One man is now $80,000 richer and sporting a gold World Series of Poker bracelet after signing up for a poker event he didn’t even know how to play but dominated anyways.
Christian Pham, a 40-year-old professional poker player, moved from Vietnam to Minnesota over 15 years ago and began delivering newspapers for money. He had a mild interest in poker and played his first cash game in 2008, but he didn’t see the game as something to make a living off of, so he set the hobby aside.
Then in 2012, he started playing again, but this time his extreme luck (and skill) changed his mind about the game.
Last Thursday, Pham sought to enter the World Series of Poker, the ultimate tournament for poker players that takes place in the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The tournament battles involve tens of thousands of players over 68 events and lasts for almost two months.
Pham entered an event he thought was no-limit Texas hold’em with a buy-in of $1,500, but when the game began, Pham became confused when he was dealt five cards rather than the two normally received in Texas hold’em.
Turns out, Pham had signed up for no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball, a game he knew nothing about. Shawn Harris, the dealer at Pham’s table, explained to Daily Mail:
“It’s a totally different game. Different mindset. Different strategies.”
The goal in this form of poker is to have the lowest hand, which means no straights or flushes. If a player receives a two-pair, then ideally they would want that pair to be twos. Players are also allowed to draw cards.
Upon realizing he entered the wrong game, Pham began to watch other players and asked them for help. He essentially learned the game on the fly. He even became confused when he first had a two, three, four, five and seven in one winning hand — the most desired combination of cards to have in that game.
During the nights between the event days, Pham studied up on the game. His knowledge of how much and when to bet in standard poker eventually helped him dominate the next day. Chris Mecklin, another player who sat next to Pham, explained:
“At first you suspect an act, but if it was, it was very good. Imagine my surprise when I see the photo of the chip leader!”
Pham ended up winning the event, taking home a total of $81,314 and a coveted WSOP gold bracelet. Tournament organizers also played the Vietnamese national anthem as he stood on stage.
Pham is no noob to poker — even though he began playing seriously in 2012, in 2014 he won a $200 buy-in satellite tournament held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, taking home a total of $214,332.
“After that, I thought this game might be very good to me,” he said. It seems that all forms of poker are smiling at Pham right now.