Party Poker people, we beat his own site. We beat the loudest, most blinged-out, most jheri-curled-manny-headed bit of Vietnamese-American awesomeness to ever win 5 WSOP bracelets to the punch. You see Party Poker players, as of July 1, 2008 at 8:53 pm EST – $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. Officially speaking, we’re crowning him king of the tournament poker world before the self-proclaimed prince of poker takes the throne himself.
At 5:06 am on July 1, following a 13-hour, 314-hand final table war, Scotty Nguyen was awarded the $1,989,120 first prize and his fifth WSOP bracelet in the prize widely considered to be the poker world’s highest honor – the $50,000 World Championship of H.O.R.S.E. bracelet and Chip Reese Memorial Trophy. This makes Scotty the first and only player in the world to own a WSOP Main Event victory, a WPT victory and a WSOP $50K H.O.R.S.E. victory, officially making him the most accomplished tournament poker player in the world right now.
But Scotty was not born the prince of poker, in fact, he wasn’t even born Scotty. Nguyen was given the name of Thuan by his parents on his birth date, October 28, 1962 in the war-torn nation of Vietnam. Thuan would be the eldest of 13 children and would spend his childhood in his native Vietnam. As befitting any great poker player, there is some disagreement about what happened next in his life: some reliable sources say that at the age of 13, Nguyen and a few of his brothers boarded a makeshift refugee ship headed for Thailand. The ship became lost at sea and drifted with only 2 days of food rations for more than 3 weeks. This led to an outbreak of cannibalism and nearly the consumption of Nguyen’s own younger brother if it were not for a Taiwanese rescue boat saving the refugees after 23 days lost in the Pacific Ocean. Other reliable sources say that at the age of 11, Nguyen exited Vietnam and made it to Taiwan in a very similar story with one major difference – no cannibalism. Regardless of how he might have survived, Thuan Nguyen did make it through. After escaping from a hard labor refugee camp only 6 months into his stay on Taiwan, at 13 years of age, Nguyen received word that an American family was eager to sponsor and house him in Chicago, Illinois.
At the age of 14, Nguyen had escaped a brutal civil war, survived a grisly (and possibly cannibalistic) 3 week raft sea voyage, worked hard manual labor at a Taiwanese refugee camp, escaped that camp and made it all the way around the world to the USA.
After all of that struggle and escape and death and war, upon his arrival in Chicago Nguyen decided that he didn’t like the “inclement weather” (his words) and requested a further change of scenery.
As stunning as his tale of survival is, how does a 14 year old kid who’d been through what he’d been through have the wherewithal or self-knowledge (or maybe the word is “cojones”) to ask for a move? I guess that’s just who Thuan Nguyen always was and always will be – someone who has always known what he wants and has always worked hard to get what he wants. Because sure enough, the man who would be Scotty found a new sponsor and headed down to his new home in Orange County, California.
After finishing high school in sunny CA, Thuan uprooted himself again and left for Las Vegas – a city of dreams to him, a mecca of luxury and desire and easy money he’d heard about in his past life in Vietnam.
He arrived in Sin City and was hired to clean tables at Harrah’s Casino. Just as the name Corleone was a gift from an inarticulate American, so too was the name “Scotty” given to Nguyen by his new boss because the manager feared that no American would be able to say “Thuan.” So Thuan Nguyen, the Vietnamese refugee table cleaner was reborn Scotty.
Scotty would work his way up from table cleaner to table dealer where he would learn to play poker by watching the players he was dealing to. Over the next few years, Scotty would build up his bankroll playing poker in his off hours. By the mid 1980s he was able to quit dealing and play poker full time.
His first tournament success came in the $100 Limit Hold’em Winter Poker Olympics tournament at the Bell Gardens casino where he received $6,600 for his second place finish. His first cash finish in a major tournament came as a 4th place finish in the 1994 $1,500 Limit Hold’em Hall of Fame Poker Classic (as well as $17,160.) His first WSOP cash was an inauspicious 13th place finish in the 1995 WSOP $2,500 Limit Hold’em event (after factoring out taxes, the $4,650 in prize money barely covered the buy-in.) His first tournament win came in the 1995 Four Queens Poker Classic $500 Limit Hold’em for $59,600. His first WSOP win came in the 1997 $2,000 Limit Hold’em event for $156,950.
Then, in 1998, 1 year after his idol Stu Ungar had reclaimed his place on top of the poker world with his record 3rd Main Event victory, Scotty Nguyen won the 1998 WSOP Main Event and took home $1,000,000 and his second bracelet. It was there, at the Final Table during the final hand just before the final call that Scotty issued his famous line, “You call it’s gonna be all over, baby” to runner-up Kevin McBride.
In 2006, Scotty would join Doyle Brunson and Juan Carlos Mortensen as the only winners of the WSOP Main Event to have also won a WPT title when he won 2006 WPT World Poker Open at the Gold Strike Casino for $969,421.
Yesterday, as the sun crept up into the desert sky, Scotty created his own club: he is the only person ever to have won a WSOP Main Event and a $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship (not to mention his WPT victory as well!) The $50K H.O.R.S.E. tournament is now considered to be the top annual tournament in the world for two reasons: its monstrous $50K buy-in whittles the field down to only the most successful pros in the world and its unique 5 game rotating structure (H for Hold’em, O for Omaha, R for Razz, S for Stud and E for… Seven Card Stud Eight or Better) allows only the most multi-versed and well-rounded players to succeed.
He drinks heavily at the table, n just about any other tournament pro, his jewelry collection rivals Mr. T’s, he chats incessantly and yet he is probably the most popular tournament player in the world.
You just can’t help but like Scotty Nguyen. From Party Poker players to Full Tilt players to PokerStars players (where he is a member of the pro team;) everybody loves Scotty. While you can never know for sure what makes someone who they are, you can’t help but to think that part of what makes Scotty so beloved is the perspective he gained from his early struggles. Then again, he did ask to move after exiting the Vietnam War, a horrific sea voyage and a hardcore refugee labor camp because he didn’t like the “inclement weather” in Chicago. Maybe there’s just something about Scotty.
Either way, as of today, Scotty Nguyen is officially the best all-around tournament poker player in the world.