On Thursday night, poker player Simon Lam became the latest individual to etch their name of the WPT Champions’ Cup by winning the WPT Gardens Poker Festival in Los Angeles. The victory by Lam, however, was overridden by the antics of poker professional/legend Men “The Master” Nguyen, who went deep in the tournament but caused issues for much of the final couple of days of the tournament.
A Sleepy “Master”
The antics from Nguyen started on Wednesday during Day 4 of the event. The WPT uses the “Action Clock” once they reach money, something that maybe the veteran Nguyen wasn’t used to. With a 30-second clock and “time extension” chips at hand, Nguyen was often letting the clock run down or even expire before mucking his cards. This caused some issues with the other players, who were adamant that the extension chips should be used. The floor enforced the rules, much to the displeasure of Nguyen.
On other occasions, Nguyen would take odd actions with his betting. He would announce illegal raise amounts; one occasion saw Nguyen, with the blinds at 10K/20K with a 20K big blind ante, announced 14K as a bet. Another saw “The Master” announce a bet of one amount and chips enter the pot of a greater amount. These actions would eventually force the floor staff to impose a one-round penalty on the venerable pro over his contentions that “I never do nothing wrong!”
Nguyen continued with the shenanigans as the play worked into the night. Nguyen tried to hide a call of Steve Sung’s all in (which he would lose) and the Gardens Casino staff removed the adult beverages that Nguyen had been consuming. This seemed to cause another problem, however, as Nguyen, with the table down to eight players, began actually falling asleep on the felt. Eventually, tournament director Calvin Quintanella was able to get Nguyen to step away from the tables for a bit to get some energy. Fortunately for Nguyen, he was the chip leader at this point.
There WAS a Final Table Played!
“The Master (3.935 million),” through all the antics, was able to make the final table as the third leading stack behind Lam (6.115 million) and Jake Schindler ($4.045 million). Nguyen was closely followed by Jared Griener (3.875 million) and Saya Ono (3.445 million), while Craig Varnell (1.955 million) sat on the short stack. While each player was guaranteed a minimum $115,885 for their efforts (the sixth-place money), all eyes were on the $565,740 top prize, the seat in the 2019 WPT Tournament of Champions, the WPT Champions’ Cup AND a 2018 Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster (worth over $50,000) that would go to the winner.
It wasn’t an easy Thursday of play for any of the combatants. While Lam came in with the lead, Schindler would take it over within the first 10 hands of play. Lam came back quickly, however, as the sextet battled over 70 hands without an elimination. On Hand 75 that changed when Varnell eliminated Griener in sixth place when his Big Slick caught on the flop against Greiner’s pocket Jacks.
Ono played an outstanding game of poker, but she never had the ammunition (chips) to be able to mount a threat. She got her final million chips in against Nguyen, who turned a nut flush to eliminate Ono in fifth place. Lam also was having his difficulties, doubling up Schindler to lose the lead to Varnell as the century mark in hands approached.
Every player after this point held the lead at least once, but it was Lam who would eventually prevail. Varnell would depart in fourth place at the hands of Schindler and, in an odd hand, Nguyen would go down to Lam. On that hand, Lam raised from the button to 600K only to see “The Master” pop his stack of 7.6 million in the center from the big blind. Lam did think about folding, using up a time chip, before calling with his unsuited Big Slick. It turned out that Nguyen was trying to steal with his 10♦ 7♦ and, although the board flopped him gut shot outs to a straight, they wouldn’t come home to send Nguyen home in third place.
Now with a monstrous lead, Lam (18.7 million) seemed to be a shoo-in for the title against Schindler (4.675 million). The two dallied for ten hands before getting it in on a J-7-2 flop, with Lam’s nine kicker playing over Schindler’s eight, that proved to be the difference when the river paired the deuce to earn Lam the title.
1. Simon Lam, $565,055
2. Jake Schindler, $366,740
3. Men “The Master” Nguyen, $270,430
4. Craig Varnell, $201,615
5. Saya Ono, $151,995
6. Jared Griener, $115,885