From Vietnam to Vegas, Minh Ly has chosen a long and sometimes difficult route in his quest to become a professional poker player. His journey has finally paid off though; Ly is widely regarded as one of the top cash game players in the world and has won more than $2 million dollars in tournament money.
Ly, who is of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, was born in Vietnam and immigrated to Las Vegas in 1986. When he arrived in the States, he took on two jobs - one as a poker dealer and one as a cook at a Chinese restaurant - in order to make ends meet.
Like many who flock to Vegas, Ly began playing poker to boost his earnings, paying his dues at the city's low-limit poker tables. During his first five years there, he barely broke even at poker. Then something clicked and he began steadily pulling in profits and advancing to higher-stakes games.
Eventually, he worked his way up the levels and found himself surrounded by the high rollers at Doyle Brunson's table, playing $4,000-$8,000. For many that would be the pinnacle of success in a poker career, but it didn't stop there for Ly. Brunson told him to seek out tournaments and start playing them more often.
Ly accepted Brunson's advice and took to the tournament world like a fish to water. With countless final tables and in-the-money finishes in tournament games, Ly was incredibly successful. He first cashed at the World Series of Poker in 2001, finishing third in the $3,000 Limit Texas Hold'em event as well as cashing in the $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event.
Minh Ly: A poker's true gentleman
In 2002, Ly battled his way to the final table of the WSOP Main Event, finishing ninth. In 2005, he had four cashes and even came within one player of winning his first WSOP bracelet in the $5,000 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event. The player he came up against, though, was none other than Brunson, who went on to win it and claim his 10th WSOP bracelet.
Known as one of poker's true gentlemen, Ly is usually a calm, respectful player at the table. However, even the best of players can get rattled at times and let outside factors affect their game. In Ly's case, one such instance of loss of composure comes to mind.
During the 2005 WSOP Main Event, Minh was frustrated after getting knocked out in 19th place. Though it was a respectable showing in the event, he was upset at Mike Matusow's antics and said Matusow had thrown off his game. He didn't like the disrespect Matusow had shown him at the table.
Ly, with a little instigation from Todd Brunson, ended up challenging Matusow to a poker duel, right in the middle of Matusow's post-WSOP ESPN interview, which he was giving after being knocked out of final-table play in ninth place.
Ly was redeemed when he was finally crowned the champion of a major event, winning the 2005 World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship. It couldn't have been any more fitting that Ly won his first title at the tournament his poker advisor was hosting. During a pre-game interview, Doyle had even selected Ly as the favorite to win.
With 15 years of continuous success and advancement in the poker world, combined with a loving home life centered around his supportive wife, Lu Binh, Ly has worked his way up to becoming a winner regardless of where he places in a tournament.
Minh is the last of the winning high-stakes players to get tournament recognition. His deficiency in English limits the attention he gets. He has not only been one of the biggest winners in the high-limit cash games the last few years, but he also has come in ninth in 2002 and 19th in 2005 in the final event at the WSOP, and he won a WPT title in 2005.
Minh was frustrated after getting knocked out 19th in the final event in 2005. He was upset at Mike Matusow’s antics and said Mike got him off his game. As a legitimate high-stakes player he didn’t like the disrespect Mike showed him and he said he would play Mike for any amount of money, any time. Todd Brunson, always an instigator, coerced Minh into challenging Mike to a poker duel, right in the middle of Mike’s ESPN interview after Mike got knocked out ninth.