The $607,200 Hallway Conversation
Preface: Ever had a three-minute conversation worth $607,200? Dung “Gomer” Nguyen has. Perhaps, it’s too good a story -- a tale no one would possibly believe. But it really happened. Here’s the incredible story of how a 37-year-old recreational poker player from Wichita, Kansas stormed into the 2012 World Series of Poker, massacred a field of 2,534 players, and walked away with more than 600 grand and a glistening new gold bracelet, which all came about due to a brief hallway conversation:
“The Butterfly Effect” is now a common term which seeks to explain the unbreakable bonds between all things in the universe. The phrase was initially coined as a simple way to illustrate a complex scientific concept.
The hypothetical question posed was, “Does a butterfly flapping its wings in Ohio eventually create a typhoon in the South Pacific?” Even a fragile butterfly has a measurable effect on air current by flapping its tiny wings. It follows then, that a storm cycle occurring many months later, thousands of miles away, is one of the many outlying by-products of the butterfly's initial action.
“The Butterfly Effect” can apply to poker, too. Unfortunately, many fail to grasp its nuances. Even the most subtle actions can affect the ultimate outcome of a poker tournament. Consider for a moment that any motion whatsoever – a laugh, a sneeze, a smile, a wave, or even the most ordinary of common distractions – can and often will cause a poker dealer to shuffle a deck of cards in a slightly different way. Just one card out of place at any time, by consequence, changes the entire sequence of cards that follow the remainder of the tournament.
If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with the most recent tournament held at the World Series of Poker, we’ll get to that in a moment.
Since the actions at one table are very likely seen and heard by players at adjoining tables, even subtle movements, increasingly larger numbers of people are affected by the initial motion. Secondary tables feel the aftereffects of what happened. Moments later, the next outlying group of tables and players facilitate an unbreakable line of countless corollaries, which in a sense not only change the outcome of what happens in poker, but impact the world.
Sure, we all agree – poker is a game of skill. But it's also quite possible that an innocuous chuckle on Day One by the hypothetical player on sitting in Seat 6 at Table 278 at the 2012 World Series of Poker influenced the outcome of the tournament. In a sense, every single champion’s victory is a combination of billions upon billions of figurative butterfly wings flapping since the beginning of time, combined with the skill,talent, and – dare it be said, luck – to overcome randomness.
Which now brings us to a man most people in the poker world have never heard of, until today. His name is Dung “Gomer” Nguyen.
First – a short biography: Born in Vietnam....Immigrated to the United States when three months old....The ninth of 11 children.....Initially settled down and grew up in New Orleans.....Mother died when he was a young age....Moved to Wichita, Kansas to live with his older sister....Worked various odd jobs for years....Played $1-3 poker mostly at one of the local casinos.....Virtually no major tournament track record to speak of.
Three days ago, Nguyen was walking down the hallway of the tournament area at the Rio in Las Vegas. It was a few minutes before noon, which was the starting time of the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament (Event #38). Nguyen had no plans whatsoever to play in the tournament that day. His intent was to sit in cash games and perhaps enter one of the Deep Stack tournaments, which cost a few hundred dollars.
That’s when Nguyen ran into his friend. It would be a moment that would literally change his life.
Nguyen revealed his friend that he had no intention to play in that day’s gold bracelet tourney. The field size was much too large – more than 2,500 players were expected. The entry fee was also cost prohibitive -- a considerable sum to the recreational player on a short bankroll. Nguyen’s friend argued otherwise. He pleaded and then finally agreed that he would, in fact, post $750 -- which was half the entry fee. In exchange, the two friends agreed to a 50/50 partnership, which meant that the investment would equally split of any prize money winnings.
The notion of winning money and dividing a cash prize of any substantive value seemed like only a remote possibility. After all, most players have what amounts to only a ten percent chance of getting back a dime. As things turned out, Nguyen and his investor would do slightly better than that.
Indeed, this brief conversation out in the hallway, while hundreds of other poker players raced by to their tables and seats, turned out to be an angelic flap of proverbial wings, ultimately creating an end-game typhoon out of what should have been an innocuous initial act. Nguyen’s friend and the confidence he expressed, was akin to a guardian angel, an inspiration, and butterfly that would later create a tremor.
And so, off Nguyen went.
Three days later, the situation was very different. Nguyen wasn’t out in the hallway anymore. He was sitting on the ESPN Main Stage playing for the biggest poker payday of his life. In a six-hour display of dominance that was undoubtedly the most decisive – and perhaps easiest – victory witnessed so far at this year’s WSOP, Nguyen won his very first WSOP gold bracelet and the hefty sum of $607,200 some of which was shared with a certain rail bird watching with intense interest.
As Nguyen was busy posing for photographers in front of a massive pile of poker chips and being interviewed by the press, several poker players who were involved in other poker tournaments across the room glanced over and saw the newest WSOP champion. Dozens of conversations ensued. Shuffles were altered. Other discussions spilled out in the hallway.
And -- if "The Butterfly Effect" is to be believed -- poker history changed forever once again.
Dung "Gomer" Nguyen Wins $1,500 Buy-In No-Limit Hold'em (Event #38)
Las Vegas, NV (June 23, 2012) -- Dung "Gomer" Nguyen won his first major tournament victory tonight at the World Series of Poker, in Las Vegas.
Nguyen won the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournament (Event #38). The competition drew another mammoth field size – totaling 2,534 entries. The tournament played out over a three-day period at the Rio, ending on Friday night under the bright lights of the ESPN Main Stage.
Nguyen is a 37-year-old Vietnamese-born part-time poker player. He now resides in Wichita, Kansas. For this achievement, Nguyen collected the astronomical sum of $607,200 in prize money, plus his first WSOP gold bracelet.
The official report of this tournament, with much more news and official data, will be posted soon to WSOP.com.
-- by Nolan Dalla