How the Legend Began: Scotty Nguyen's Unbelievable Poker Origin Story

Published on 3 July 2015 by Pokerlistings 308

There are a handful of true living legends in the poker world and in terms of charisma and entertainment value, Scotty Nguyen is right up there with the best of them. In this candid video video interview from the World Series of Poker Scotty opens up about the early days of his poker career. It all started when he emigrated to America from Vietnam in 1983 and worked as a busboy. With too many people at home he was always looking for a fun way to pass the night. Enter poker. Scotty says he started playing Seven-Card Stud but went broke every single night. When he switched games, his fortunes turned around on the spot. Scotty says the staff at his restaurant treated him poorly and one day he go so fed up he collected his last paycheck for $270 and told the waiters that he quit, and that the next time they saw him they would kiss his ass. Scotty took his money to Lake Tahoe where he crushed every poker game in sight. By the end of the week he had a six-figure poker bankroll. He returned to the restaurant, assembled the wait-staff and put $300 in front of each of them. Remember, this is the 1980s so $300 really meant something. He then told if they kissed his ass all night they could keep the money. He then ordered six of everything on the menu, went out onto the street and collected some people to come in and eat. Legend.

Scotty: Baby. Can't wait to win the main event and then tell all of you guys, like I'm retiring.

People smoking, drinking and playing poker, right? When you get mad, you get mad. I used to get mad, jump on the table and dance in the seat.

Interviewer: You can't do that anymore?

Scotty: Can't do that shit no more. Anybody will tell me this, Scotty, today.

You know, baby, let's see, when I get here I don't know nothing about American Poker. Okay, I worked eight hours, bus boy, baby, cleaning my ass off baby.

Interviewer: At the restaurant? [inaudible 00:00:54].

Scotty: But don't worry baby, when I work, just like the way I play poker. I make it fun.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Scotty: For me to pass through those eight hours. It's like we have . . . every time I walk in I got to report to three waiters, three waitresses. Scotty doing this, Scotty doing that, Scotty doing this, Scotty doing that, sometimes I don't understand.

1983, very little English. When they say something bad, I don't understand, they laugh, but I ignore it. You're here, work and make money.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Scotty: You don't need to talk back to anybody.

Interviewer: So you made the money working then you take it to the poker table?

Scotty: Yes.

Interviewer: Then, so when did you start? When did the poker start paying more than the bus boy job? How long did it take? How many games? How many years to learn?

Scotty: How many years?

Interviewer: Well, you can't call in the Internet back then.

Scotty: Six months, baby!

Interviewer: Then you're winning?

Scotty: Six months I win a million dollars. From bus boy to become a millionaire. In six months, baby.

Interviewer: How'd that feel?

Scotty: Yeah, it feels good.

Interviewer: I bet.

Scotty: Do you know those waiter, waitresses, used to treat me bad? Harris. When I pick up my last paycheck with $270. When they push me to the point, I go clock out, change my uniform. Somehow, I pick up the paycheck. I walk back and I tell them all, "$270, I'm going to quit. But when I come back here, all of you, everyone of you, kiss my ass, even the boss." Yeah, they all laugh.

Interviewer: How'd that feel?

Scotty: They all laugh, right? Don't worry baby, I took the $270, go to a Lake Tower [SP] for 11 days. I come back here with over $100,000 from $270.

Interviewer: What kind of games has got you there?

Scotty: I win the tournament.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Scotty: I win any cash game I'm sitting down, no matter what it is, [inaudible 00:03:09], no-limit hold'em, don't matter, you name it.

All right baby, no stud. From there, as soon as I get back here, I want to get myself a nice place, nice car, but before that, I heard somebody told me they have the tournament at Bob's Two Pack [SP], [inaudible 00:03:30] now.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Scotty: Okay? So I checked in there with a hundred thousand. I walked over there baby, almost a million dollars baby.

Interviewer: No kidding?

Scotty: Kiss my ass baby.

Interviewer: You go back and tell them?

Scotty: Yeah and now I go back, and this . . . this is getting better. I go back, I asked Richard. Richard is the manager there, and he loves me. Say, "Richard, I want this waitress, that waitress, that waitress, this waiter, that waiter, the one that give me a hard time, I want all six right here in these three tables. To all, the table up to all, I want three of them. All right, I give Richard $500.

Interviewer: To make it happen.

Scotty: You make it happen. You know the old days, $500, baby?

Interviewer: It's a lot of money.

Scotty: It's a shit, it's like goddamn $5,000 now, okay? 1983, $500 just like $5,000 now. This all leads up to shit, right. He goes to get those six, the one I hate the most. I mean, not hate, just give me a hard time the most.

Interviewer: Weren't nice to you, right.

Scotty: Yes.

Scotty: I put $300 on each table, six spots, and I tell them, "You serve with me right, the table is yours." They work for a week for that $300 baby. Right? They say, "Oh my gosh Scotty." I said, "Don't oh my god me, shit. I told you that, right? I told you when I get back here, you're gonna kiss my ass and I keep my promises, all right?" They're like, "Oh my god." They're like, "Do you want to walk away? Fine, there's $300, I'll give it to somebody else." "No, no, no, no." Do you think they're going to walk away from $300 tip?

Interviewer: No.

Scotty: Okay, so, "Let me see the menu." I order every single thing on the menu. "How many people." "One," okay?

I order every single thing in the menu. Steak, I order six. Filet mignon, six. I mean, every table is full and I told them, "Don't touch the money, I'll be right back." I go on the street. Every single beggar on the street that day, I ran them all in, "Enjoy." That's it.