The 2016 November Nine: Seat 4, Qui Nguyen
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Every year during the World Series of Poker, at least one or two faces that haven't been around the Series for a few years reappear, sparking a bit of nostalgia from poker fans and observers of the game.
This year, one such face was that of Bill Gazes, a recognizable pro from a few years back who put together a respectable career with a few million in cashes but hadn't been seen around the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino since 2012.
Having personally witnessed the changing of the proverbial poker guard from the time he came up in the game to the modern state of poker, he opined on what makes the new faces of poker different from the past.
“It was hard when they came in because it's these guys without leaks,” Gazes said. “They're not gambling or shooting dice or betting sports. They're so solid an studious.”
But while the young, whip-smart, math-savvy kid with expertise in shove charts and game theory might be the modern poker prototype, it doesn't mean all players who find success in the game are of that ilk.
In that way at least, Qui Nguyen is a throwback. The man who will occupy Seat 4 when the November Nine kicks off made clear his attitude toward poker and other card games when he spoke to Sarah Herring of PokerNews the day after he bagged the second-biggest stack in the 2016 WSOP Main Event.
“I gamble a lot,” he said with a laugh.
Thus far, that willing to gamble has served him well, helping him lock up $1 million and sit squarely in contention for the $8 million that will go to the winner. Indeed, it's likely a necessity for a man with merely $52,986 in tournament cashes before entering the Main Event. The daunting task of matching wits with players like Max Silver, Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy, and Tom Marchese becomes a lot more manageable with a hearty serving of variance thrown into the mix.
Having said that, the Vietnamese import who now resides in Las Vegas – he was the only local to make the final table – has surprised even himself with this epic run.
“This is so crazy right now, I really did not expect this to happen,” a giddy Nguyen said in the aftermath of the final elimination. “It's amazing.”
Nguyen immigrated from Saigon in 1999, coming to the “very different” world of the United States. He soon opened a nail salon, where he earned enough money to facilitate his love of gambling. He describes baccarat as his favorite game but discovered poker as well during his time in California. His first recorded cashes came in tiny $20 limit hold'em tournaments in Los Angeles, but he eventually matriculated to Las Vegas and raised the stakes. He became a regular participant in tournaments around the city in the $100-to-$500 range.
Given that, it's not surprising to hear him talk about how much the money would mean to him – “a lot” — as he did in an interview with Remko Rinkema during the media day that followed Day 7. What might be surprising though, is that Nguyen said he feels comfortable where he's at.
Perhaps that's a function of long hours at the Baccarat tables, being used to his fate left to the chance that governs the turn of the next card. Or perhaps it's simply from the knowledge of how far he's come from far-away Saigon to pocket-change poker to the WSOP Main Event final table.
“I worked hard to get there, it's not easy,” he said.
How He Got Here
|Day||Final Chip Count||Rank|
Nguyen bagged a decent-sized stack on Day 1c of the Main Event, but what's not immediately clear is what happened in the three days that followed. Nguyen's name does not appear on any of the WSOP reports for Days 2-through-4, but he resurfaced in the updates on Day 5, when he finished with a middling stack.
To end up where he did that day, he had to overcome a nasty cooler courtesy of Max Silver. With blinds at 15,000/30,000/5,000, Nguyen and Silver went to war on a flop of . Silver bet 110,000 after two checks, and Nguyen made it 375,000. Silver came back with 725,000, and Nguyen clicked back to 1,075,000. Silver had seen enough and jammed for 3,030,000, with Nguyen quick to call.
In what was described in the live reporting as “the biggest pot of the tournament” to that point, Nguyen held a set of tens but trailed the set of jacks tabled by his British foe. After the turn and river missed Nguyen, he was left with 1.35 million that he would run up to a serviceable enough stack of 4.08 million by day's end, while Silver raked in a pot of more than 6 million.
On Day 6, it was Nguyen's turn to make a set of jacks in a big spot, getting most of his stack in the middle on a flop against Tyler Hancock's . A ten on the turn left Nguyen desperate for the board to pair, which it did when the arrived.
That 7.9 million would prove to be Nguyen's high-water mark for the day though, as he bagged less than he started with.
Nguyen's final day charge began when Michael Ruane doubled him up by shoving on the button with only for Nguyen to wake up with jacks. An ace hit the turn, but Nguyen found salvation with a four-card straight on the river on a runout.
A cagey river check then enabled Nguyen to bust Marchese on a final board of , with Nguyen having bet the turn and called a raise in a battle of the blinds. Marchese shoved the river with but Nguyen had for a better flush to move past 40 million at blinds of 200,000/400,000/50,000.
Nguyen sent another star packing when his tens held against James Obst's fives, then he won a monster race with queens against the ace-king of Mike Shin. Suddenly, there were 11 players left and Nguyen's heater had rocketed him to the chip lead with 68 million.
Josephy would edge past Nguyen in the final few hands to leave the local in second place heading to November.
What to Watch For
Normally, being in possession of the second-biggest stack at a poker table is a pretty comfortable spot. The only time that's not the case is when the biggest stack happens to be seated on your left, which is the case for Nguyen here.
Further exacerbating matters is that the covering stack in question belongs to none other than Josephy, only the most experienced and feared player at the table.
However, one pot the two played after the final table combined may be a clue into how Josephy plans to approach his deep-stacked foe. The online legend flatted a raise from Nguyen while holding kings, so he may be looking to keep pots a little smaller, which could keep Nguyen out of high-variance spots if he follows along.
Having short-stacked Fernando Pons immediately in front of him will also be a boon for Nguyen, keeping him out of trouble when Pons jams and giving him freer reign to open pots than others who will have to be worried about getting shoved on.
Ultimately, though, it will come down to the dynamic established between Nguyen and Josephy. Will Nguyen look to play big pots with the legend? His willingness to gamble indicates he might, but that will have to wait.
For the time being, the gambling will be shelved, according to Nguyen.
“I'm going to relax, spend time with my son, my family, and friends,” he said. “I should stop gambling much to keep my mind clear.”
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