It becomes all too easy to give only two reasons why a player would want to find him or herself in the WSOP “November Nine”; fame or fortune. After talking to Khoa Nguyen however, we were reminded about how much more there is to the game…
What would finding yourself still seated in the final few tables of the 2011 World Series of Poker $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship “Main Event” mean to you?
As a poker player, recreational or pro, can you imagine sitting down with a top chip count on Day 8, after almost 2 weeks having gone by since the start of the world’s most prestigious tournament, seeing 6,658 other tough players from around the globe having already come and gone?
After this past summer, Calgary player Khoa Nguyen can answer what it would be like, having filled one of those seats. His second time playing the WSOP Main Event, Canada’s “last man standing” took the time to share the journey with us; a long grind that would leave him scoring some huge money.
Nguyen started playing poker 4 or 5 years ago, competing online and traveling to the popular Canadian tournament stops. It wasn’t long before the Electrical Engineering graduate found he enjoyed, maybe even somewhat preferred, the steady action of the cash games, eventually moving up to and crushing the $5-$10-$25 No Limit Hold’em or $25/$50 Pot Limit Omaha live ring games. Like every other well rounded player, tournaments still have a place for Khoa and the WSOP is definitely the spot to take your shots. In fact, all of Khoa’s “official” major tournament cashes come from the World Series of Poker, over 2010-2011. However, only playing MTTs sporadically over the year can make one a little “rusty”, as he described:
“For Day 1 and Day 2, I found myself lost. With playing mostly cash games for the past few years, I was all over the place; trying to decide on how I should attack it. After studying a very well known pro at my table, one with many bracelets, who was grinding and picking great spots to keep his tournament life intact, I decided on how I thought I should play it. I already had a decent stack, so for the next few days of the Main Event, I didn’t make any noise; I just stayed ‘quiet’ and kept building, keeping around an average stack through-out.”
The money bubble came and went for Khoa, while the field continued to shrink. The pay jumps got bigger and bigger, but at some point, most players that have run deep in the Main Event will tell you that “the money” fades into the background.
Khoa recalled; “I stopped thinking about the money as the tournament went on. I remember at one point feeling if I cashed for $300,000, I would be satisfied, but it didn’t cross my mind after that.”
By the time Day 7 hit, Nguyen had the “boom-switch on”: “I started catching cards and things were really going my way. At that point, I was also playing well and felt extremely confident that I was going to the finish line. As one of the chip leaders, it pretty much felt like a lock. I started making mental plans on flying out my family for the November Nine and what a great time it would be with my friends.”
Anyone with a huge and exciting day ahead of them, can relate to laying in bed with your mind racing. “I couldn’t sleep” remembered Khoa, “My best friends were flying in to “sweat” me for Day 8; I began to get really nervous and all I could think about was how I was going to play. I was nearly there, figured I had a solid plan, but for the first time over the series I also felt the pressure.”
Come the beginning of Day 8, Khoa was already guaranteed his $300,000 cash, now it was all about making the final nine. Nguyen continued to collect chips and stayed above t10,000,000 or higher, as opponents kept heading to the rail. The fierce battle went until, on the “unofficial” ten-handed final table bubble, Khoa found himself locked up in what would be his final hand. After a series of raises and re-raises, all the chips went into the middle, Khoa holding 10-10 to his opponents K-K and Nguyen was eliminated in 11th place for $607,882.
“I felt like a zombie on Day 8 and admittedly, I feel like I caved to the pressure. I guess I was hoping he had a middle pair or a big Ace, even though I hate how I played that spot. I was on auto-pilot and could have done things much differently”, said Khoa.
Any avid player can relate; sometimes we talk ourselves into a hand based on what we are “hoping” our opponent is holding, especially when we are in the hot seat; there is most likely not many tougher spots to be in than on the WSOP Main Event Final Table bubble.
“I am proud of what I accomplished, there is no doubt that this is my biggest ‘poker success’. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t have wanted the money of the Final Table, but more so it was crushing to see my plans of flying my friends and family to Vegas for the November Nine; all the celebrating and fun we would have had were now mostly gone.”
And so we were reminded of the other reasons that many players love this game; celebrating the victories with our pals, sharing our notable moments or achievements with those most important to us and making our loved ones proud of what we do. Individual pride or wealth isn’t always the top reason we play the game, sometimes it’s just about the fun times and freedom that come with being at the top. It is high on the list of the very reasons that buddies head to the WSOP, or take poker “road trips” in general; all in the name of life lasting memories and finding the most epic moments.
Khoa still had some great times with his crew before returning home and as far as the money goes; “I really like to travel and relax, so it definitely doesn’t hurt those plans.”
Nguyen certainly deserves to be recognized as one of our countries best players. Combined with another cash in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em Event, Khoa is ranked 35th overall for 2011 WSOP winnings. He also now currently sits in the top 100 on the 2011 Money List and in the top 500 WSOP money winners of all time; not easy notches to put on the poker belt.
A huge Congratulations to Khoa Nguyen; Canada’s Last Player Standing in the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event!