Qui Nguyen went into the final 3 of the 2016 WSOP Main Event with the chip lead. But winning wasn’t easy as he still faced fierce challenges from Gordon Vayo and Cliff Josephy.
Both opponents would take the chip lead at various points. But Vayo would eliminate Josephy in third, while Nguyen outlasted Vayo in a marathon heads-up match to win the $8,005,310 top prize.
The heads-up match with Vayo was exhausting, as it covered seven hours and 181 hands. But with his stack dwindling, Vayo finally went all-in with J-10. Nguyen called with K-10 and flopped a king that eventually won him the hand and $8 million.
This is an amazing win for Nguyen, 39, who was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the US in 2001, when he was 24.
He found work as a nail technician at a nail salon in California, where he first picked up poker.
“It was just a job,” said Nguyen. “I didn’t like it a lot, but I needed money.”
Nicknamed “Tommy Gun” for his aggression, Nguyen would eventually carve out a living from poker.
Not long ago, he made a decision that would change his life: entering a $1,100 WSOP Main Event satellite. Nguyen won the satellite and earned the $10,000 seat that led to this big victory.
Now, Nguyen is $8 million richer and looking to give something back. He told ESPN that he’ll donate part of his winnings to homeless Vietnamese people.
“[Average] Vietnamese family makes only $200 a month,” said Qui. “They are very poor and hungry. Some families don’t even have blankets, but I will make sure that they are taken care of. Whether I finish first or last, I plan to go to Vietnam to donate money to the poor.”
Another thing that Nguyen says he’ll do is give up baccarat, a game that has cost him an estimated $250,000 over the years.
And with millions of dollars and strong poker skills, he’ll be in pretty good shape if he can stay away from the baccarat tables.
2016 WSOP November Nine Payouts
1. Qui Nguyen (USA) – $8,005,310
2. Gordon Vayo (USA) – $4,661,228
3. Cliff Josephy (USA) – $3,454,035
4. Michael Ruane ((USA) – $2,576,003
5. Vojtech Ruzicka (Czech R.) – $1,935,288
6. Kenny Hallaert (Belgium) – $1,464,258
7. Griffin Benger (Canada) – $1,250,190
8. Jerry Wong (USA) – $1,110,076
9. Fernando Pons (Spain) – $1,100,000