MEET THE NOVEMBER NINE
Name: Cuong "Soi" Nguyen
Hometown: Santa Ana, CA (USA)
Chip Count: 9,650,000 (8th overall)
Nguyen was born March 15, 1973. He is 37-years-old.
Nguyen was born in what was formally Saigon, South Vietnam.
One of Nguyen’s relatives worked for the United States Government in South Vietnam. When Saigon fell in 1975, Nguyen’s family fled their homeland and immigrated to the U.S. After spending a few years in Pennsylvania, the Nguyen family settled down in Southern California.
Nguyen’s legal first name is Cuong. But he goes by the nickname, “Soi.” The name was given to him because he always liked soy sauce as a child. When he became older, he began spelling his name S-O-I so his name would be a bit different, since he had friends who were also named “Soy.”
Nguyen currently lives in Santa Ana, CA.
Nguyen is single. He has one son, aged 12.
Nguyen is the only player among the final nine who is not a full-time professional poker player.
Nguyen initially wanted to become an attorney. He says he wanted to practice law, because he enjoys debates and arguments.
Nguyen has attended college. But he did not graduate.
Nguyen worked various jobs in business. He considered going back to school to earn his degree. But as Nguyen was promoted in various jobs, he often supervised college graduates and decided it was not worth the time to go back and get his degree.
Nguyen works as a manager for a major company that makes and distributes products related to orthopedic surgery, and patients’ recovery from surgery.
Nguyen previously cashed at last year’s L.A. Poker Classic. He has no other major cashes.
This marks Nguyen’s first time to cash in a WSOP event.
Incredibly, Nguyen admits that he actually plays very little poker – either live or online.
If Nguyen wins the WSOP Main Event, he will instantly surpass two other famous poker players named Nguyen in lifetime earnings. Scotty Nguyen won the 1998 world championship. Men “the Master” Nguyen currently has seven WSOP gold bracelets.
Nguyen goes into the Main Event final table ranked eighth in chips out of nine players.
Q&A with Soi
Question: You are the only player at this final table who is not a full-time professional poker player. Does making the November Nine change your employment situation and career plans?
Nguyen: That’s an interesting question because part of the rail who was here cheering for me last night (when playing from 27 down to 9) was the owner of my company. I have worked with him for ten years now. He actually sent me a text this morning. He told me, ‘Do whatever you need to do. You will always have a job with me.’ I am supposed to go to work tomorrow. But I will probably take that day off. I will show up for work on Tuesday.
Question: What do you expect the reaction will be when you get back to the office?
Nguyen: Probably, overwhelming. Everybody is going to be excited for me. But I still have a job to do. I looked at my Blackberry, and I have like a thousand messages. It’s crazy.
Question: So many Vietnamese-born poker players have done well in poker. Why is this so, in your opinion?
Nguyen: To be honest, I think it is something in the blood. It’s part of our culture. When the New Year comes, our culture gambles for three days straight. I mean, literally. No sleep. When we were just 6 or 7 years old we would get envelopes (with money) and gamble. Red envelopes are a tradition where we get money from parents, aunts, uncles, whatever. It’s considered good luck to give the money. All we did was gamble. All my friends – everyone. So, it’s in the blood, I think. Also, this is a stereotype, but many Asians are good at math. Poker has a lot to do with math. Whether it is calculating outs or pot odds – so I think it is natural for many of us to be good at poker. If you combine the willingness to take risk along with having a good understanding of math, I think that is what makes many good Vietnamese poker players.
Question: Do you intend to change your game once the final table starts?
Nguyen: I would like to have more chips. But my whole objective was making it to the November Nine. Now, I can play poker again. Yesterday was much more strategic – which means just trying to get there. Now, I am going to play the style that got me here.
Question: You have a son who is 12-years-old. Does he understand the significance of all this?
Nguyen: Yes. He sends me a text every night. He understands what the World Series is, but I do not think he understands what a big event this is for us. He also hears my friends talk about it. So, he understands some of it, but maybe doesn’t understand quite the magnitude of everything.
Question: Do you expect to have a big cheering section, come November?
Nguyen: How many people can we fit inside the (Penn and Teller Theatre)? I plan to bring everyone I know. It’s going to be a lot.
Question: You actually do not have much poker tournament experience. So, how did you get this far?
Nguyen: I just went with my gut, making the right calls at the right time. You have to be willing to push. You have to get a couple of lucky suck outs. I had two pretty sick suck outs. But my pocket aces got cracked two times, as well. It happens. It’s a roller coaster ride.
Question: What if a genie were to pop out of a bottle and make you an offer. Right now, the genie offers you second place. You get $5.5 million as the runner up. You get plenty of face time on television. But, you do not get the win. Would you take the deal?
Nguyen: No. I am going to get paid enough, no matter where I finish in this November Nine. But I want to be the champ. The money would be great. But it’s the craziest thing. I went to dinner on Day Seven with a bunch of pros – Nam Le, Chino Rheem, and all those guys. I really do not play that much poker. In the last three years, I may have played in three tournaments. When I went to dinner with them, Nam Le was like ‘I would give up like almost all of my accomplishments to be sitting where you are right now. Just to have the opportunity to make it to the November Nine.’ When he said that, it put things into perspective for me. The money is great. But I want the title. I want to be the super underdog story of the century. I’m fine with whatever place I finish. But my goal is to win it all.
The Main Event championship final table, also known as the November Nine, will be played starting on November 6th, 2010. The initial session of play will narrow the nine finalists down to two survivors. The final two players return two days later on November 8th to play heads-up for the 2010 world championship. This year’s winner will receive $8,944,138 in prize money, the coveted WSOP gold bracelet, and designation as the 2010 world poker champion.
To see a full list of all players who cashed in this year's Main Event, click here.