Nguyen out; final nine begin play on Tuesday

Updated: July 16, 2007, 5:25 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LAS VEGAS -- Scotty Nguyen, "The Prince of Poker," ended his remarkable run through the World Series of Poker's main event with class early Monday, busting out two places short of the final table and ending hopes for a repeat winner for the first time in a decade.

Nguyen, the 1998 main event champion and the fan favorite as play wound down to a final table, had as many as 15.5 million in chips but lost three huge pots in a disappointing collapse.

"When you're playing good, you get too cocky and too confident and you give players no credit," he said after busting out in 11th with a $476,926 payday. "That's what happened. That's taking nothing away from all these players. They're great players. That's the reason they're here."

Later, he took the microphone and thanked the crowd for cheering him on.

"The most important thing is I want to say thank you to the fans," he said. "Without you guys, we cannot have Scotty Nguyen."

One woman yelled out, "We love you, Scotty!"

The last person to repeat at the main event was the late Stu Ungar, who won $1 million for top prize in 1997 after his back-to-back wins in 1980 and 1981.

At the start of his downfall, Nguyen, 44, reraised Toronto poker pro Tuan Lam, 40, from the big blind with a three and four of diamonds to Lam's pocket 10s.

WSOP: Final table

The remaining players are to sit to play until there is a winner starting at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Final nine
Player Chips (in millions)
Philip Hilm 22.07
Tuan Lam 21.315
Jon Kalmar 20.32
Raymond Rahme 16.32
Lee Childs 13.24
Lee Watkinson 9.925
Hevad Kahn 9.205
Jerry Yang 8.45
Alex Kravchenko 6.57

Nguyen paired his four on the flop but was unable to push Lam off the pot when two kings, a jack, a five and a four were exposed as the shared community cards. When it was over, Lam called Nguyen's huge 3.5 million bet on the river, winning a pot worth 11.5 million.

"Starting from that hand, everything goes downhill," Nguyen said.

Just a few hands later, Nguyen held an ace and queen with a flop of queen, six and five, and pushed all-in but met Philip Hilm's pocket fives, for three of a kind, allowing him to double through.

Nguyen met his end when a flush draw didn't come through and Hilm, a 31-year-old Dane making a living playing poker online in England, made two pair with kings and queens.

Play wound down early Monday to the nine players needed for the final table when Steven Garfinkle, a 37-year-old history professor from Bellingham, Wash., pushed all-in with a short stack and an ace and three and was called by 62-year-old South African retiree Raymond Rahme, who held pocket queens.

The queens held up, putting Rahme in fourth with 16.32 million.

"I'd seen very few cards in the last hour and the time was coming where I needed to either pick up chips or go home," Garfinkle said. He busted out in 10th for $476,926.

With the final table set, Hilm held the lead with 22.07 million in chips followed by Lam with 21.315 million and British poker player Jon Kalmar, 34, with 20.32 million.

Kalmar said he was "nearly broke" before the $10,000 buy-in main event began to play down July 6, but plunked down $500 in a satellite tournament to win a seat.

"Otherwise, I was thinking of taking a very long break from the game," the former Internet technology manager said. "I was thinking of going back to work for a bit, [but] maybe not for a while yet."

Others remaining in the hunt for the top prize of $8.25 million were Lee Childs, a 35-year-old software engineer from Reston, Va., with 13.24 million; and Lee Watkinson, 40-year-old pro from Cheney, Wash., in sixth with 9.925 million.

Internet player Hevad Khan, 22, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was seventh with 9.205 million; Temecula, Calif.-based psychologist Jerry Yang, 39, was eighth with 8.45 million; and Russian poker pro Alex Kravchenko had 6.57 million.

The nine players were all that was left from a field of 6,358 who paid $10,000 in cash or qualified through satellite tournaments and played down in stages two weeks ago.

Those who busted out early on Sunday still went home with a small fortune.

John Armbrust, a 26-year-old high school teacher from Los Angeles, left in 18th place with $381,302.

Ron Kluber, a 46-year-old intelligence analyst for U.S. Forces in Seoul, South Korea, came in 29th. Kluber said his $285,678 prize would help put two teenage daughters through college.

"It's perfect timing," he said.

Jason Koshi, a 33-year-old certified public accountant, said his identical payday was "a big score" compared to his salary and what he made playing $10-$20 no-limit games in Los Angeles.

"This is more than I make in a year, definitely," he said.

The remaining players are to sit to play until there is a winner starting at noon [Pacific time] on Tuesday. Unlike previous years, when getting to the final table meant becoming an instant millionaire, ninth place this year will pay $525,934 and the millionaire's club does not begin until fifth place, with $1.26 million.

The U.S. crackdown on online gambling, which is believed to have shrunk the field from last year's record 8,773, and the flatter payout structure were seen as contributing to the more modest payouts.

Last year's champion, Jamie Gold, won $12 million for first, but had to share an undisclosed amount with an acquaintance after a brief court battle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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