The poker world contains many whose accomplishments through the years are noteworthy, with world series bracelets won each year, and online majors won by sullen pros not long out of college. Among this sea of champions it's hard to find someone whose persona and accomplishments in the game ensure that they will always stand out in the crowd. Scotty Nguyen is one of those few.
Even the name of Thuan “Scotty” Nguyen has its own interesting anecdote. Before being old enough to gamble, Scotty Nguyen had already fallen in love with Las Vegas. He travelled there just before turning 20 and took a job waiting tables in a local restaurant. His boss, who struggled to pronounce the first name of his new employee, simply gave up one day and decided to call him Scotty, a name which the young man happily adopted.
When he finally stepped into a Vegas casino, he soon found his way to the poker tables as so many do. Despite enjoying the gamble of playing cards, in his earliest years he was often losing his hard earned money trying to outfox the veteran players. But while others may have given up, Scotty had the heart of a champion and kept returning, slowly perfecting his craft each day.
The story of this poker great is not entirely steeped in the bright lights of Vegas or built upon stacks of dollar bills, however. His childhood was spent in Vietnam, a country living under the shadow of war in the 1960s, and before reaching his teenage years Scotty had taken flight and found his way to Taiwan. Three years of his life slipped by in the uncertainty of a refugee camp before finally, at age 14, he had the opportunity to seek a new future in America.
It was after he had tended to his education for 5 years, that he finally embarked upon his journey to Vegas, beginning his career with the long hours of labouring in regular jobs. Whilst in Vegas Scotty also trained as a card dealer, and in the early years of trying to find his feet as a poker player, was fortunate to have that profession to fall back. It ensured he was observing poker and learning about the game even while he was working.
The breakthrough moment for Scotty Nguyen was his first WSOP bracelet in the $2,000 Omaha hi/lo event in 1997 which announced his credentials to the poker world. It was the following year at the 1998 WSOP main event, when a star was truly born, in the brief seconds it took for a smiling young Scotty to take a sip of his beer and remark to his opponent “You call, it's gonna be all over, baby”. With a Full House of 88899 on the board, his opponent thought this was a false show of confidence from a man trying to force him off a chopped pot. He announced the call, Scotty flipped over J9 for a bigger Full House, and it was indeed, over.
Three years later he once again showed his great talent for Omaha games, adding two more WSOP bracelets to his collection, in Pot Limit Omaha, and Omaha hi/lo.
Despite these successes, Scotty endured difficult times both personally, and professionally. Having lost his brother the very day after his main event win, he was heartbroken, and chose never to wear the bracelet again. Nine years later in the 2007 main event he was one of the biggest chip stacks in the room with just a handful of players left, only to see his dreams of a second crown evaporate when he crashed out in 11th place. The opportunity for greatness does not often shy away from Scotty for long however, and in 2008 he battled against some of the greatest players in the world to reach the final table of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E event.
Regarded as the mixed games world championship, Scotty had the chance to become the only person ever to win both the mixed games world championship and also the main event. The television coverage of the event did cast a shadow over a great final table though, with Scotty apparently exchanging unpleasant words with his opponents during the three handed play. His actions did appear to bend the etiquette rules of the game at times and drew criticism from the poker community in the days that followed. After going on to win the event and carve his name more deeply into the history books of poker, he went on to give a sincere apology for any offence caused, and the poker community for the most part forgave his mistake. After all, it's difficult to stay angry at a man who loves his fans so much, has been integral to weaving the tapestry of pokers great history, and who calls everyone 'baby'.
For the wonderful personality he is, and for the great feats he has accomplished in his career so far, Scotty Nguyen remains one of pokers great icons. He was inducted into the poker hall of fame in 2013 and despite there being many great years behind him, he remains one of the most decorated and talented mixed game players in the world today.