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Van Nguyen “The Masteress” ?

We all know the name Men “The Master” Nguyen. Not only has he been one of the leading poker players in the world for more than two decades, he’s the only 4 time winner of the Card Player “Player of the Year”.

During his illustrious career which includes bracelets from the WSOP and WPO, watches from the Hall of Fame and trophies that fill a room in his house, he has been one of the steadiest players in our great game for over two decades. Playing the game isn’t his only passion, teaching is a big part of what makes Men great for our industry so add to those trophies many wins by his many students, like his younger cousin David “The Dragon” Pham to name just one. Teaching is the reason he got the moniker “The Master”.

Men is no stranger to adversity however, having been a refugee from Viet Nam, he’s known his struggles. One of which was getting his wife Van a Visa to leave Viet Nam and to bring his children to the states so his family can be whole.

When Van first arrived she didn’t speak any English. Not speaking the language wasn’t a problem at first because everyone in her household spoke Vietnamese and when Men would take her with him to the Casinos and Poker Events there was always plenty of Vietnamese there to talk to. She was however shy when talking to an American, and she was reluctant to play poker at higher levels till she learned the game

Van as it turns out may be as driven to win as Men, maybe even more. She didn’t take America lying down. She immediately started English classes and today you can talk to her about anything, but she’d rather talk about poker. Somewhere along the line Men must have taught her the game and as it turns out Van ‘The Masterss” Nguyen may be his brightest student yet.

Van started out playing Limit Hold em in Commerce or wherever Men traveled to. You can usually find her sitting in a Limit ring game. Even in the few tournaments she played she usually entered the Limit events. Today that’s all changed.

She entered into the Commerce Invitational and became the first women to win a WPT event in an open field besting over 400 players. A fluke you ask? I think not. She followed up on that performance by finishing 6th in a Bay 101 Shooting Stars event and now has made the final 6 again in the WPTL Ladies event at Bellagio, to be aired on GSN.

When I spoke to Van she told me about the play and how she came to the final table of 10 short handed. She explained how she followed the strategy that her and Men laid out to get into the top 6. Masteress of Poker and English as well.

Men couldn’t be prouder of her and will once again be in the audience to cheer on his latest student and his wife. Good Luck Van and when you get done will you ask Men to teach me!!

Hope that helps,

Warren Karp

Louisiana has very fertile poker land

Recently I was invited, along with many others to the Coushatta Casino in Louisiana. This wonderful Indian tribe decided to put their casino on the map. How’d they do that? Well they planned to invest a few $$ in marketing a major poker event and they weren’t concerned if they lost a few bucks. How much did they lose? Well into 6 figures!! So this begged another question. Is it just because they don’t know any better or is it because they DO know better than most how to make a little known casino the talk of the poker world. Here was the deal. It was a $3000.00 buy in with a 1 Million Dollar guarantee. Scheduling this event during the Bellagio 5 Diamond event was a gamble, but because the WSOP circuit event in New Orleans was just ending and the buy-in was lower than many of the 5 Diamonds, they decided to go ahead with the event. There was more to entice the true players of the game too. The structure and starting chips were outstanding. $20,000T chips to start, 90 minute rounds and all the play in the world. I thought I gave generous structures, but nothing compared to this.

Here’s an example: 200-400 250-500 300-600 400-800 500-1000 600-1200 700-1400 I repeat 700-1400; I mean I never even heard of this level!!! And all in 90 minute levels. Tom, I’m nominating you for Tournament Director of the year!! The organizers soon discovered that they weren’t going to cover the million so they invited pros from Vegas and paid for everything. Kido Pham hosted the invited players and the casino hosted everything else. How detailed, well the Vietnamese players were served Pho!! Further they decided that it was better to have players seated rather than have a small field, so they ran 2 for1 $325.00 satellites. That’s not a misprint. If they ran 50 satellites they gave away an extra 50 seats.

So was it worth it? To those of us that came a free-roll with an overlay the answer is obvious, but was it worth it to Coushatta? I can’t tell you what the final loss figures were, but I can certainly tell you the gains. Monetarily the pit was filled with poker players, the win or loss there is irrelevant. The poker room was full and the action was incredible. Limit, No Limit and yes Pot Limit. There was even a ½ & ½ game. More, the games were as juicy as Tunica. The food, well ok it was fried, but fried deliciously and the service was southern hospitality So what did I learn about Coushatta, the people and Louisiana? First off when you get there ask for Randell, he might be the best host in any casino. Then see just how happy the people are.

These are down to earth working people that are either into lumber, oil, rice, nurseries or crawfish. The weather was great, warm even when it rained. And oh yes some are in the casino business, and sometimes they lose money during a promotion. What they did though was show a large number of people just how serious they are about getting you to know Coushatta. Every one of us talked about how nice we were treated and how we’d all be looking forward to coming back. Hey it even got me fired up enough to write this article. Randall, Kido, Coushatta keep me on your mailing list!!! Warren Karp

WPS-Caribbean Showdown Apr. 22-29

Everyone back on the boat!!!! That’s right 1 more week on the Mariner of the seas. This World Poker Showdown event promises to be the biggest yet!! Dozens of players tried qualifying on the net and winners took home a cruise and all tourney entries. 4 Ports of call means more fun in the sun and when we’re at sea we’re playing poker!! Join us the April or be the Fool See the Schedule at Get cruise booking help from the girls at CI Travel ALL ABOARD!!!!

WSOP A look from the inside

During the winter of 2003 there were times when it looked like the WSOP wasn/t even going to happen. The Horseshoe was not keeping its commitments, and then its doors were closed. Negotiations with Harrah/s hit many walls, and even after a deal was done, the landowners pushed back the transition. All the hang-ups left the Harrah/s organization with less than three months to put on what was going to be the biggest event in the history of poker.

How did they fair? Well, as Al Michaels likes to say, “Do you believe in miracles?”

The Harrah/s brass put Howard Greenbaum their front manager and he made the first of many correct decisions in bringing back last year/s team. The two Co-Directors Matt & Jimmy were a few of the names and faces you already knew but, before the tournament began, there were many new spots that needed to be filled. Eldon Brown and I perhaps had the best view of what was happening as we watched from the late shift during the Second Chance events.

Starting with the back office, they hired Susan Albrecht and Ione Conquy– these two ladies went about the painstaking task of lining up the rooms and doing all the paperwork that fills the needs of over 10,000 participants. Not only does that mean arranging reservations (in many languages), it also means handling structure sheets, signage, daily results, accounting, and oh so many entries from the online sights, etc. Most of us take 3-6 months to set up a big party at our house; these ladies helped set up the WSOP in 2 1/2 months.

Meg Patrick was brought on as the Dealer Coordinator. Meg is a perfectionist in both teaching and managing, and is extremely creative when it comes to staffing (as was evidenced by me in St. Maarten last year). Meg used her many relationships, as well as the Internet, to staff the WSOP with the most competent dealers in recent past. Over the past few years, dealers were increasingly of the break-in (new) variety. This year if Meg didn/t know you, you had to audition and then pass her high standards of dealing. From a Tournament Director/s standpoint, I can tell you that I had much fewer decisions to make this year because of dealer error. Meg couldn/t be there 24 hours a day, so she brought on Craig “Guppy”, Lesley Buchanan and Jack Slater to keep the line-ups moving — and move they did.

Since Harrah/s was not really a casino chain with poker, they needed guidance as to how to set up the poker floor with its many facets of revenue. Who better than the co-tournament director, Jim Miller? No one I/ve known in my many years in the industry has a better eye for structuring and staffing a floor plan, then helping to implement the plan with his own bare hands. So, in addition to running all the tournaments, here was Jim also dealing with the many issues of running the entire operation, probably with the least amount of sleep among all of us.

Dave Lamb along with his crack staff of Shelly and Janis ran two Super Satellites a day for the entire event, delivering over 300 seats into the Big One. In order to reach those numbers, Supers got a big push from the $50 qualifiers held downstairs in the sports book, and registration was key as the player numbers grew. Registration got a new system this year and as automated things go, this one started out with many flaws — the software guys were there for the duration, however, and debugged most of the problems. In chats with the developers, it seemed as though they were never more than single-digit percentages away from a equal distribution of players between Days 1 & 2 of the “Big One/
Steve McDonald, tournament coordinator extraordinaire held the whole package together by overseeing every event, and fulfilling every need a customer or an employee had. I think this was the guy with the 2nd least sleep.

Now to the main event!

Until the 3rd week of the series, no one expected 2576 entrants or thought that Harrah/s would be ready for so many players. But get ready they did! Decisions were made and actions were taken to accommodate the overload. Tables were brought in, extra mega supers were scheduled and capacity was expanded. Registration by midnight of the day before the event hit exactly 2000, with more than 500 signing up on Day 1. In they came, receiving either seat assignment or alternate cards. Then in came the Fire Marshals — they were going to shut the Shoe down until Jim went into action and reseated players into 11 handed tables. The levels in Days 1 & 2 were cut to 1 hour / 40 minutes in order to trim the field to a number that the Shoe could physically accommodate on the third day.
Then the chip problem arose. The WSOP was not prepared for so many players and didn/t have enough small chips to accommodate 2576. In Championship events at the end of day 1, you get a new seat draw, a plastic sealable bank bag and a card on which you write your name, city or country and chip count. Once this is verified, you seal the bag and return the next day. That is normal procedure. This year, however, there were two first days and the chips needed to be re-used. So, after 6 levels and 16 hours of work, the staff had to open all the bags and enter the chip counts and redraws into the computer. Then after getting all that done, they needed to set up for the second half of the field and do another 16 hour day. Then things got worse…

At the end of the 2nd Day 1, players/ bags were left full but all of the 1st Day 1 bags had to be re-filled, and a shortage of small-denomination chips had to be dealt with. . Some of those bags that had say 40,000 in varied denominations of chips, had to be refilled with eight 5000 chips to accommodate the total of 25,760,000 in play. I got a first-hand look at this one morning before dawn when exhaustion set in and they called me down to help Mike O/Malley with data entry and table setting. Mike and I worked all through the morning while others took what seemed to be short naps before returning for the third day. Going into Day 3, the decision was made to change the 1st round of play back to 2 hours. This accommodated all the change-making that was occurring and once again the Shoe was on flat ground with a pace that never looked back.

They say that nightmares only happen in dreams but this one formed the Dream Team — this great team in no small part was fueled by the dealers who were worked and re-worked, the floor staff, the brushes and chip runners, all the folks that people rarely recognize. This event could not have gone on without them. Shortly after we started in early April, a new Card Room Manager, Mike Soto, was brought on and he handled this event with an enthusiasm that was felt throughout the building. Poker fans were not the only ones who knew that this was going to be the biggest event in the game/s history. The press was there in force as well, and who better to handle the influx then Nolan Dalla. Nolan not only accommodated the many (which once were only a few) but he provided the context — the history of the WSOP — as only Nolan can do.

Next year, we/ll be at the Rio with all the space we/ll need — sounds like a piece of cake for the right team. Do you believe in miracles, cause I now do!

Come Join Us…

Warren Karp

Two Sets to Love – No Valentines

A week after Valentine/s Day, the big day at Commerce Casino finally arrived – the World Poker Tour championship event of the L.A. Poker Classic – and I was pumped. On the heels of winning a seat in the previous night/s supersatellite, I was ready.

Moneymaker’s Real Name Is.

Moneymaker/s Real Name Is.In the Beginning… In the electronic age, the growth of anything can usually be measured by its exposure – and, surely, poker on television is everywhere.

n examining the explosion of poker, there are many things to which one can point; of course, the two biggest would have to be the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour. Now that poker has become a star, it seems logical that stars will emerge from the game – or has that already happened?

Have the TDA Rules Changed Your Tournament Life?

Have the TDA Rules Changed Your Tournament Life? If You Don/t Think So, You May Get a Penalty! In the Beginning…
Only a few years ago, if you traveled to a tournament, you were never sure of the rules for that particular casino or cardroom until you arrived. This was true not only when you traveled across the country, but also when you traveled across town.

St. Maarten and the International Poker Federation (IPF)

Running tournaments has become a particular joy to me. In the early part of 2002, I started complaining about the way tournaments were run. I complained about things like starting times, structures, rules, penalties, and so on.

2003 – A Breakout Year!

Poker has arrived! With the popularity of its television coverage, poker has hit the mainstream, filling poker rooms and online sites with a new generation of players. They come, interestingly enough, from the likes of Hollywood celebrities to the tens of thousands of average people from around the world.

The Slow Roll: Despicable or Tactical?

Recently while I was in a casino, a player who knows I write for Card Player asked me a question. Now, since I’ve been writing, I’ve been asked lots of questions by players on a broad range of subjects, but in all honesty, I’ve never thought about the following subject until the question was posed to me. The player asked me a question I wasn’t expecting: “What do you hate the most about poker?”