Just looking at his achievements on the felt Men Nguyen would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but it’s the controversies that are keeping Men “The Master” Nguyen from receiving the game’s highest honor.
Men the poker player IS a Master
With over $10 million in career winnings, Men is 25th on the all-time tournament money-list, and 17th if we remove tournaments with buy-ins of $50,000 or more. This number is made all the more remarkable when you consider Men has never cashed for more than $412,746!
See all of Men’s tournament stats at The Hendon Mob.
Men has seven World Series of Poker bracelets, more than anyone not named Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, or Johnny Moss.
Men has 81 WSOP cashes in his career, tied with Humberto Brenes for 3rd place all-time, and trailing only Erik Seidel and Phil Hellmuth. His 55 WSOP final tables is the second most in poker history, trailing only Phil Hellmuth.
Men is the only four-time Card Player Magazine Player of the Year, winning the award in 1997, 2001, 2003, and 2005. No one else has even won the award three times – TJ Cloutier, David Pham, and Daniel Negreanu have all won the award twice.
On the World Poker Tour (WPT) Men has appeared at three final tables, finishing 3rd once, and 6th on two occasions. Rounding out his resume, Men won the 2001 USPC No Limit Holdem Championship, as well as the 2000 USPC 7-Card-Stud Championship.
Unfortunately, once you dig below the surface of Men’s accomplishments you end up uncovering some pretty nasty and damning evidence of foul play – precisely how much is to be believed is open to discussion.
That being said, it should be noted that Men has never been found guilty of cheating or officially banned from a tournament for cheating, but he has been accused of a laundry list of offenses:
- Team play: Chip-dumping and collusion
- Using hole card spotters
- Palming tournament chips
What happened at Foxwoods?
One of the most notorious and debated accusations occurred at Foxwoods casino, when Men Nguyen was kicked out mid-tournament.
One story alleges Men and his horses were cooking in their hotel room with a hot plate and set off the smoke alarms. When the casino investigated they found tournament chips in the room.
A second version has Men being asked to leave because hotel staff (maids?) discovered the smoke detectors in the room had been disabled to prevent the group’s (disallowed) hot plate from setting them off.
Scenario #2 seems far more plausible, as it seems illogical that they would leave the chips in the room when they evacuated. This was Foxwoods’ official account of the incident as well.
Daniel grants Men a pardon
Despite being one of Men’s most vocal critics, Daniel Negreanu has also stood up for him on occasion.
In a QuadJacks appearance where Men’s history was brought up Daniel explained how he felt bad for Men, who according to Daniel, was/is under a lot of pressure from the Vietnamese community to not bust Vietnamese players in tournaments. If Men did play straight against these players –some of whom Daniel described as gang members–he would be overtly threatened, with menacing comments like, “I know where you live Men The Master.”
Men the Mentor
Part of the cheating allegations, particularly the team-play allegations, stem from Men’s huge stable of Vietnamese “Horses,” some of whom (as Daniel alludes to) Men may have been involuntarily staking.
But most were students of Men. In addition to being a top-notch poker player himself, Men also mentored and staked just about every young Vietnamese poker player in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and this dynamic not only lends itself to the temptations of collusive play, but also raises alarm bells in other people’s minds whether cheating is happening or not.
On top of the controversies, Men has also been known to imbibe a few too many spirits (also known as Coronas) while making his patented deep runs in tournaments, and his behavior during these times has not done him any favors either.
A classic example of this occurred at the 2004 WSOP $1,500 Stud final table that was aired on ESPN, when a clearly intoxicated Men Nguyen showed the world precisely how not to act at a poker table.
Men is also known to be abusive towards dealers.
Still, the Poker Hall of Fame already boasts several people who could be considered scoundrels, the great Johnny Moss was not above cheating. While I may not condone Men’s behavior, and if true I find the cheating allegations utterly repulsive, we also can’t simply overlook his resume.
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