A Conversation With WSOP Main Event Winner Qui Nguyen

Qui Nguyen is one of the very few who have managed to reach the highest rung of the tournament ladder, winning the most coveted prize of all – the WSOP Main Event. Nguyen became poker’s world champion in 2016, and Somuchpoker decided to catch up with him for an interview, to see where his life is one year later.

Qui Nguyen - Photo Jayne Furman - Courtesy WSOP
Qui Nguyen – Photo Jayne Furman – Courtesy WSOP

Somuchpoker: One year ago, you won the WSOP Main Event. We have rarely seen you on the live poker circuit since this victory. What are you up to now? How did this victory change your life?

Qui Nguyen: It is true, I haven’t been as active in the poker world as I was previously. Right now, I have been focusing on enjoying life, and spending time with my son. (I bought a new house, with a pool for him.) Those are my top priorities. I also plan to spend some time back in Vietnam, and help out my home country. See more about that below.

SMP. What are your current goals as a player?

Q.N: I will answer that soon! But right now, see question #1. I do still play some cash games from time to time. I play $2/$5 games just for fun with friends, for a couple hours here and there. But I am still taking time off from professional poker.

SMP:  You impressed the whole poker community by the way you outplayed your opponents during the Main Event Final Table. How did you prepare for that Final Table?

Q.N: I play by my instincts…and I always trust myself. You could say I’ve been preparing my entire life for that. Every person you meet is another chance to work on your poker skills. What motivates them, how are they feeling. At the core, poker is just a game about people.

SMP: Can you tell us more about your relationship with your mentor Phan Young?

Q.N: It was nice having Young Phan there, because I could communicate with him in my native Vietnamese. That way no one from the other teams knew what we were talking about.

SMP: You also had Steve Blay from on your team. Can you tell us more about this?

Q.N: Steve gave me a simulation of the final table, which included ‘bots’ I could play against, representing the personality types of all my final table opponents. He was also backstage watching the TV replay and relaying information to me about my opponents (such as hands they folded, etc).

SMP: Can you tell us the differences between his approach (more based on artificial intelligence and data analytics) and the one of Phan Young (more ‘old school’)?

Q.N: Yes, the game is all math and game theory to Steve. That why we made such a good team writing this book together. I give my commentary on each hand, based on my instincts and ‘Playing the player’ approach, and Steve backs up my decisions with math.

SMP: Can you tell us more about your new book?

Q.N: My new book was just released from D&B Poker Publishing. It is almost 450 pages long, and in it, Steve and I review over 170 hands from the WSOP Main Event Final Table. We’ve been working on this book for almost a year!

SMP:  You were born in Vietnam and moved to the US in 2001 at the age of 24. Can you tell us more about your relationship with this country? 

Q.N: It’s complicated, of course, but it is still my first home. I want to go back and visit my mom. And two sisters. A lot of people there need help. American money can go a long way there. $1,000 here is like $20,000 there.

SMP:  The American- Vietnamese community has produced many poker champions (Scotty Nguyen, Men “the Master” Nguyen”, J-C Tran….). Are you in touch with them? More generally speaking, who are your mentors/idols?

Q.N: I see Scotty from time to time (here and there), but we’re not that close overall. My real hero is Antonio Esfandiari. He is the kind of poker player, and PERSON, I want to be.

SMP: In your book, you mentioned that you had several jobs after arriving in the US. What did you learn from all these experiences?

Q.N: The more people you’re around, the better for your poker game. Like I said above, any time you’re around a lot of people you’ll learn more about what makes people tick. And poker is all about understanding people.

SMP: When and how did you start playing poker?

Q.N: I think the first time I ever played was in Alaska in 2003. It was just a small home game, but I was immediate hooked.

SMP:  You are famous for enjoying games of Baccarat. What do you like about this game? Most people think that contrary to poker, there are no skills involved in Baccarat. What’s your view on this opinion?

Q.N: I have to admit it, it is all luck, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play! Poker is a much slower game. In baccarat, you win fast (and lose fast!).

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Louis Hartwell

Graduated in Media Communication at the University of Lausanne, Louis Hartman is a co-founder of He began his career in Cambodia as freelance journalist. In same time he was making his living by playing poker every night at that time. Intense learner, he read dozens of poker strategy books to improve his skills during many years. With a strong interest about poker "behind the scene" in Asia and his communication skills, Louis launched Somuchpoker in 2014.

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