LAS VEGAS – It was early on during Day 4 of the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino when Scotty Nguyen got his hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar. A bluff gone bad at the ESPN featured table cost him a 500,000 pot and suddenly his once healthy chip stack had dwindled from 600,000 all the way down to less than 60,000.
“I’ve been playing really good for three days,” he explained during the next break in the action, which came just minutes after the crushing blow. “And then I don’t know what came over me. I thought I could run over that kid. I bluffed away most of my chips.
“But it’s all good, baby. I’m still in it. One double up, two double up, I’m back in the game.”
Unfortunately for the Prince of Poker the comeback never materialized. Less than two hours later, Nguyen, who at the time was the lone former Main Event champ still alive, was gone in 549th place.
Nonetheless, it was a decent run for the 54-year-old Vietnam native whose Hall of Fame career resume boasts five WSOP bracelets, including that 1998 Main Event. His cash at this year’s Main Event brought his all-time winnings total to $11.9 million.
His career has spanned nearly three decades and has seen its share of ups and downs, both at the table and away from it. His drunken rampage at the 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship final table left an indelible mark, but he rebounded from it. He said he has been sober for three months and through it all, one thing has never changed. He has always been one of the most popular players in the game.
“Baby, I love the game. And the fans love me,” he said with his signature smile. “Every time I come out here, even if I have a bad day, the fans always make me feel good about myself. They all know Scotty still has it, baby.”
When asked why he’s so popular with the fans, Nguyen made a compelling point.
“Because of this right here,” he said as he motioned between the two of us. “This is why. I don’t run. I take time talk to people. I take pictures. Even though I just lost a half-million dollar pot, I’m happy to stand here and talk to you about it. Other guys? They would say forget it. They would zoom, zoom, zoom right out of here. Not me. I’m here.”
Nguyen admitted that the game has changed quite a bit over the years. He realized that many of the opponents he faces at the table nowadays weren’t even born when he started his career. Heck, most of them don’t even know that he left his homeland when he was 14 years old and came to America to become a resounding success.
“That’s OK,” he said. “You know, baby, this is what I was born to do. This is what I chose to do. Be a poker player. This is the only job in sports that no matter how old you are as long as your mind stays sharp you can dance with those young kids. And that’s what I’m gonna keep doing.”