In 2023, a total of 346 entries were made World Championship Poker in the Gardens of the Poker Tour $5,250 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event, creating a total prize pool of nearly $1.7 million. After two initial flights and four more days of action, that field of hundreds was narrowed down to just one player in Ky Nguyen.
The 37-year-old Los Angeles resident, known in cash game circles as the “Suited Superman,” came out with his first WPT title and the grand prize of $357,380. This was his largest tournament score ever, sweeping the $53,303 he earned as the winner of a $240 buy-in event during 2016. Liz Flynt Autumn Poker Classic.
“I tried to play so many tournaments and finally got this far,” Nguyen said WPT reporters. “I am overwhelmed with joy.”
Nguyen now has over $700,000 in recorded tournament earnings to his name. This recent title run also saw him receive 960 Card player Player of the Year Points. It now sits in the top 150 in 2023 POY extension race standings, which are presented by Global Poker.
While this event started and took place at The Gardens Casino in the Los Angeles area, the final table was recorded and live streamed from the HyperX Arena located in the Luxor Hotel & Casino. The final six were set on Thursday 25 May. They then traveled to Las Vegas, with the action resuming on Saturday, May 27.
When the cards were back in the air, Ryan Salunga was leading and Nguyen was fourth
chip location. Josh Lachman entered the final table with only three big blinds in his stack. On the second hand of the day, he called all-in from the big blind with 8-3 suited against Salunga’s A-9 suited. Neither player improved, and Lachman was sent home with $71,200 for his efforts.
It took a few more orbits before the second elimination hand came. Like Lachman, Joey Deluca was very short stacked early in the day. Eventually he called all-in with J-10 suited from the big blind, only to find himself in dire shape facing bracelet winner Chris Lee’s pocket jacks. The big pair held and Deluca was eliminated in fifth place ($94,000).
WPT Ambassador Brad Owen was next to fall. The popular poker vlogger and meetup game host was down to 15 big blinds when he picked K-6 suited on the button. He moved all in and ended up against Nguyen’s AJ. An ace on the turn left Owen drawing dead, and he was eliminated with $125,000 for his fourth place finish. That was the highest score in a tournament so far for Owen, who is 35 and a Las Vegas resident. He now has nearly $493,000 in recorded earnings on the circuit.
That said, Nguyen finished as the second biggest stack behind Salunga. Lee was the shortest stack at the table, until he went all-in with A-4 to beat Nguyen’s pocket tens to virtually tie for second. A few hands after Lee doubled up, Nguyen hit a big multi-street bluff from Salunga to take the lead.
A couple of hands later, Lee moved all-in once again with A-4 against pocket pair for Nguyen, who this time had pocket jacks. Lee hit a four on the flop, but finished third for $169,000. He now has more than $1.5 million in total tournament earnings following this latest deep run.
Heads-up play began with Nguyen holding 10,350,000 to Salunga’s 7,050,000. After a handful of smaller pots early on, Nguyen picked up a sizable showdown with top pair against king high for Salunga to take a more than 3.5:1 lead. Lui continued to build on his advantage to the point where he still held a lead of more than 5:1 even after Salunga secured a double.
In the final hand, Nguyen moved all-in from the button with Q8 and Salunga called all-in for ten big blinds with J10. Card is out of 88462 and Nguyen’s trip eights secured the pot and the title. Salunga received $230,000 as runner-up.
Here’s a look at payments and POY extension points awarded at the final table:
|Place||Player||Earnings||POY extension Points|
Photo credits: WPT / Draw Beloved.