Nam Le is one of those rare poker players that can be a total chameleon on the felt when it comes to style. Watch him one day and he’s running over his table with hyper-aggressive play. Watch him the next and he’s methodical, patient, and calculating. Le’s focus, apt reads, and uncanny ability to adjust to his opponents’ play are only a few of the tools in his arsenal that contributed to his meteoric rise in the world of tournament poker. It’s hard to believe that only five years ago, Le was grinding out $500 events at L.A.’s Bicycle Casino. Now he has a mantle full of championship trophies, a World Poker Tour and an APPT title, over $5.8 million in career tournament earnings, and is spending the summer chasing down the one thing he’s still missing… a World Series of Poker bracelet.
Nam Le was born on September 10, 1980 in Irvine, CA. He grew up in Southern California, where games and gambling were part of the culture, due to the dozens of legal card rooms and casinos in the area. By the time Nam reached the legal gambling age, his friend Tuan Le had already caught the poker bug and was frequenting the $20/40 hold’em games at the Hustler Casino while being mentored by Barry Greenstein. Tuan passed down much of that knowledge to Nam, who soaked up all he could and began applying it to his own game. By 2004 Nam was a winning cash-game player and spent much of his time grinding it out at the L.A. area casinos, which were in close proximity to his home base in Huntington Beach. Le also became close friends with top L.A.-area pros J.C. Tran, Quinn Do, and Chino Rheem, who encouraged him to get in on the booming tournament scene.
Le made two final tables in preliminary no-limit hold’em events at the 2004 L.A. Poker Classic, banking over $50,000. Then, later that year, he notched his first tournament victory, winning a $500 no-limit hold’em event at the Commerce Casino’s Holiday Bonus Tournament in November 2004 for a $68,605 score. His success in L.A. inspired him to head out to Las Vegas for one of the biggest World Poker Tour events of the year—the $15,000 buy-in Five Diamond Classic at Bellagio. Le waded through a field of 376 of the world’s best pros to come away with a sixth-place finish, $152,468, and some serious TV face time.
By 2005, Le was focusing almost exclusively on tournament poker. He made another WPT cash, finishing 39th at the 2005 Bay 101 Shooting Stars and cashed three times at the 2005 WSOP including an 11th-place finish in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em with Rebuys event. It was after the series, though that he really began going on a tear. Le won two $300 NLHE events at the Bicycle Casino, another at the Hustler, and the $1,500 NLHE event at the Bellagio’s Festa al Lago IV for a combined total of over $340,000. That was peanuts, however, compared to what he’d accomplish only a few months later on his return trip to the Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament.
In Febuary 2006, Nam Le defeated a final table that included Chad Brown, Fabrice Soulier and David Williams to win his first World Poker Tour title and nearly $1.2 million at the 2006 Bay 101 Shooting Stars event. Four months later, he added another victory to his rapidly-growing resume, winning the $5,000 buy-in Scotty Nguyen Poker Challenge for over $204,000. At the 2006 WSOP, he cashed five times and came achingly close to his first bracelet, making a runner-up finish to Mark Vos in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event. 2007 brought Le another four cashes on the WPT, including an eighth-place finish at the Bellagio Cup III, and another three cashes at the WSOP. These included another deep run at a bracelet that ended with a third-place finish in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event that drew over 2,500 runners. It was in late 2008, though, that Le turned into an absolute beast at the tournament tables, winning over $1.4 million inside of six weeks. Le took down the High Rollers Event at APPT Macau, beating out the likes of Barry Greenstein, Johnny Chan, and his good friend Quinn Do to win the $473,915 first-place prize. Back stateside only a few weeks later, he made a run at his second WPT title and nearly got there, finishing as runner-up to Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier at the $15,000 buy-in Festa al Lago Classic at Bellagio, good for $943,215.
Though he has yet to log a money finish at this year’s WSOP, he was ringside to watch his good friend J.C. Tran win his second bracelet in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha three nights ago. When he’s not on the tournament trail, he still calls Huntington Beach, CA home.