After a forgettable World Series of Poker last year, Scotty Nguyen is looking to reclaim his throne in the halls of poker royalty.
The "Prince of Poker" won the $50,000 World Championship HORSE tournament last year, but afterward his win was defined by his behavior, not his play.
"That is not Scotty. That day, it wasn't me," he said during a break at the 2009 WSOP. "That would never happen again. What happened last year, you will never (see) at any final table all over the world."
Instead of being the cool, goofy and fun player everyone recognized since he won the Main Event in 1998, Nguyen said he was in a bad situation and acted completely out of character as he erupted with profanities at the final table of the high buy-in event last year.
"Last year, I was stuck $250,000 and everything built up inside me," he said. "Last year it built up inside my like a bomb, baby — blow up. Just that moment, I let everything go.
"I feel bad for the fans who don't need to see that. That's the only thing I regret."
Despite his blow up, Nguyen did what does best — win poker tournaments — and took the "Chip" Reese Trophy, his fifth WSOP bracelet and the $1.9 million prize.
And he plans to build on it this year.
Despite a slow start this summer, Nguyen finished 12th in the $10,000 World Championship Seven-card Stud (Event 37) for his first cash and has high hopes for the rest of the Series.
He made news before the WSOP announcing he would retire from poker if he didn't win $4 million. So far he has only $33,668 from the deep run in Event 37.
"Every year I told my wife, 'I'm going to win $4 million this year,'" he said. "I never come close.
"This year, I say it out loud to (make me) focus more."
Nguyen has never made more than $2 million in a WSOP, which came mostly from his HORSE championship last year, and made more than $1 million in 1998 when he made seven figures by winning the Main Event as well as some extra prize money by cashing in three other events that year, but he is sure it is something he can do.
"My goal (is from) my confidence. I know I can do this," he said. "I challenge myself, I can do what I said and it's good to put this pressure on my shoulders."
The promise to retire, however, is something Nguyen is not completely sold on. He may take a break, but he said it's something all professional athletes do after a long season, and especially a 20-year career.
"You know, baby, poker, when you play it everyday and you struggle, you burn out. You want to get away from poker for a while," he said. "So if I win $4 million, may still take six or seven months off. If I don't win $4 million this year, going to home and look back."
But it is the love for the game that will bring Nguyen back to the tables regardless of what happens, and be successful when he returns.
"In poker you take a beat here, beat there and people will run out. I'm not like that," he said. "I love the game. I just love it. When you love it, you're more patient and you enjoy it.
"When you love it, you end up winning."
This passion for the game is what keeps Nguyen optimisitic he will reach his goal of making $4 million after the 57 events this year. He says if he can win or go deep in two major events — the $50,000 World Championship HORSE (Event 49) and the Main Event — as well as a few other cashes along the way, he can make the money goal as well as cement his place in history.
"Defending the title is so important. I won (the $50,000) HORSE, go to (Los Angeles), play $10,000 HORSE, won that too (in February)," he said. "People come to (Event 49) to win, I come to repeat it. I have won it already, I want to repeat it, that motivates me.
"HORSE, Main Event, I've done it all," he said. "If win (Event 49 this year), my record can never be beaten. Nobody can come close. Maybe (that will not happen) for 100 years. Except my son Cody in 18 to 20 years."
But it isn't just winning the titles Nguyen wants to do. He wants to win, have fun and erase the image from the 2008 HORSE final table and replace it with the real image of who he is.
"Sometimes winning's not everything. You've got to win it the right way," he said. "In 1998 (I said,) 'If you call, it's all over.' I hear it event now. People remember 10 years later. I want to do something like that, that people will remember 20 years from now.
"I want to people to see how pretty I play the game," he said. "Win in a pretty way."