might have taken this line with. I also blocked full house combos such as 10-7 that he would value bet with. The flush draw bricked out and I unblock it by not having a spade in my hand.
CT: Did he give off any live tells or reads at all for you?

KN: I started talking and took a deep stare at my opponent. He didn’t look very comfortable during my two-minute tank. Ultimately, I arrived at the decision of putting all my chips in the middle and made the call.

Nguyen called, and Salunga turned over 6Heart Suit 4Club Suit. Nguyen won the pot of 7,425,000.

CT: Great call.

KN: Thanks. Luckily, he had the missed gutshot straight draw. I believe this call was the most crucial hand for me in the tournament given the pressure and the amount of money at stake. I’m glad I made the right decision. After this, my confidence was sky high, I felt like superman with x-ray vision that could see through cards.

Find Nguyen on Twitter and Instagram @suitedsuperman.