Around the WSOP: Scotty Nguyen crowned $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world champion

30 June 2008

The Prince of Poker has a new jewel to add to his crown.

Thuan "Scotty" Nguyen, the man best-known for his engaging personality and use of the word "baby" in nearly every other sentence that comes out of his mouth, won the prestigious $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship in the early hours of Monday morning, leading to a dramatic scene where the former Main Event champ didn't disappoint with his post-tournament thoughts.

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Scotty Nguyen has nearly $2 million reasons to smile after winning the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship and picking up his fifth-career WSOP bracelet. (photo by IMPDI for the 2008 WSOP)

He talked about how much it meant to him to win the event that is now named after his dear friend and the inaugural champ – David "Chip" Reese. He thanks his wife Julie for her support, particularly during the tough stretch he endured last year following an incredible bad streak of luck he suffered during the Main Event that caused him to become so distraught he wouldn't leave his house.

And in classic Scotty Nguyen fashion, he proclaimed that his work was not done at this year's WSOP and that he would go on to win the Main Event, which begins on Thursday.

"When I was first coming into poker, I wanted to be playing with Doyle (Brunson) , Chip (Reese) and Stuey (Ungar) ," said Nguyen, who after an 11th-place finish in last year's Main Event became physically ill and lost 15 pounds. "Now, two of them are gone. I wanted to win this trophy to be the first winner to honor Chip."

Nguyen beamed a wide smile as he was presented with the new trophy by WSOP Commissioner Jeffery Pollack. The unique trophy weighs 60 pounds. The marble base is inscribed with the names of past winners and the plaque reads David "Chip" Reese Memorial Trophy – Standing the Test of Time. The phrase was famously uttered by Reese following his victory of the H.O.R.S.E. event in 2006.

The trophy is crowned with the gold-embossed winning hand from the inaugural event – 4-4-7-7-A. Perhaps most unusual is the fact that the trophy was slightly damaged while in transit between the manufacturer and the Rio. Fittingly, the trophy has a small "chip" in the base, which Pollack described as "Reese's ghost leaving his mark." Nguyen won $1,989,120 for first place, pushing his career earnings to nearly $10 million. Not bad for a kid who escaped his native homeland on a small boat that sailed out into the South China Sea when he was 14 years old.

He now has five WSOP gold bracelets to his name and this was his first since 2001. Nguyen joins an exclusive club of five-time WSOP gold bracelet winners that includes Bones Berland, Allen Cunningham, Phil Ivey, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Berry Johnston and Ungar.

With the win Nguyen also recorded his 36th-career WSOP cash, including a seventh-place finish in this year's $2,500 No Limit Hold'em event on June 16.

The $50,000 entry fee for this event ranks as the largest buy-in of any annual poker tournament in the world. The event, which had a spirited crowd that included many big-name professionals, will be shown in two parts (one-hour each) on Aug. 19th from 8-10 p.m. EST.

Nguyen held off second-place finisher Michael DeMichele in heads up action. The 23-year-old DeMichele recorded his fourth-career cash and second this year and was gracious in defeat.

"I never dreamed I would finish this deep," he said afterward. "There were so many players to deserving of this victory more than me – I was the new kid on the block.

"I still have a long way to go to get where I want, but I am happy with my focus. I also have to say that Scotty is really a great player and I congratulate him."

The $50,000 buy in guaranteed a strong field and it didn't disappoint. Nine of the 16 players who finished in-the-money were former bracelet winners. The nine former event champions combined for 35 total career wins. In addition, five of the final eight players seated at the final table, which lasted nearly 14 hours, were former bracelet winners. Those five former champions combined for 15 total career wins.

Erick Lindgren continued his charge for 2008 Milwaukee's Best Light Player of the Year Player of the Year by finishing third. Lindgren, who won his first-career bracelet earlier in the Series, was the early chip leader at the final table and seemed primed to seize victory. But he was the shortest-stack during most of the 3.5 hour three-handed exchange, which forced him to be more selective about hands.

"It hurts a lot (not to win)," Lindgren said afterward. "I really wanted to honor Chip (Reese) by winning."

Nonetheless, Lindgren leads the coveted Player of the Year standings heading into Monday night's action with 245 points. Three-time bracelet winner, Barry Greenstein, who finished sixth in the H.O.R.S.E. event and won the Razz championship two weeks ago, is second with 235 points and is closely followed by Jacobo Fernandez (232), who has cashed a 2008-best seven times. David Benyamine is fourth with 220.

Atlantic City-based poker pro Matt Glantz finished in fourth place. Glantz is a former options trader who specializes in high-limit cash games. This was his sixth time to cash at the WSOP. Three-time bracelet winner and Poker Hall of Fame member Lyle Berman was fifth.

Historic win for Brazil's Alexandre Gomes

The WSOP had a World Cup-type of feel on Sunday at the finish of the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event when 25-year-old Alexandre Gomes became the first the first Brazilian national to win a WSOP gold bracelet. In fact, no South American player had ever previously won a WSOP event in the 39-year history of the WSOP.

Gomes, who pocketed a whopping $770,448, was cheered on by a huge crowd of Brazilians that gathered around the final table. They waved green and blue flags and chanted in native Portuguese, as Gomes' victory became more evident.

Gomes is certain to return home to a hero's welcome, which will inevitably lead to more poker being played in Brazil, and greater participation at the WSOP from South Americans in the years ahead. There are many poker websites and publications now serving the poker market. Poker strategy books have also been published in Portuguese language.

"I want to say something to all my fellow Brazilians," Gomes said after his victory. "Poker is not an easy way of life. You have to study hard. You have to be prepared. You cannot rush things. You have to take it one step at a time."

Prior to Gomes victory, the only Brazilian poker player who had made much of an impact at the WSOP was Giovanni Nervo, who currently has four cashes so far at this year's WSOP.

Two other items of note from this event: Nikolay Evdakov of Russia set a new record for "Most WSOP Cashes in a Single Year" with nine when he finished 158th. Incredibly, Evdakov has earned just $203,458 in those nine events while Fernandez has collected $658,100 in seven cashes. Neither player has won an event.

Also, with his 136th-place finish, Blair Rodman became the first former champ in 48 events this year to cash in the event he or she was defending from last year. Rodman won the third $2,000 buy-in event last year, which corresponds to this tournament.


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