WPT California Swing returns Feb. 28

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For one month a year, California players are treated to a series of World Poker Tour events that span 500 miles from the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles (Feb. 28-March 5) to Bay 101 Casino in San Jose (March 9-13) and then ending at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln (March 14-18). The California Swing is a great opportunity to become a WPT champion and take home some of the largest prize pools on the circuit while never having to leave the state.

Thunder Valley recently held a special promotion for its players where anyone earning 80 hours of live play between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21 would be entered into a satellite for entry into all three WPT California Swing events. First prize included a $10K entry into the L.A. Poker Classic (Commerce), $7,500 entry into the Shooting Star (Bay 101) and $3,500 entry into the Rolling Thunder (Thunder Valley). The winner would also receive $1K and become part of Team TV Poker, which includes players such as Chris Hinchcliffe, Tyler Patterson and Matt Boddorf.

After 164 qualifications, 127 players showed up to play the satellite. When the dust settled on the first day of play, the final six players came back Jan. 2 to fight it out for the $22K prize package. Thunder Valley director of poker Ben Erwin brought in the WPT’s Matt Savage to host the final table.

After an action-packed and quick final table, the winner was local cash player Thai Nguyen (Roseville) who took home the incredible WPT package. Second-place finisher Chris Doung (Elk Grove) didn’t walk away empty-handed as he earned an entry into the $3,500 Rolling Thunder main event. The other final-table members included Hinchcliffe (Lincoln), Charlito Aseberos (Elk Grove), Paul Lee (Elk Grove), and Mousa Helo.

Newly crowned satellite winner Nguyen is no stranger to the Up the Ante Poker Room. With his past experience and his determination to play in the largest games, he’s eager to prove himself and was proud of his homecourt victory.

“This is my home casino,” Nguyen said, “I haven’t played any of these events before and I’m really excited.”

Nguyen flips houses when he’s not playing poker and just recently sold his salon. He plans on parlaying this satellite into life-changing money and it was clear he had more than poker on his mind when making his decisions at the final table.

“I’m married with a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter so I want to win for them.”

Nguyen will have three major chances of making that dream come true.

— Email Garrett at roth@anteupmagazine.com.