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One More Time, Baby -- Scotty Nguyen Looks to Make World Series of Poker Run

‘Prince of Poker’ Discusses His Chances and Mindset This Year

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Scotty Nguyen has had great success -- and great trials -- and major mixed-games events.As the $50,000 Players Championship gets underway today, one man is an unlikely position. He is hoping to repeat his historical success at premiere mixed games events, yet he is also hoping to redeem himself.

Scotty Nguyen, of course, is that man. Nguyen went from being one of poker’s most popular players to an unlikely villain in the minds of many viewers after he ordered one cocktail too many at the 2008 Players Championship at the World Series. He went on to win that prestigious event for the fifth bracelet of his career, good for 12th place on the all-time list.

Now, as the tournament moves to an eight-game format and is once again aired on ESPN, Nguyen hopes to get back to the final table one more time — to prove what he can do, and how he can act.

“You’ve got to get there (to the final table),” said Nguyen. “That’s the first thing. You got to get there, and then take it from there.”

Nguyen hardly needs another score on his poker résumé to prove himself. The Vietnamese-born player has nearly $11.3 million in career tournament winnings, and he has consistently competed at a high level over a variety of games over the years.

Scotty Nguyen celebrates after winning the 1998 WSOP main event.He is most famous for winning the 1998 main event, when he famously told his heads-up opponent, Kevin McBride, “You call, it’s gonna be all over, baby,” on the final hand of the tournament after a full house completed the board. Nguyen pushed all in, delivered the playful line, and McBride called, only to see Nguyen show a higher boat to win the title. (Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau.)

Nguyen also won bracelets in pot-limit Omaha and Omaha eight-or-better before his notable 2008 win in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. Proving that wasn’t a fluke, he followed it up with a win in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the L.A. Poker Classic in April 2009, further cementing himself as one of the best overall tournament players in the game.

“Every time you go out there, no matter what the buy-in is or what the game is, you play your best,” said Nguyen. “You play to win.”

Nguyen hasn’t exactly been winning events lately, but he has been making a ton of impressive deep runs in major events. After final-tabling both the $25,000 WPT Five-Star World Classic and $15,000 WPT Five-Diamond World Poker Classic in 2009 for about $536,000 combined, he continued his hot play in 2010.

He finished third in this year’s NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship and then just missed out on returning to the six-handed final table of the Five-Star World Poker Classic last month, finishing in eighth place for $105,823.

Now, he aims to become the first person in history to win the Players Championship twice.

“When you choose to do something professionally, you want to do something people can’t do. You want to set the record so people can chase you,” said Nguyen. “When I play, I like to break people’s records or set records myself.”

Transforming Over the Years

The Players Championship, as it was unofficially called at the time, was first held in 2006 as a $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event with no-limit hold’em at the final table for television considerations, and it was famously taken down by the late great Chip Reese, whose name has been bestowed upon the event’s trophy. Players complained about the no-limit hold’em switch at the end, so tournament organizers made it straight H.O.R.S.E. for the past three years. Freddy Deeb won the title in 2007, and then Nguyen won it in controversial fashion in 2008. David Bach won last year’s event, Chip Reese took down the inaugural Players Championship.the first time the tourney wasn’t carried by ESPN.

This year, the Players Championship will feature an eight-game format. In eight-game, all of the H.O.R.S.E. games (limit hold’em, Omaha eight-or-better, razz, stud, stud eight-or-better) are included, as well as no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and limit deuce-to-seven triple-draw lowball.

Just as the Players Championship has had to transform its image the past few years, so too has Nguyen.

Nguyen has run the gauntlet in terms of explaining himself and apologizing for his antics and behavior at the 2008 event, where he bordered on verbal abuse both to the other players at the table and the staff surrounding it. He never received a penalty in that tournament for his actions, but the damage to his reputation was done.

Nguyen issued an apology through Card Player after the event: “I know my actions at the table were wrong. For that, I would like to apologize to everyone, especially the fans. I make a big mistake, one I am very, very sorry for.”

But the ill will lingered. Once considered a jovial fan’s pro, Nguyen was seen by many as mean-spirited and disrespectful. And to make things worse, he seemingly came close to repeating that behavior at the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. final table at the L.A. Poker Classic, before he settled down after receiving a warning from the tournament director.

Scotty Nguyen, after winning the L.A. Poker Classic H.O.R.S.E. event.This week, he hopes to redeem himself with his play and his actions.

Nguyen does have a reputation for going out of his way to please and put on a show for his fans. While many big-name pros speed-walk toward their private rooms and ignore photo and autograph requests, Nguyen rarely denies anyone. And although some might call his actions at final tables unprofessional, Nguyen is in some ways reminding people that poker is fun, almost putting on a performance for his followers.

“Poker is so boring sometimes, people sit and wait for the nuts and they don’t talk, they’re so serious. I mean, for big money it’s OK to be serious, but mix it up,” said Nguyen. “If you don’t love what you do, go home. Enjoy it; enjoy being at the final table and being in the spotlight.”

While Nguyen remains a bit of a showboat in front of the cameras, he is soft-spoken when talking about his family. He says that they are his focus, especially when preparing for the World Series.

“I make sure the wife and the family are all taken care of, and are doing good,” said Nguyen. “When the family is not taken care of, you cannot go out with a clear mind and play.”

Family Life

Family is clearly very important to ostensibly dressed star, perhaps even more so because of the struggles he had growing up.

The oldest of 13 children, Nguyen lived in war-torn Vietnam with a physically abusive father before his mother sold everything she owned to send him and his brother out of the country. After spending some time in a refugee camp in Taiwan, Nguyen was separated from his brother but eventually made it to the United States after the U.S. government found a sponsor for him.

Scotty NguyenBut that was hardly the end of his difficult times. His new sponsor used him and other immigrant children as cheap labor for his farm. After that situation was brought to light, Nguyen was finally reconnected with his brother in California, where he joined a new and this-time loving family.

“To this day, I still call my California sponsors Mom and Dad,” said Nguyen, in his autobiographical section of the book Deal Me In. “They were wonderful, generous people, and they treated me just like one of their own kids.”

After Nguyen first found success at the poker tables, he lost his way and said he didn’t give back to his family in Vietnam as much as he should have. But now, he tries to do as much for the community back there while still being a good father and husband in the U.S.

Nguyen says once he finishes talking to his fans on breaks, he often checks in with his family.

“When I get a break I … call my wife, text my son or my daughters,” said Nguyen.

The Prince of Poker, as he has been nicknamed, plans on playing all of the $5,000 or higher events at the WSOP this summer, but he won’t hesitate to skip a tournament or two if he’s not feeling up to snub.

“If you’re not feeling good, why are you there for?” said Nguyen. “It’s not like I have to play. I won’t do good if I play when I don’t want to. If I don’t feel good, I’m staying home.”

As for Nguyen, right now, he says he’s feeling great. And that just may be bad news for the other players at his table this week.

Follow the Players Championship throughout the week with Card Player’s live updates.

 
 
 
 

Comments

jrbrown1548
over 11 years ago

I thought this degenerate p*ick vowed to retie if he didn't win X amount at the WSOP last year...get this turd off your news it makes me wanna view other news updates for the whole WSOP....nice story for day 1 of 57 bracelet events

 
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jrbrown1548
over 11 years ago

*retire

 
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seamarfan269
over 11 years ago

Nobody is denying Scotty's talent. Nobody is denying Scotty's showmanship towards his fans/followers. He admitted his mistake and for the most part has stayed under-the-radar since, with only a few minor exceptions. Anybody that is still re-hashing old news and cannot look to the poker future with optimistic humor and excitement is just plain ole bitter and jealous. "just saying".
p.s. BMPEK cracks me up!!!

 
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