Scotty Nguyen's hometown, Nha Trang, is situated on a strip of the South China Sea in south-central Vietnam. Shimmering with white sand beaches and pristine waters, and renowned for its healing natural mineral springs, the city is fast becoming a destination for international tourists and backpackers.
But when Scotty was born in 1962, Nha Trang, like the rest of Vietnam, was a very different place. Though the United States had not yet officially entered the war, the conflict between North and South Vietnam was escalating, destabilizing life across the country.
With an eye to the future, Scotty's mother put aside what little the family could save in order to send her firstborn away from the war-torn beaches of Southeast Asia. And after much convincing by his close-knit family and friends, 11-year-old Scotty set sail for the United States to begin a new life.
From Nha Trang to Costa Mesa
His first stop was Taiwan, where he escaped the confines of a refugee camp and found a job working as a manual labourer. Scotty stayed in Taiwan for a couple of years until an American family volunteered to sponsor him. Now 13 years old, Scotty was ready to begin the next phase of his life
But once he arrived in the United States the goings were tough. Adjusting to a new country, language and culture without the support of his family and community took a toll. Scotty was struggling to be happy, and, to make matters worse, he hated the weather.
The transition from the tropics of Southeast Asia to the landlocked, windswept frigidity of Illinois was difficult. So Scotty requested a new host family in a climate and setting that more closely resembled Nha Trang's.
His request was eventually granted and Scotty shipped out once again, this time to the beaches of Orange County, Calif., where he settled in with a new host family in Costa Mesa.
Life in his new digs meant better weather but Scotty still didn't fit in. Bored with high school, he skipped class and diverted himself by making a ruckus around the neighbourhood, stealing the odd bike, breaking the occasional window. Until he found poker, that is.
From Cleaning Tables to Slinging Cards
Poker quickly became all the diversion Scotty could handle. His first experiences at the felt took place at friends' houses and, despite his inability to take down pots, his ambition led him to pool halls and backrooms, where he tested his game at the higher levels.
When Scotty was in in his early 20s he moved to Vegas to be closer to the action. Growing up he had heard stories about the city, and after arriving in California his interest in it grew alongside his passion for poker. And blessed as he was with an insatiable appetite for excitement and cards, there was no better place for Scotty to put down roots and learn his trade.
He picked up a job cleaning tables at a casino and somehow managed to build a bankroll. Scotty then turned to the felt, where he hoped to transform his poker hobby into a bona fide career. But his game still wasn't developed enough. He quickly lost his bankroll and took a job dealing cards, first at Harrah's Holiday Casino and later, the Golden Nugget.
Dealing poker turned out to be a valuable career move; Scotty honed his understanding of the game by observing the methods and mistakes of his customers. He began applying his new knowledge to the low-limit games he played, and his bankroll - and confidence - started to grow.
His dream of playing poker professionally more attainable now than ever before, Scotty hunkered down and got serious. And after just two years of up-and-down play, the 23-year-old rounder quit dealing cards and picked up poker full time.
From Poker Dealer to WSOP Icon
Over the years, Scotty has lost and rebuilt his bankroll innumerable times. But he has never again taken another job. Poker is his career, and time and again he's proved just how suited he is to the game.
He has cashed in hundreds of tournaments, including well over 50 WSOP events, more than a dozen WPT tournaments, and countless standalone events like the California State Poker Championship, Aussie Millions, Poker Superstars Invitational, U.S. Poker Bowl, Caribbean Poker Classic, Monte Carlo Millions and Austrian Masters, to name a few.
Though there are many impressive finishes on his tournament resume, Scotty's most notable achievements were notched at the World Series of Poker.
Since his first Series in 1995, he's collected five bracelets and made history as the first player to ever win both the Main Event (1998) and the $50k H.O.R.S.E. Championship (2008). Of the numerous events he's cashed in, he's final-tabled in nearly half and has rarely finished outside the top 25.
His 1998 Main Event victory was punctuated by him inducing his heads-up opponent, Kevin McBride, to call him with a dominated hand. "You call it gonna be all over, baby," Scotty said in his unique patois, and it indeed was.
His WPT record is nothing to sneeze at either. With more than half a dozen Championship finishes under his belt - most of them at the final table - Scotty holds several World Poker Tour titles and was the first player in history to win the triple crown of a WPT Championship, the WSOP Main Event and the WSOP H.O.R.S.E. Championship.
Scotty Nguyen - From the WSOP to the Hall of Fame
What's perhaps even more incredible is how down-to-earth Scotty has remained. Yes, he's confident. And he's cocky, too. But arrogant? Never. Pretentious? No way.
Where other players may have let their egos run free in the emotional wasteland of self-importance, Nguyen has effortlessly kept his ego in check. A practicing Buddhist with a positive outlook and bountiful reserves of internal strength, Scotty has persevered through the highs and lows in order to achieve his dreams.
An active talker (and drinker) at the tables, Nguyen's at times let an extras Michelob Light or two impact his general demeanour at the table. But he also understands how important it is to be an ambassador for the game and the role his fans have played in making him who he is today.
"The fans are No. 1 for a poker player," he told PokerListings.com after his 2008 H.O.R.S.E. victory. "Without the fans, I'd never be who I am now ... It's important to give fans what they want - a good game, a good show."
"The fans fly in from all over the world. They fly in from Germany, Australia, London, Paris, just to come and see you. They ask you for pictures, autographs, and you can't say no to them. I always stop."
With an attitude like this, is it any wonder he's known as the Prince of Poker? There's no doubt the warmth and kindness with which he greets every fan has earned him the respect of poker enthusiasts worldwide. But he's also won the admiration of his opponents.
In 2013, Nguyen's remarkable journey came full circle when he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. The WSOP's Ty Stewart was the first to tell him:
Scotty's gentlemanlike manners, friendly chatter and respectful professionalism will remain his legacy long after his poker career is over. Armed with his contagious exuberance, clever plays and beguiling charisma, Scotty has forever altered the way rounders play poker and the way fans watch the game.
He's cheeky, easygoing and polite, and he remains one of the most beloved and talented poker pros on the scene. Oh, and he's still bringing his elite level skill to the tables with him as he showed with 7 cashes at the 2018 WSOP alone - including 3rd in the $25k PLO High Roller for $592,875!