Following three grueling nights of “November Nine” final table play, 39-year old salon owner and gambling enthusiast Qui Nguyen claimed poker’s most prestigious crown, winning the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event for over $8 million.
Nguyen defeated poker pro Gordon Vayo after a nine-hour heads-up match saw the chip lead exchanged and multiple 100 million-chip pots play out.
In addition to the most prestigious bracelet in the game, Nguyen pocketed $8,005,310 in cash for becoming poker’s newest World Champion.
After arriving in America by way of Vietnam in 1999, Nguyen settled in Las Vegas and opened a nail salon, but the self-professed gambler soon developed a penchant for poker and baccarat. His love of card games led Nguyen to compile a modest tournament record, amassing 28 cashes between 2003 and 2015 for $52,986.
Nguyen’s tournament successes all occurred in Las Vegas or Los Angeles, including a single in-the-money finish at the 2009 WSOP for $9,029.
That’s less than the $10,000 needed to enter the WSOP Main Event, so when Nguyen sat down along with 3,251 other players for the Day 1C flight back on July 11th he was just another anonymous player among the masses. Nguyen acquitted himself quite well though, running his 50,000-chip starting stack up to 112,500.
Over the next five days, the total Main Event field of 6,737 players was winnowed down to just nine remaining contenders for the crown – and Nguyen sat in second place on the leaderboard heading into the final table.
When the November Nine began play on Sunday night, the chip stacks were situated as follows:
Cliff Josephy – 74,600,000
Qui Nguyen – 67,295,000
Gordon Vayo – 49,375,000
Kenny Hallaert – 43,325,000
Michael Ruane – 31,600,000
Vojtech Ruzicka – 27,300,000
Griffin Benger – 26,175,000
Jerry Wong – 10,175,000
Fernando Pons – 6,150,000
After Pons, Wong, and Benger bowed out in order of their chip position, Nguyen’s big moment arrived when he woke up with pocket aces. Hallaert had opened the betting, Nguyen three-bet his bullets, and Hallaert shoved 35 big blinds forward holding A-Q suited. The monster hand held up for Nguyen, and from there he used his big stack and relentless aggression to abuse his remaining opponents.
Having dispatched Rane in fourth place, then Josephy in third, Nguyen still trailed Vayo 200,300,000 to 136,300,000 in chips as heads-up play began. He won a huge hand by semi-bluffing a combo draw on the flop and turn, with Nguyen hitting his flush on the river and forcing Vayo to fold with a massive all-in bet. From there, Nguyen kept his foot on the gas pedal, before picking off Vayo’s short-stack shove on J-10 suited with a dominant K-10 suited.
In the moments after the final card fell to secure the most important hand Nguyen has ever won, he spoke about the thrill of reaching poker’s ultimate pinnacle:
“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.”
A full rundown of the final table finishing order, including payout information, can be found below:
2016 November Nine Results
1st – Qui Nguyen – $8,005,310
2nd – Gordon Vayo – $4,661,228
3rd – Cliff Josephy – $3,453,035
4th – Michael Ruane – $2,576,003
5th – Vojtech Ruzicka – $1,935,388
6th – Kenny Hallaert – $1,464,258
7th – Griffin Benger – $1,250,190
8th – Jerry Wong – $1,100,076
9th – Fernando Pons – $1,000,000