By Dianne R. Davis
Photos by Dianne R. Davis or Burt Davis unless otherwise indicated.
Las Vegan Qui Nguyen Wins World Series of Poker® Main Event
39-Year-Old Nguyen Wins $8.005 Million and his First WSOP Gold Bracelet
The string of twenty-somethings winning the World Series of Poker Main Event is over as 39-year-old Las Vegas resident and Saigon, Vietnam native Qui Nguyen is the new world champion of poker. Nguyen took the lead on the very first hand of the final table on Sunday October 30 and rode the momentum capturing his very first World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet and the top prize of $8,005,310 in gaming’s richest and most prestigious event after a marathon poker session that concluded at 3:20 am in the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater on Wednesday November 2, 2016
Nguyen, a married father of a four-year old son, once owned a nail salon in Alaska and now fancies himself as a professional gambler in Las Vegas. He becomes just the second Vietnamese-born world poker champion, following Poker Hall of Famer Scotty “The Prince of Poker” Nguyen who captured the title in this event in 1998.
“Thank you to all my friends and family,” said the new champion moments after the victory. “I’m so excited. I don’t know what to say. I just tried to remind myself to never give up, to never give up. It was tiring, it was tough, but I wanted to stay aggressive and never give up and thankfully for me it worked out.”
Playing an aggressive style, and arguably the least accomplished player at the table coming in, Nguyen did the unimaginable by constantly playing pots, applying pressure and putting his tablemates to tough decisions. In the end, the combination of cards, fortitude and aggression led Nguyen to capture poker’s ultimate championship. He came into the WSOP with just one previous WSOP cash on his resume – a 54th place finish in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event in 2009 -- that won him $9,029. With just $52,986 in lifetime live poker winnings, no one expected Nguyen to be the last man standing against an experienced, accomplished final table full of mostly poker professionals.
The runner up was 27-year-old San Francisco, California resident Gordon Vayo. The recently engaged Vayo’s run ended after besting 6,735 other hopefuls, but he left with $4,661,228 for his efforts. He entered the final table in third place, picked his spots carefully and came within one spot of becoming the world champion. Vayo was looking to become the ninth consecutive twenty-something to win the crown, and while he had the chip lead at various points, he lost a big pot when his two pair was no match for Nguyen’s flush, and he was never able to mount a sustained comeback after that point.
Vayo, a professional poker player throughout his adulthood, has played this event every year since 2011. He had a great 2016 WSOP, cashing eight times in 21events, and already has earned more than $6 million playing the game he loves, with more than $5 million coming at the WSOP. He previously finished in second place in a WSOP event in 2014, winning $314,535. During the 100 plus day hiatus Vayo won a tournament in September for $587,120. Originally from New London, Connecticut, Vayo is a long-time internet poker player, whom has a bright future on the live circuit as well.
Vayo was gracious in defeat, remarking afterwards: “It was a little frustrating at times, but he played phenomenal. I didn’t get a lot of hands heads up, but all the credit to Qui, he played great.”
From an event that began back on July 9, 2016 with 6,737 hopefuls who each ponied up the $10,000 entry fee and received 50,000 in starting tournament chips, Nguyen, wearing his trademark Rocket Raccoon hat from Marvel’s Garden of the Galaxy and tinted sunglasses and plenty of bling, used his table image and his gambling lifestyle to perfection. He ultimately outlasted them all, capturing all 336,850,000 chips in play and winning the $8.005 million first place prize and the Josten’s-crafted half-million dollar WSOP gold bracelet. The total prize pool up for grabs in the event was $63,340,268.
Nguyen captured the WSOP world championship in the wee hours Wednesday morning at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in the famed Penn & Teller Theatre. The event took nearly 44 levels of play to complete, which equates to nearly 88 hours of poker play to reach a victor. In real time though, the event took 10 playing days, plus a few extra hours this morning, spread out over 115 calendar days to become the champion. When play began in July, players started with 50,000 in chips and the blinds were at 75 and 150. When play completed at 3:20 am in Las Vegas with 39 minutes, 58 seconds left in Level 43, blinds were at 1,500,000 and 3,000,000 with antes of 500,000.
Three-handed play began Tuesday evening at 5:30 pm PT and lasted 80 minutes before the chip leader entering this tournament, Cliff Josephy was eliminated. Josephy, 50, from Syosset, New York, with a degree from the University of Michigan, was looking to become the event’s oldest winner since the November Nine era began in 2008. The married father of three boys, Josephy, a former Wall Street banker, was the only one at this final table with previous WSOP victories. The two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner had a tough go early, after two days of being card dead, Josephy, a big New York Mets fan, came into tonight’s place third in chips. He won a huge pot the first hand of the night, but ultimately lost a key hand when his three-of-a-kind deuces lost to Vayo’s set of threes. Josephy earned $3,453,035, more than the $2,641,620 in live tournament winnings he had amassed prior to this event. This marks Josephy’s largest ever live poker tournament cash, and puts him with nearly $6 million in earnings including more than $4.2 million at the WSOP via 17 cashes.
It then took eight-and-a-half hours of heads-up play before Nguyen was able to finally dispatch of Vayo, the game challenger, who never relented, but was unable to ever overtake Nguyen in chips once heads up play began.
Rounding out the final table were:
4th place: Michael Ruane, Hoboken, New Jersey, $2,576,003
5th place: Vojtech Ruzicka, Prague, Czech Republic, $1,935,288
6th place: Kenny Hallaert, Hansbeke, Belgium, $1,464,258
7th place: Griffin Benger, Toronto, Canada, $1,250,190
8th place: Jerry Wong, Coconut Creek, Florida, $1,100,076
9th place: Fernando Pons, Palma, Spain, $1,000,000
The 2016 WSOP Main Event began on July 9 with a total of 6,737 entrants. The event’s total prize pool was $63,340,268, with more than $25 million going to the final nine players. A record total of 1,011 entrants cashed in the event.
As has become tradition in recent years, Main Event play was suspended in July when the tournament reached its final nine players. It resumed with the “November Nine” taking to the felt 113 days later with 32 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in Level 35, with antes of 75,000 and blinds at 250,000 and 500,000.
The “November 9” in the 47th annual World Series of Poker take a ride on the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel at 550 feet. (Front Row R-L: Jerry Wong, Qui Nguyen, Cliff Josephy, Kenny Hallaert and Griffin Benger. Back Row R-L: Fernando Pons, Michael Ruane, Gordon Vayo and Vojtech Ruzicka)
Photo credit: Jeff Ragazzo
The 2016 WSOP attracted a record 107,844 players from 107 countries to its 69 events, generating a total prize pool of more than $221 million.
Freedom Beat Restaurant Opens in Downtown Grand Las Vegas
Chef Scott Commings, season 12 champion of Hell's Kitchen television show, has relocated his culinary talents to the Freedom Beat Restaurant in the Downtown Grand Las Vegas. The eatery, located in an easy access spot on the casino floor, features some great all American food along with entertainment.
Monday night jam sessions feature Gibson guitars.
Performers including Michael Grimm and Peter Love perform throughout the week. Check the website http://www.downtowngrand.com/eat/freedom-beat/ for details and times.
At a recent sampling event we enjoyed some good ol' American standards as well as some unique items from their extensive menu.
The chicken fried bacon strips were unique. The thick pork belly was coated, deep fried and immersed in a honey vinaigrette.
Their smoked chicken wings were interesting and tasty. The wings are coated with ale syrup spiced glaze and coated with blue cheese.
Grilled corn on the cob 'Elote' style is coated with toasted chiles, lime juice,and cheese.
Freedom Beat has some unique and flavorful sandwiches. Their spicy chicken sandwich is served on a home made biscuit and covered with melted cheese and cole slaw. The double grilled mac and cheese sandwich is sure to fill you up. This great combination is served on sourdough bread.
The IPA Burger is a interesting combination of beef, caramelized onions, fried pickles and cheese sauce.
The Red, White & Blue Velvet Waffle is a good choice for breakfast or dessert
Chef Scott Commings greeting guests at the tasting reception
It is good to keep in mind that the restaurant is open 24 hours and offers a wide variety of breakfast and dinner options. Some interesting breakfast options include Pork Belly Eggs Benedict and Skillet Pastrami Hash.
Dinner entrees include fried chicken, pot roast, and several fish dishes.
The Freedom Beat is a unique place to dine and drink in Downtown Las Vegas. For further details check http://www.downtowngrand.com/eat.
Scott Commings and Dianne R. Davis