‘Master’ wins first title since ’96

May 20, 2003 3:13 AM

By Nolan Dalla

Special to GT

Four-time gold bracelet winner Men "the Master" Nguyen added number five to his collection, with a victory in the $5,000 buy-in seven-card stud event at the World Series of Poker.

The win was unforeseeable for many reasons, not the least of which was Men’s chip position at the start of the final table. He began the day with just $37,000 in chips. Phil Ivey came to the final table with a 2-to-1 chip lead, about $130K to next closest rival, Mel Judah with $67,000. Those three players would end up battling in the showdown for $178,560 in first-place prize money.

Hal Koch from Michigan went out first. On the same hand, Mel Judah made trip kings and won the sizable pot. Koch went out in 8th place, good for $13,400.

After Frenchman Paul Testud went out in 7th place and collected $17,860, a critical hand developed when Rob Hollink, Nguyen, and Dr. Max Stern got into a three-way pot worth over $110,000.

Men the Master started out with rolled-up jacks (J-J-J), but failed to improve over the course of the hand. Hollink was dealt two kings, then caught five consecutive running cards to make a jack-high straight. Meanwhile, Stern started out with pocket aces, then caught five hearts to make a heart flush ”” which ended up being the winning hand. The huge pot gave Stern $110,000 in chips and catapulted him into the co-chip lead with Mel Judah and Phil Ivey.

A few hands later, Hollink went "all-in" with a draw to Q-J-10-9, but missed on three successive rounds. Men the Master picked up the pot and knocked Hollink out in 6th place, good for $22,320.

The final five was an all-star lineup of superstars ”” including Artie Cobb, Mel Judah, Men the Master, Phil Ivey, and Dr. Stern ”” all names accustomed to being at the top of the money winner’s list.

Dr. Max Stern went out next when he started off with a pair of sevens and picked up an outside straight draw. However, Phil Ivey made a king-high straight which made Stern’s draw irrelevant. Stern, originally from Costa Rica and the winner of three gold bracelets in his illustrious poker career, received $26,780 for 5th place.

Artie Cobb, who made his first final table at the World Series way back in 1976, found himself low on chips and moved-in on fourth street holding (8-8) 9-3. Phil Ivey had (K-J) 6-3 and three spades, and called Cobb’s final bet of the evening. Then, Ivey caught 6-6 on 5th and 6th street respectively, making three-of-a-kind, Cobb managed to make a second pair, but could not overcome the trip sixes, which meant a 4th place finish for the legendary stud player. Cobb added $31,240 to his career winnings at the World Series of Poker (over $700,000 in winnings).

Day two saw Ivey down in chips after failing to rake in a pot for an extended period and went "all-in" with two small pair on fourth street, but failed to improve, losing to Mel Judah’s higher two-pair ”” kings and queens. Ivey, who burst upon the poker tournament scene in 2000 and won three titles last year had to settle for 3rd place, and $53,560.

When heads-up play began between Judah and Nguyen, the chips were about even. Then, Men ran cold again for the next ten hands. With the chip counts at about $100,000 for Men the Master and $340,000 for Mel Judah, Nguyen won the next big pot, making two pair (10s and 3s) against Judah’s single pair. That put Men the Master back close to $200,000.

Nguyen took the chip lead about 90 minutes into heads-up play when the betting limits increased to $10K-20K. Incredibly, over the course of the heads-up duel Men the Master managed to reverse a 3.5-to-1 chip disadvantage and take the same percentage lead over Judah, as the final table entered hour number seven.

The final hand of the night came when Judah started off with three diamonds ”” (9-8) 2 versus Nguyen’s (8-7) 7. Judah’s last chip went into the pot and the final hands read:

Judah: (9-8) 2-J-6-10 (2) (four diamonds ”” missed flush draw)

Men the Master: (8-7) 7-K-A-10 (5)

Men the Master’s pair of sevens was the deciding hand.

The result marks the end of a long streak of second-place finishes for Men "the Master" Nguyen. He was second in the Omaha high-low and Pot-Limit Omaha events, this year. Incredibly, Men the Master had not won a gold bracelet since 1996 and finally broke through with world title number five, with this win.