Canadian student takes chance on full-time poker career, wins first bracelet and $1,037,451
Las Vegas, NV (June 27, 2018) - Two months ago, Tommy Nguyen made the first final table of his poker career. After having only racked up a handful of cashes, the 28-year-old accounting student made his first final table at a major tournament in Montreal.
He finished eighth for $167,918, which was by far the biggest score of his young poker career. On Wednesday night, he dwarfed that score by earning $1,037,451 in the $1,500 no-limit hold’em monster stack event.
Nguyen bested one of the biggest fields of the summer. The Toronto native navigated through a field of 6,260 entries to earn his first World Series of Poker bracelet.
“I don’t know. I’m just taking it all in right now,” said Nguyen after his win. “I dreamed of this and I believed I could make it. I came for a bracelet and I got it.”
This is Nguyen’s third cash at this summer’s WSOP. It’s a better than average start for Nguyen’s first full summer in Las Vegas.
“I didn’t have the bankroll for it before,” said Nguyen. “I just final tabled the millions event not too long ago in Montreal. It gave me a chance to come here. I took my shots. I felt really good. I played really good.”
This was all part of Nguyen’s plan. He was on the brink of finishing his undergraduate degree in accounting but decided to drop his last class and take poker seriously. He gave himself a two-year timeframe to make something of himself as a professional poker player.
“My goal was to take poker seriously and if I don’t hit a lick until I’m 30, then I’m going to start working,” said Nguyen. “I’m about to get my degree in accounting and I knew if I graduated, I was going to start working and I wouldn’t have time for this. Everything happens for a reason.”
He’s won over $1.2 million since going for his dream and is off to a quite a start as a pro. He plans to finish his degree, however. He just wanted to make sure he gave poker a chance first.
“I’m going to finish it, of course,” said Nguyen. “This is my dream. I’m trying to travel and just play. I love poker.”
At 28, Nguyen has been of legal age to gamble for several years. He’s always loved poker, but it wasn’t until recently that he started to figure some things out and become a winning player. Once he started winning, he wanted to pursue the avenue of a professional poker career.
“I started playing like 10 years ago,” he said. “But I realized I was a losing player. I started to try and fix my game, let go of my stubbornness and try and learn the game a lot more. Then I realized I was winning player two years ago. That’s when I started winning more, so I started taking the game more seriously two years ago.”
The unofficial final table was reached just before 6 p.m. and the final 10 players took a 60-minute dinner break. When they returned, Jimmy Chen busted in 10th and the final nine were both credited with making the final table and a pay jump.
The chips continued to fly early on at the final table with Rittie Chuaprasert hitting the rail on the first hand of the final table. He got in his short stack preflop from the small blind with against James Carroll’s in the big blind. Carroll flopped an eight to end any drama in the hand.
The action continued to move at a frantic pace with Harald Sammer hitting the rail just 10 hands later. Shammar got all in from the cutoff against Shyam Srinivasan in the big blind. It was a race situation with Sammer’s ace-king against Srinivasan’s pocket queens.
The flop was safe for Srinivasan and he turned a queen to leave Sammer dead to the river. Sammer was eliminated in eighth place, the first player to take home a six-figure score.
Seven-handed play lasted for about two hours with Chris Chong climbing to the top of the chip counts and Srinivasan steadily becoming the short stack.
Srinivasan, one of the world’s best online tournament players, busted to Nguyen, losing a flip with his pocket nines against Nguyen’s ace-king.
Srinivasan’s elimination sparked a rush of eliminations. Six-handed play only lasted for 30 minutes before players started hitting the rail left and right.
Michael Benko busted in sixth place when his ace-10 couldn’t suck out against Carroll’s ace-king on the 71st hand of the final table.
The very next hand saw Chong bust Daniel Corbett in fifth place. It was another race with ace-king against pocket nines. Chong rivered a king to win the pot and send Corbett home in fifth.
It was Chong and Carroll sitting pretty at the top of the counts until Nguyen started a crazy rush of his own. He doubled through Chong with ace-king against ace-jack and then busted Chong three hands later.
Chong committed the last of his chips preflop from the small blind with ace-five against Nguyen’s ace-king in the big blind. Nguyen faded a bad beat, eliminated Nguyen, and took the chip lead into three-handed play.
“I think that was the turning point,” said Nguyen about his double up through Chong with ace-king. “Ace-king was definitely my hand this tournament. I love ace-king now. I used to hate it, but now I love it.”
Six hands after that, Nguyen scored another knockout, sending Frank Rusnak home in third. Nguyen won a race with his pocket deuces against Rusnak’s king-seven of clubs. Rusnak flopped a flush draw to give him even more equity in the hand but bricked the turn and river.
In a 45-minute span, there were four eliminations, leaving Nguyen with a slight chip lead against Carroll heads-up. In that short time span, jumping from guaranteed sixth place money to second place money, Nguyen earned himself about $438,000.
Despite the lack of huge scores on his poker resume, Nguyen didn’t let those numbers affect his play. He was only thinking about taking home the gold.
“I wasn’t even focused on the money,” said Nguyen. “I was focused on the bracelet. The pay jumps help because it puts you in a better position to win. I melted at the final table before, so I learned from my mistake. I came here, and I did it.”
Nguyen extended his lead early in the heads-up match and then really put it out of reach after betting three streets, getting called every step of the way and winning the pot showing his turned top pair of jacks.
That gave Nguyen better than an 8-to-1 chip lead. Carroll scored a small double, but eventually it was Nguyen’s new favorite hand that put him away. Carroll was all in preflop with king-deuce against Nguyen’s ace-king.
Nguyen faded the deuce which sent the pot his way. He won the hand, the tournament, his first bracelet and a seven-figure score. None of this is surprising to him. He thought it was going to happen from the start.
“Honestly, people think I’m crazy, but I envisioned this,” said Nguyen. “I envisioned winning bracelets coming here … I didn’t doubt I was going to win even when I was short. I knew this was going to happen.”
Final Table Results:
1st: Tommy Nguyen - $1,037,451
2nd: James Carroll - $640,916
3rd: Frank Rusnak - $475,212
4th: Chris Chong - $354,903
5th: Daniel Corbett - $266,987
6th: Michael Benko - $202,327
7th: Shyam Srinivasan - $154,463
8th: Harald Sammer - $118,802
9th: Rittie Chuaprasert - $92,061
Relive the action with the live updates