The Prince of Poker has amassed more than $11 million in tournament winnings and he owns five World Series of Poker bracelets, including the world title in 1998. He’s an ex-WPT champ and considered one of the best all-around poker players the game has known.
On Sept. 24-25 you’ll be at the Seminole Casino Immokalee near Ft. Myers, Fla., to play in a couple of events, including one for Poker Gives. How important is charity to you and can you tell us about some other charitable things you’ve done over your career? It’s very important to play charity events because when I play I give the players a chance to play with me, plus the prize pool will go to the charity. Every time you work for charities it makes you feel good. … Hopefully I can draw the fans and players to play, this way we can make some money for charity.
Do you try to win charity poker events or are you just there for the fans and the cause? Just hang out and have fun. Hopefully I can draw some crowds. The bigger the better for charity. I always look forward to playing charity events because I have fun with it. I’m not looking to win or cash in, and even if I do, 100 percent is going to go to charity anyway. The main thing is to have fun, just come in and play, not just come in have fun and play a crazy hand and get knocked out and walk away from it. I will be there and play the game like it’s supposed to be and have fun with it.
How much do the past struggles in your life motivate you to succeed so you can give back to those less fortunate? You know, I’ve been doing this for so many years, you know, baby? You have up-and-down years and things like that, but poker has made me. … Every year, if you fall you come back stronger the next year. That’s the game I love. That’s what I’m made of. I don’t give up. I just come out stronger every year to show the people, to show the fans and the players that Scotty still have it. I love the game so much sometimes I dream about it. (laughs)
You once were a poker dealer; do you think you could still pitch the cards if need be? Oh yeah, baby! You know, baby, I’m so smooth with whatever I do. (laughs)
Were you self-taught or was there someone who gave you the finer points of the game? I teach myself how to play while I was dealing the game. I learned from the players, when they turned their hands over. I look and I talk to myself, “When this guy do this, if he do this he would have won the pot, but instead he lost the pot because he made the wrong move.” … When you concentrate on one thing, if you want to be a poker player you have to learn, you have to see what player is playing good, who play bad. You want to learn from the move, from the way he bet, the way he check-raise, the way he call, the way he trap people, you know, baby? I learn everything from the player, but nobody teach me. I learned silently when I’m dealing. They didn’t know that. And I talked to the good player when I had a break. … I’d hang out with them, talk to them about a couple hands, and some hands I didn’t understand so I asked them. So when I need something and I have a question they like 100 percent give it to me. But they didn’t know the reason I asked was because I wanted to become one of them or better. And then later on they realize, “Oh my God, look at him now!” (laughs)
You’re the only player to win the WSOP Main Event title (1998) and the WSOP’s $50K H.O.R.S.E. title (2008) … And the WPT Main Event, baby! Don’t forget that, baby! (laughs), I’m the only man to do those three!
OK, then what would you consider your greatest poker moment? You know, baby, the longer I live the more titles, the more major tournaments are out there for me to win. I have one in my mind right now, it’s my goal, the WSOP Europe. If I do that I will become the one and only to ever play the game, you know what I mean? Nobody ever done that.
If you were to give one piece of poker advice, what would it be? One piece for all of the young guns and up-and-coming players, is when you play the game you cannot get personal. … You can’t focus on just one player only. You have to focus on the game you play and whoever you’re playing with. Pick out the weaker one at the table, because every game you go … they always have a couple of weak spots. Focus on that, just like in the safari. You know, the whole pack of lions and they have a hundred thousand wildebeests. And what do they do? They only focus on one. All they have to do is get that one and the whole pack would be full. Same thing in poker, baby! When you sit down in the game focus on one, the weaker one. All you have to do is beat that guy and you can live good, feed the family. You know what I mean? (laughs) You don’t need to kill three or four wilderbeasts to feed the pack, baby! One! (laughs)
When it’s all said and done, how would you like to be remembered? You know, baby, when it’s all said and done I want everyone to remember poker … is so much fun … because of Scotty Nguyen. He make the game fun, enjoyable, the way he laughed, the way he robbed people smooth. (laughs) He rob them and they smiling, you know, baby? That’s a hard thing to do! (laughs). They know I’m robbing them and they’re smiling. You know how hard that is? To make people love you even though they know you robbing them? (laughs) So that’s what I want everybody to remember Scotty by. Smooth, you know, baby?
How many times has someone had you all-in and said, “You call it’s gonna be all over baby!” in your career? Oh my God, baby. Everywhere I go, don’t matter. You know, Paris, London, Austria, Australia, I mean, it’s like every time they’re invloved with me, when the push all-in they look at me, “You call it’s be all over, baby.” You see, baby? … But when they say that to me … and I say it back to them, “If I call you, baby, it’s all over for you, baby!” (laughs) Scotty Nguyen special, baby!