By Mike Paulle

is to give up. Our winner today refused to give up when most others would have. And with that refusal, he broke a six-year bracelet drought .


This event had 96 entrants with a $446,400 prize pool. The final table
started with a $500 ante, a $1,000 low card, playing for 3k-6k, with 42:15 left.

There were $480,000 in chips in play. Four of the final eight already had
Stud bracelets. One of those four had won a WSOP Stud event twice. Here's how the players started off:


1 Mel Judah $67,000
2 Paul Testud $59,000
3 Helmut Koch $15,000
4 Rob Hollink $63,000
5 Men 'The Master' Nguyen $37,000
6 Artie Cobb $92,500
7 Phil Ivey $129,500
8 Max Stern $17,000


Trigonometry is solving for two unknowns. The only two unknowns at this table were Helmut Koch and Rob Hollink. The other six were known…with a bullet. And the answer to the question of who was to leave first was answered by Helmut Koch, the unknown who began with the lowest stack at $15k.

For Koch, starting with only 2 1/2 big bets against this murderer's row was an invitation to the rail. Helmut bravely lasted 30 minutes of the first
level, however, by going all-in and catching. Koch wrapped the nut straight around his door card King on the third hand of this final table. Mel Judah had pocket nines and could only watch as the dealer double gut shot Koch the winner. A few minutes later, Helmut made his only move of the day when his Jacks up won against fellow unknown Rob Hollink. Meanwhile, the chip leader Ivey was pulling in a $50k pot with pocket Aces and Aces up. Was this going to be another walkover by the young titan?

Phil Ivey literally killed a WSOP Stud table last year without hardly showing a hand. Ivey bet. Others called, Ivey kept betting until all the others
folded. Would today be the same? Could the newest superstar of poker dominate this table as he had last year's.

But first it was left to Rob Hollink to change the equation from Trigonometry to Algebra. Rob's three Kings took out the short-stacked all-in of Helmut Koch in 8th. Now there was only one unknown to solve for.


This was Paul Testud's second final table this year, and today he was second out. Tough, for the only guy at the table with the word 'stud' in his name. Paul went all-in with Kings up when Men Nguyen slow played his made flush on 5th street.

Nguyen wasn't flush with chips at the time and when an open pair of 5's
appeared on Testud's board, the Master got palpitations. Nguyen, who often refers to himself in the third person, briefly thought that the Master was capable of making a mistake in giving Paul a free card. The flush held up, though, and this all-star field narrowed to six. With only one hour gone, two had already left. The staff started to anticipate a half day. WRONG!


It was another hour before another pivotal hand would appear.
And that hand was a classic, a hand that had every kind of drama that Stud can offer. Men Nguyen had dominated the small and medium pots during that hour and had taken over the chip lead from a strangely subdued Phil Ivey.

This was a final-table Phil Ivey that no one had ever seen before…checking, calling, folding??? Who was his guy in Phil Ivey's body? He must have been getting some really awful cards to be acting like a human being, rather than the poker superhero the players have grown to fear.

Anyway, to THE HAND. Every time the betting came to Rob Hollink he raised. Next to him was the Master who would three bet every time. After Hollink showed two open Kings and was STILL three bet, Rob might have figured out that Nguyen was rolled up with his door card Jack. But by then it was too late for Hollink. There was too much money in the pot to fold. Reluctantly being pulled along for the ride was Max Stern with a crummy flush draw. By 6th street Stern was all-in. Hollink asked and was assured that he would get the higher position over Stern if Hollink called all-in with his last few chips and they both lost.

In those chips went into the pot. Down and dirty for the three as all hands were turned over.

Of course, Nguyen had trip Jacks rolled up but he still hadn't improved.
Hollink had his Kings up, but with a straight draw as well. The good Dr.
Stern still had his crummy four card flush draw and hopes for a miracle.
Stern needed both a heart for himself and for neither Hollink or Nguyen to

Suddenly no one wanted to show their hands first. The dealer chose Hollick to show because he had the two Kings as the best board. Rob squeezed his down card and triumphantly turned over an 8 for a straight. Now it was Men Nguyen's turn as next in line.

"if he goes out ('as he should have,' Men might have said but didn't), I make quad Jacks on 6th street." Instead, the Master pulled a brick to his trip Jacks and couldn't beat Hollink's straight.

Now it's up to Max Stern to squeeze the life out of his last card as the
crown leaned forward in slow anticipation. This is tournament poker at it's
best for the fans.

When Max kissed his card, we knew it was a heart. Sure enough, Max Stern went from doghouse to penthouse on that card by winning a $110,000 pot and he now neared the chip lead. Meanwhile, the heart that Stern got was one that was pulled right out of the chest of Rob Hollink.

A terribly disappointed Hollink tossed in the few case chips he'd won on THE HAND by beating Nguyen in the miniscule sidepot. Rob felt well…robbed and the Dutchman had to fly to the door when he couldn't beat Nguyen's Ace high to finish 6th.


Baby 'Doc' Duvalier was a despot and the son of a despot. Au contraire,
retired baby doctor Max Stern and his wife, Mrs. Baby Doc, are two of the
nicest, most well-liked people in poker. The good doctor can get a little
testy at the table at times, however, when things are going badly. Here he is, a recognized Stud expert, and the only player left of the five without a Stud bracelet.

How fitting it would be to have the bracelet quartet be the sole survivors? Fitting.

Forty minutes into the $6k-12k level, Dr. Stern ruefully blasted his own luck in yet another Stud tournament as Phil Ivey returned to his previous role as superhero.

"I wouldn't have thought it would be anything else," Max said sternly upon
his departure. Heads up all-in against Ivey, Phil had asked for a Queen on
the river to give him the nut straight and knock the doc and his pair out in
5th. Sure enough the Queen comes. This guy is scary.


Of all the records that are kept on the Series, it's not known whether the
last four players at a final table had all won the event previously. Probably not, but we'll never know.

Anyway, with only 13 minutes left of the 90 in the $6-12k level, here they
were--the Stud Jewelry Exchange.

Mel Judah, whose two bracelets were both in 7-Card Stud, was the chip leader with $165,000. Men Nguyen had $155,000. Phil Ivey with $110k and the supreme Stud specialist, Artie Cobb with only $50, 000 left.

Known for wearing funny hats, Artie Cobb wore a nifty 'Alice In Wonderland' number today with a white rabbit that jumped out of a hole in the top. What wasn't funny for Artie was his cards, he rarely could call the bring in all day.

In evident frustration, Cobb sensed a robbery and chided Mel Judah for
dragging yet another pot with the 'best hand.'

"You don't leave home without the best hand, do you?"

The term great is overused in poker as it is elsewhere. But there can be no denying that Artie Cobb is a great Stud player. The tournament director, Matt Savage, read aloud to the audience that Artie's first cash at the WSOP was in Stud in 1976. He finished second and picked up the staggering total of $4,000. To show how much the WSOP has grown, today's second place paid over $100,000.

At this point Artie Cobb would have settled for second, but 4th was his fate. Cobb had the best had with 8's and 3's on 5th street, but he was all-in and couldn't stop Phil Ivey from drawing out on him. The magical Ivey had two 6's and caught a third 6 on 6th to wipe out one Stud bracelet holder.


It was obvious to this reporter that Mel Judah had picked up a tell on Phil
Ivey. "It can't be revealed," Mel would say later. No one had ever dominated Phil since his spectacular rise a few years ago. Today, for a couple of hours, Mel Judah dominated Phil Ivey.

The baby-faced assassin, Ivey is used to running over tables of professionals like they are children.

Ivey likes to raise. That is known. He likes to bet out, also well-known. But
unlike us mere mortals, Phil rarely gets any playback. It's as if his winning
is pre-ordained. Mel Judah gave Ivey playback, plenty of it, in the form of
check raises. Phil folded every time he was check raised by Mel Judah. Brave man? Fool? Or a tell? Judah's not saying.

Another thing Phil Ivey likes to do is chase down better hands. How he can do what other's can't, catch up and pass better hands time after time, is the subject of many conversations among the pro poker players.

On his last hand of the day the presumed winner of this event, as the
starting chip leader, went out third.

Again Phil chased. He had split 4's, Mel Judah had split Kings. Of course,
Ivey thought he had the best hand.. Especially when an open pair of Jacks
came. Another typical Ivey monster hand. But all-in now, Phil Ivey watched someone else draw out on him for a change. Mel's Kings were joined by a pair of Queens and we were heads up. $268k for Judah, $212k for Nguyen. They took the dinner break rather than play on.


When they returned from dinner, a deal had been struck. The players were coy about giving exact figures, but Judah's 5-4 chip lead wouldn't be worth very much with only $72,000 difference between first and second at stake. $10,000 at most. They said they were playing for $24,240 and the bracelet.

Who knew at the time that they were deadly serious about the bracelet. "You can take my money, just give me the bracelet." Men was talking about the chance at the $24k, not the $100k plus he'd already put in his pocket.


There has been much discussion about all the heavyweights who have won this year. How about Men Nguyen? This was his third heads up THIS YEAR. He'd lost both previously, each to WSOP millionaires, Layne Flack and Erik Seidel. By the way, he also had a fourth place finish.

Now here he was heads up AGAIN and with another WSOP millionaire, Mel Judah. The onslaught of poker power never ceases. The saying 'you have to beat the best, to be the best' has never been truer.


This started out so ugly for Men the Master, it looked like the match would be over in 10 minutes.

First Men went to the river on a four flush and missed. Then he made 5's and 3's only to pay off Judah's Kings and 8's. Suddenly, Nguyen only has $80k to Judah's $360. It got slightly better for Men, at times, and even worse at others. Several times Men was on the verge of defeat only to survive one again. You'd have thought they were playing for a million, when in fact to these guys they were playing for something more than money.

It had been six long years for both of these proud players between WSOP wins, and that bracelet meant everything to them now.


Nguyen was slamming Corona's now. How such a small man can drink so much beer without constant potty breaks amazes me.

But after a hour of tough, grinding poker, the Master got the break he
needed. Benny Binion walked in. Whether Benny is really Men's good luck charm isn't important, Nguyen thinks he is and plays more aggressively in

It was amazing, Benny would be there and Men would win. Benny would leave and Men would lose. When Men offered Benny $1,000 an hour to stay seated next to him, Scotty Nguyen confirmed that the two had made that deal before.

On the other side of the table, Mel Judah is only half joking about how much he would like Benny to leave.


Now we are over two hours into what looked like a heads up that would take a few minutes.

Men 'the Master' Nguyen was so close to losing a dozen times. "If I'd made any of my straights…," Mel started. "I'd be gone," Men finished.

After another half hour, wherein Nguyen slowly gained chip dominance, Judah finally said, "You're the toughest I've played." Ever self-effacing, Nguyen responded immediately. "Why do you think I'm called the Master?"


Mel Judah knew his chance to break his six-year bracelet drought was slipping away. Instead, Men Nguyen would break his own six-year winning drought.

The crushing hand for Judah came on an lively battle until 7th street when neither could bet. "Two pair," Mel said. Men turned over A's and 6's. Judah mucked his hand and Nguyen exhaled for the first time all day.

Men Nguyen had come back from a couple 1-10 chip advantages. Mel Judah didn't. In two hands it was over.

When Mel made a move to go all-in, Men was joyous to oblige. "I have a big hand," Nguyen said. And he did for heads up. Men had a pair of 7's. Mel had three diamonds. Judah never improved and a delirious Men Nguyen starting hugging everyone. I've never seen him so happy and even more so, relieved.


Most of us will never know the burden that Men Nguyen carries. He is the
godfather of the Vietnamese poker players. He has to win to keep his place. When Scotty Nguyen won the World Championship a few years ago, life got even tougher for Men.

But with this win, he's 'The Master' again. All's right with his world.

And by refusing to give up when the lose looked inevitable, Men Nguyen has showed us all how to master our world as well. The only sure way to lose is to give up. Don't do it.

Final Official Results

1. Men 'The Master' Nguyen Bell Gardens CA $178,560
2. Mel Judah London, UK $102,680
3. Phil Ivey Atlantic City NJ $53,560
4. Artie Cobb Las Vegas NV $31,240
5. Max Stern Las Vegas NV $26,780
6. Rob Hollink Groningen, Holland $22,320
7. Paul Testud Ermont, France $17,860
8. Helmut Koch Detroit MI $13,400


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