An excerpt from From Vietnam to Vegas! How I Won the World Series of Poker Main Event by Qui Nguyen and Steve Blay, a comprehensive study of hands Nguyen played at the 2016 WSOP Main Event final table.
Qui Nguyen’s victory in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event was punctuated by an exciting final table marked throughout by Nguyen’s aggressive play. It made for some compelling viewing as well, with commentator Antonio Esfandiari remarking at one point “I couldn’t get a read on Qui Nguyen if my life depended on it.”
Following his victory, Nguyen collaborated with Steve Blay of Advanced Poker Training to explain to Esfandiari and everyone else his thought process throughout that final table. In the resulting book From Vietnam to Vegas!, Nguyen reviews 176 key hands, with additional commentary from Blay additionally analyzing the mathematical basis behind Nguyen’s decisions.
The book additionally includes a Q&A with Nguyen covering other topics that arose during the three-day final table as well as a short autobiography in which Nguyen relates the story of his life and his journey from Vietnam to Las Vegas. Esfandiari also contributes an entertaining foreword introducing the book.
Besides chronicling the final table in an in-depth and interesting way, the book provides insight into how both intuition and logic matter at the poker table, and shares with readers practical ways to apply such insight in their own play.
In the following excerpt, Nguyen discusses a hand he played on Day 1 of the final table when six players were left, one in which he made what at the time seemed like a curious fold on the flop versus Cliff Josephy.
Preflop: Qui is UTG with 9♠9♦
Qui raises to 1,950,000, Josephy raises to 4,900,000, 4 folds, Qui calls 2,950,000
Flop: (11,600,000) 4♥4♠6♣ (2 players)
Qui checks, Josephy bets 4,500,000, Qui folds
Results: 11,600,000 pot
Final Board: 4♥4♠6♣
Qui mucked 9♠9♦ and lost 5,000,000
Josephy mucked and won 11,600,000 (6,600,000 net)
I’ve taken more criticism for this hand than almost any other hand. Even Antonio Esfandiari specifically mentioned it at the start of Day 2 as an example of how I was beatable.
I raised to $1,950,000 from under the gun with 9♠9♦. Cliff Josephy, on my left, re-raised me to $4,900,000. With the remaining four players left to act behind him, I gave him credit for a real hand here. This is an unfortunate situation to be in. The flop of 6♣4♠4♥ is favorable for my hand, but the question remains, how am I going to get this hand to show- down? Poker is all about avoiding difficult situations. I checked and when Cliff bet $4,500,000, I folded.
Some players will say you should check-call at least one street here, and then check-fold after that. But there are so many turn cards that make your hand even worse. If Cliff is playing right, he is not going to let me show this down. He is going to continue to value bet his big pairs, and if he totally missed he is going to bluff me off my hand. I certainly don’t want to call him down with this hand, find out he has a bigger pair, and lose a $30 million dollar pot to him. At this point my primary concern is protecting my chip stack and putting myself into situations where I can play with confidence. Also, I need to protect my “control of the table” (momentum), which I risk if I lose a big pot to Cliff.
Hopefully my logic makes sense to you now. I know it seems a little weak to just check-fold the flop, but I had been so successful up to this point not putting myself in difficult spots, that it seemed like the best play. It turns out in this case I was wrong, and Cliff had a hand (Q♦T♦) much weaker than what he would typically three-bet with from the hijack.
2016 WSOP Main Event champion Qui Nguyen, here wearing a “Qui Win” hat at the following year’s WSOP
From Vietnam to Vegas! is available in paperback and as an e-book at D&B Poker.
D&B Publishing (using the imprint D&B Poker) was created by Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs 15 years ago. Since then it has become one of the leading publishers of poker books with titles by Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Little, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Dr. Patricia Cardner, Lance Bradley, Martin Harris and more, all of which are available at D&B Poker.