Qui Nguyen Blows Away Gordon Vayo to Win WSOP Main Event, $8 Million
Poker has a brand new World Champion for 2016 and, as we've come to expect, it's not the player anyone was expecting it to be.
Las Vegas resident Qui Nguyen - who told ESPN in his on-camera interview he was a professional Baccarat player - came into the final table second in chips but with zero poker reputation to speak of.
With just $9,000 in prior live tournament cashes, no one expected him to be the last man standing holding the prestigious WSOP Main Event bracelet and $8 million first-place prize.
In the end, though, he left no doubt as to who deserved the crown and walked away a rich man.
Benger, Hallaert Bounced Early
Nine players returned to Las Vegas on Sunday, October 30 to get the final table underway and a couple of the early favorites to make a run couldn't deliver as expected.
Former Counter-Strike professional and world #1 in online poker, Griffin Benger, had plenty of chips to make something happen but couldn't make it past 7th overall.
Making waves in the ESPN broadcast just prior to the final table with his now-famous "check your privilege" hand against Will Kassouf, Benger had picked up quite a few negative responses over the week and perhaps it affected his game.
After already being guaranteed $1m for making the final nine, he only added another $250k for finishing 7th.
Belgian poker tournament director Kenny Hallaert, who many also expected to make a deeper run, busted in sixth to Nguyen and end the first night of play.
Ruane, Ruzicka Go Next
The following night of play picked up with five players left and Nguyen in the chip lead after he busted Hallaert the night before. With 128 million he had twice as many as second-place Cliff Josephy.
Czech pro Vojtech Ruzicka lost a ton of chips with an early bluff against Gordon Vayo and found himself out in fifth shortly after.
Michael Ruane followed suit in fourth, eventually busting to Nguyen to boost the wildcard's stack again and set the stage for the final three to play for it all on Tuesday.
Josephy Out Third, Vayo Falls Apart
When three-handed play began on Tuesday Nguyen had a commanding lead with nearly 200 million chips. Gordon Vayo was in second with 89 million and Cliff Josephy, the chip leader coming into the November Nine, hanging on in third with 50 million.
Things got off to a blockbuster start, though, with Josephy doubling through Nguyen on the first hand of the night. A set-over-set cooler between Vayo and Josephy four hands later put Vayo into the chip lead and put Josephy in deep trouble.
Despite a couple of double-ups Josephy did in fact go out a short time later in third for $3.45 million.
That left just Vayo and Nguyen to battle for the title with Vayo holding a 60-40 chip lead. The fearless Nguyen, however, dug in his heels and pounced with aggression, grabbing the chip lead back quickly and hammering Vayo with bet after bet.
The next six hours say Nguyen push and push while Vayo held on, doubling up every now and then but playing too passively to really muster a counter attack.
The end came mercifully after 182 hands of heads-up play and Qui Nguyen was crowned the unexpected World Champion of Poker for 2016. All told Nguyen outlasted 6,736 other players in a remarkable effort, proving the game of poker still has plenty of surprises left to offer.
Congratulations to Qui Nguyen! Complete final-table results and payouts:
1 – Qui Nguyen – $8,005,310
2 – Gordon Vayo – $4,661,228
3 – Cliff Josephy – $3,453,035
4 – Michael Ruane – $2,576,003
5 – Vojtech Ruzicka – $1,935,388
6 – Kenny Hallaert – $1,464,258
7 – Griffin Benger – $1,250,190
8 – Jerry Wong – $1,100,076
9 – Fernando Pons - $1,000,000