A total of 346 entries were made in the 2023 World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Championship $5,250 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event, building a total prize pool of nearly $1.7 million. After two starting flights and four more days of action, that field of hundreds has been narrowed to just a single player: Ky Nguyen. The 37-year-old Los Angeles resident emerged victorious with his first WPT title and the top prize of $357,380. This was his largest tournament score ever, blowing away the $53,303 he earned as the winner of a $240 buy-in event during the 2016 Liz Flynt Fall Poker Classic.
“I have tried to play so many tournaments and I finally made it this far,” Nguyen told WPT reporters after coming out on top. “I am overwhelmed with joy.”
Nguyen now has over $700,000 in recorded tournament earnings to his name. This recent title run also saw him receive 960 Card Player Player of the Year points. He now sits inside the top 150 in the 2023 POY race standings, which are presented by Global Poker.
While this event kicked off and ran at The Gardens Casino in the LA area, the final table was recorded and live-streamed from the HyperX Arena located in Luxor Hotel & Casino. The final six were set on Thursday, May 25. They then traveled to Las Vegas, with action resuming on Saturday, May 27.
When cards got back in the air, Ryan Salunga held the lead and Nguyen was in fourth
chip position. Josh Lachman came into the final table with just three big blinds in his stack. On the second hand of the day, he called all-in from the big blind with 8-3 suited and was up against the A-9 suited of Salunga. Neither player improved and Lachman was sent home with $71,200 for his efforts.
It took a few more orbits for the second elimination hand to arrive. Like Lachman, Joey Deluca was severely short-stacked coming into the day. He eventually called all-in with J-10 suited from the big blind, only to find himself in rough shape facing the pocket jacks of bracelet winner Chris Lee. The big pair held up and Deluca was knocked out in fifth place ($94,000).
WPT ambassador Brad Owen was the next to fall. The popular poker vlogger and meet-up-game host was down to 15 big blinds when he picked up K-6 suited on the button. He moved all in and wound up squaring off against the A-J of Nguyen. An ace on the turn left Owen drawing dead, and he was sent to the rail with $125,000 for his fourth-place showing. This was the largest tournament score yet for the cash-game-focused Owen, who is 35 years old and based out of Las Vegas. He now has nearly $493,000 in recorded earnings on the circuit.
With that, Nguyen settled in as the second-largest stack behind Salunga. Lee was the shortest stack at the table, until he won an all-in with A-4 besting the pocket tens of Nguyen to create a virtual tie for second. Just a few hands after Lee’s double, Nguyen picked off a big multi-street bluff from Salunga to edge into the lead.
A couple of hands later, Lee was once again all-in with A-4 against a pocket pair for Nguyen, who this time had been dealt two jacks. Lee hit a four on the flop, but bricked out to finish third for $169,000. He now has more than $1.5 million in lifetime tournament earnings after this latest deep run.
Heads-up play began with Nguyen holding 10,350,000 to Salunga’s 7,050,000. After a handful of smaller pots to start, Nguyen won a sizable showdown with top pair against king high for Salunga to take more than a 3.5:1 lead. He continued to press his advantage to the point that he still held more than a 5:1 lead even after Salunga secured a double-up.
In the final hand, Nguyen shoved from the button with Q8 and Salunga called all-in for ten big blinds with J10. The board ran out 88462 and Nguyen’s trip eights secured the pot and the title. Salunga was awarded $230,000 as the runner-up.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Photo credits: WPT / Drew Amato.