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Poker Tournament Trail -- Binh Nguyen

Nguyen Talks About His Win at the APPT Manila Main Event

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Binh NguyenBinh Nguyen (pictured right) was primarily a cash-game player in California with just a handful of small tournament cashes before the start of the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic in February 2009. He then waded through a large field of 696 players in the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event to cash in second place for $935,424 in prize money. The nearly $1 million score influenced Nguyen to switch his focus from cash games to tournaments, and just 13 months later he scored his first tournament title at the PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour main event in Manila. He topped a field of 430 players in the $2,700 no-limit hold’em main event to add $260,700 to his career earnings along with 1,440 Card Player Player of the Year points.

Nguyen scored another final-table appearance at the recent Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza II $2,500 no-limit hold’em championship final table and cashed in fourth place for $37,451. That added another 414 POY points to his 2010 total and put him in the top 30 on the leader board.

Card Player caught up with Nguyen in Las Vegas and he talked about his transition from cash games to tournaments, as well as his experience playing in poker tournaments and cash games across Asia.

Ryan Lucchesi: What was the atmosphere like at the APPT Manila event?

Binh Nguyen: I liked the structure of the tournament. We started with 20,000 in chips, and the blinds were 25-50 with hour levels, so there was plenty of play. The quality of competition out there wasn’t bad, but it definitely got tougher and tougher each day, and the final table was really tough. I also spent some time in Macau when I was over there, so I missed the L.A. Poker Classic event. I have a place in Macau so it’s pretty easy for me to go out there.

RL: What are the cash games like in Macau?

BN: It’s really different than here. I was surprised how different they were and there were a lot of upsides and a lot of downsides to that. They play a lot bigger than here. I was playing in a $10-$25 no-limit game and people were sitting with $50,000 behind them. That is just unheard of here. The downsides were that they smoke at the table and the rake is really high, like $25 a hand. The poker etiquette out there needs a lot of work.

RL: So you would say there is a lot of opportunity but you have to look past the downside?

BN: Yeah, you kind of have to swallow the bad parts of it to get to the good. The level of play out there is not as advanced. They don’t make the bigger laydowns that people make in a $25-$50 game here. They do have a lot of gamble. In the long run, it can be very profitable. There is a lot of money out there and people love to gamble out there.

RL: Did your strong finish in Manila start to build momentum for you heading into the summer?

BN: I plan on playing a lot of events. I just want to focus on playing my best. I have recently made the transition from playing more cash games to playing more tournaments. I’m really trying to work on my tournament game, so I’m spending a lot more time traveling and playing in tournaments. It’s been fun and I just want to make the best of it.

RL: What aspects of your game are you focusing on specifically during the transition?

BN: The skill set that you need in a tournament is completely different than the skill set you need in a cash game. I have been playing in cash games for nine years, so I feel a lot more confident when playing for cash. I have only been playing tournaments for a year and a couple of months. The LAPC last year was my first tournament. I still need a lot of practice and I think my tournament game needs a lot of work.

I’m not going to say I’m a perfect player or anything. Every tournament I play in I think I learn a lot more and I gain a lot of experience and that always helps.

RL: Does the cash-game experience really help with more involved pots when you hold a deep stack in a tournament?

BN: The biggest factor that helps from cash games when playing in a tournament is playing post flop. Earlier in the tournament you see a lot of post-flop play, but later on in the tournaments it’s more about squeezing and picking your spots to shove, so it’s more preflop play. The beginning of a tournament is when my cash-game experience helps the most.