Last week, the World Series of Poker found its 2016 Main Event champion. When the November Nine final table played out over the course of three nights, only one player remained standing, and his name was Qui Nguyen.
The new WSOP champion won $8,005,310, as well as the beloved (and rather large) WSOP gold bracelet to go with the title. The Vietnam-born 39-year-old man living in Las Vegas called himself a poker pro and gambler before this year’s events, but now he can call himself a world champion.
What does Nguyen’s win mean for poker, besides the amazing wordplay?
Loose-Aggressive Play Wins the Day
Not many people knew what to expect from Nguyen at the final table, as his only live tournament scores prior to the WSOP were in local Las Vegas and Los Angeles events. He was one of the least experienced players at the table, but he quickly wielded his large chip stack into a powerful force along with a skill and style of play that took over the game and catapulted him to victory.
QUI NGUYEN WHAT A BOSS! I was kidding with Phil that he might find a way to win this pot. What insane and consistent pressure. Just wow.— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) November 2, 2016
The only recognizable poker pro on Nguyen’s rail at the final table was Young Phan, a longtime poker pro who has more than $2.3 million in live earnings dating back to the early 1990s. But a steady and experienced player like Phan providing support was evidently a winning strategy, as well as playing with no pressure to win but quite a lot of support from family and friends.
After his victory, Nguyen admitted to playing an aggressive strategy, especially in light of the fact that he had little experience in heads-up poker. Most viewers of the ESPN broadcast proclaimed Nguyen’s play to be solid, making some smart decisions throughout the game and especially during the marathon heads-up battle.
The approach might not be one that many players can mimic at the tables, but it may give newer players some confidence, knowing that they don’t have to be experts in pot odds and in-depth strategy to play a good game and have the chance to win.
Vietnam on the Big Stage
Nguyen became the second player of Vietnamese descent to ever win the WSOP Main Event, as Scotty Nguyen of Vietnam won it in 1998. While there are already a descent number of Asian or Asia-Pacific players who compete in the game professionally and recreationally, Qui Nguyen taking down the biggest prize and title of the year might attract more to poker.
One thing that Nguyen might be able to address from his status as world champion is the marginalization of Asian players. There is quite a lot of stereotyping that happens regarding players of Asian descent, whether pertaining to their style of play, language, looks, or even ethics with regards to poker.
They keep talking about how @NguyenPoker owned a nail salon my question is why Asians always own them??— Bailey (@yourmommais1) November 2, 2016
And nerdy arrogant lazy Asians that don't understand Poker at all keep trying to get you to gamble stupid like them.— BruhPowers (@BruhPowersLive) May 17, 2016
Slanty eyed guy at poker table told me calling Jackie Chan type Asians "Oriental" is offensive. Can someone confirm/deny this? #help— ZoHair (@PakmanMMA) January 3, 2016
Out of respect for Nguyen and his poker game, players may want to become more aware of offensive terms used in the past and refrain from using any stereotypes about, of, or to players of Asian descent. For example, saying “ni hao” as a greeting to an Asian or Asian-American tablemate is extremely offensive if their exact heritage is only assumed. In fact, this video might sum up many mistakes people make in this area:
If more people felt welcome at the poker tables instead of stereotyped and misjudged, more people might keep coming back.
Another benefit of Nguyen’s win could be more focus on the giving nature of poker players, with special attention paid to the charities that he decides to assist. He intends to donate substantially to the Wounded Warrior Project to pay tribute to his brother, who served in the US Armed Forces. He also mentioned giving to Toys for Tots, which is quite timely with the holidays approaching, as well as helping the poor in his native Vietnam in various ways.
Nguyen has the potential to make a difference in the world as well as in the smaller poker world. Time will tell if Nguyen and the poker community at large rise to the occasion.