Scotty Nguyen makes up for his 2007 main event disappointment by taking down the $ 50,000 H.O.R.S.E.
It was like stepping back in time. Walking into the Rio Casino on day four of the $ 50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event you were greeted with a sight reminiscent of the early days of the WSOP. Two tables full of some of the best pros in the world sat playing poker in a hushed atmosphere more akin to a high-stakes cash game.
One table featured Scotty Nguyen, Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Doyle Brunson as well as the substantial shape of high-stakes pro David Bach who sat enjoying a seemingly endless massage. He resembled something from the last days of Rome and it would not have been a shock to see a waitress peel him a grape.
But nobody drew more attention than Scotty Nguyen, who was in garrulous and dangerous form. He sat sipping from a constant stream of bottled beers, joking with Daniel Negreanu and then suddenly spitting angry words at floor managers and dealers. On one occasion a dealer tapped his hands to get him to release his cards and Scotty exploded, calling the dealer a motherfucker. Huck Seed acted as mediator, but it was clear there was a demon on Nguyen’s shoulder that evening. In fact the mood in the room seemed to darken all around as the final 16 moved towards the final eight.
CLASH OF TITANS
The pain at losing was etched all over Ivey’s face as he mucked a decisive hand against Frenchman Patrick Bueno. He moved as if to slam the cards into the table, stopping just short of the felt. But while Ivey, Negreanu and Brunson fell at the final hurdle, Nguyen chipped up to head into the final table with a huge stack alongside fellow pro Erick Lindgren and up-and-coming star Michael DiMichele.
With the main event final table delayed until November, the $ 50,000 H.O.R.S.E. took on even more importance in the eyes of the poker public. The spectators packed out the viewing galleries, while a star-stacked rail featured the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow and a hyperactive Layne Flack.
The final eight quickly whittled down to three. At that point Lindgren had just 1m in chips. But he battled his way back to parity, prompting Matusow to shout: ‘That Lindgren has a lot of heart.’ It took almost five hours before he took his bow.
Unfortunately for DiMichele he had lost most of his chips to Nguyen, and it took just a few hands to settle the heads- up encounter. All the money went in pre-flop and Nguyen’s A-10 held up against DiMichele’s A-3. As the river was dealt the crowd exploded and Nguyen hugged his friends before moving over to his family in the crowd.
An emotional Nguyen raised his arms in triumph and told the crowd this win proved he was the best player in the world. Clearly the win has erased much of the frustration of last year’s main event, where he blew a huge chipstack and crashed out on the final-table bubble. Perhaps now he can put to bed some of the demons that have haunted him since then. Perhaps…
How did it feel to win?
Scotty Nguyen: It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m the first man to get the [Chip Reese Memorial] trophy and also the first man to win both the H.O.R.S.E. and the main event. It’s also something to remember Chip. He’s a legend, he was a great player, a gentleman and he was good for the game. You never saw him get angry or mad or out of line. I do that sometimes but you never saw it from Chip.
You mentioned about losing your temper. You seemed to get a bit angry and lose it a little bit towards the end. What was that about?
SN: I’m playing in a $ 50k buy-in, you ask for a drink and they go off for one hour, you know, baby? That is wrong! In the old days at the WSOP, they used to have two cocktail waitresses right there at all times. But I’m so glad I didn’t lose it. I pulled it back.
You also seemed to get a little bit frustrated with Michael DeMichele at times. What bothered you about him?
SN: When you beat a guy in a hand you don’t stand up and bow to everyone. If you want to act, baby, you go to Hollywood. When I win you see I never needle anybody. You don’t see me get up and slam the table and shout ‘yeah!’ So I let him know. When you stand up and bow you are only making a fool of yourself, of your family, your friends. Then he apologised.
I noticed that you weren’t playing that many pots and then gradually you got the chip lead. Is that what you wanted to do – play it slow?
SN: He (DeMichele) was so hot to start out. I thought to myself, stay away from this kid. When he was involved with everybody else he won, but not with me. Because I picked my spots. If he’s hot, stay away from him. That’s one thing I always do. One tip in poker is to never get personal. When it gets personal, you always do the wrong thing.
And that kept you out of trouble?
SN: I never lost my chips. I always stayed second or first. All the way down to three-handed, that was the only point when I lost my lead. That was the last time. I said, this isn’t going to happen again. After that I won every hand. When the anger was out and all gone, Scotty plays some poker.
Erick Lindgren said that he tried to get you drunk on purpose. How many beers would you say you drank?
SN: At least 20, that day.
Was it the anger then or just the adrenaline?
SN: No, I was trying to set people up. Next time you see me drinking baby, watch. When I order another drink and the cocktail waitress comes in to take the beers away, only half of the drink has ever been drunk. You will never see me drink the last drop out of a bottle, ever.
So you were trying to pretend to be a little bit drunk?
SN: That’s right, baby, I set them up.
But would you say you drank at least ten beers?
SN: Not even that. I drink very slow. Some people think they can get me drunk but they won’t. I do that every final table. Every final table. Keep ’em coming, baby! But I never drink! I never touch it. They don’t know that.
What were your thoughts when you came to the final table?
SN: I was very confident, baby. In the field, there were no weak spots. So once you go through 141 players and there are only eight left why should I be worried about anything?
You had so many people railing you here…
SN: Oh yeah. I mean Daniel [Negreanu], Layne, Eli [Elezra], those guys have never ever said no to me if I ever needed help. If I was out here and got drunk, did stupid things and blew it all on craps and then rang them up and asked them to put me in the Bellagio Cup they would go, ‘Oh yeah, where do you want me to meet you?’ Daniel and Layne Flack baby, I’d do anything for them.
Now that you’ve won the H.O.R.S.E. and have four other bracelets, would you say that you have to be recognised as one of the best of all time?
SN: I got to be the best of all time, baby! Everybody knows that! Everywhere I go – UK, Paris, England, Germany, it just don’t matter – the whole casino knows that Scotty Nguyen is coming!
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