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SUICIDE - Vegas Part I

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  • SUICIDE - Vegas Part I


    PocketRocket, Lou Krieger and I have just come back from the WPT finals at the Bellagio (more on that later) to catch the end of Day 1 of the WSOP $1500 Stud event. At 12:30pm Scotty Nguyen is the chip leader with 15 to go. By 2:00am, Scotty is out, failing to make the final table. In 1½ hours, we have witnessed one of poker’s most important lessons – sometimes you are your own bad beat.

    Scotty is Wired for Sound:
    Scotty has a decisive chip lead. Not only is Scotty’s stack up, he is cranked up. He is grandstanding, he is taunting the other players, he is running the table, and he is starting to raise every hand. Initially Scotty’s antics freeze the table, and the small stacks start to sweat it out. Scotty senses this and decides to turn up the heat.

    Scotty raises Juanda off a hand – and then mocks him showing down a K95. The usually cool Juanda is miffed. Three hands later Juanda is still stewing saying he can’t believe Scotty did that to him. It appears that Juanda has taken this as a personal affront. Juanda busts out soon after in the 12th spot.

    Scotty Miscalculates:
    Scotty announces that he will raise hands without looking at his hole cards – and starts to do just that. But this antic is clearly mistimed. Scotty’s exposed bluff may have tilted Juanda – but it, and his blatant blind raising, has had the opposite effect on his tablemates. Still three away from the final table, the short stacks are waiting for any opportunity. As eager as kids waiting for a gift on Xmas morning, the short stacks now see Scotty as their long awaited Santa Claus. But Scotty ignores this, and fails to switch gears.

    Scotty defiantly pushes a marginal hand to the losing end of a showdown. Sensing that Scotty is unraveling, his wife actually pleads with him from the rail to stop. Instead, he does it again. In two quick hands, Scotty’s decisive lead has vanished.

    The Critical Moment:
    Scotty still has a healthy chip position and goes quiet for a few hands. There is silent relief from the crowd, as we believe that Scotty is effectively regrouping. But we are wrong. Scotty is just resting before hurling himself over the edge.

    The banter begins. But it is different – it is scary – it is a death wish. He says he no longer is interested in playing the next day. It’s too much work, he’s tired. He wants to play the Omaha Hi/Lo tomorrow. He offers the dealer $200 if she can bust him in her session. He repeats the offer two more times. His wife is shaken in the stands – she has seen this play out before – she knows what is to come. Scotty commits suicide hand after hand – until he is out. He pays the dealer $200.

    Why Do Players Commit Poker Suicide?

    The poker death wish is not uncommon. If you have been immune to it, be thankful. But why do good players self-destruct? I’m not a psychologist – I have no real answer. But as an observer of the game, there are a few scenarios I’ve seen play out:

    Crime and Punishment:
    You make a bad play in a tournament. You are embarrassed. Even if it is not a fatal error, you realize that your game is vulnerable. Subconsciously you believe that you do not deserve to win. This becomes your self-fulfilling prophecy. You committed a crime – and now you will punish yourself.

    My Way or the Highway:
    Some players enjoy a certain style of play. Even though they are capable of switching gears – playing a different style of game holds no interest for them. In the end it is the style of play they enjoy – and not necessarily the game. Have you seen people in rings games play from the ragbag time and time again? The one out of twenty times they catch you is what they live for. They don’t care how much they’re down at the end of a session – that’s not why they are there.

    Poker God/Poker Martyr:
    Poker is an ego game. It takes a big one to play – but big egos must be fed. The more narcissistic live for any recognition - and play for the extremes. They want to be the bride at every wedding – but they will also strive to be the corpse at every funeral. If they sense they are about to end up as a bride’s maid – they pull out the gun.

    Breaking a Leg for the Crutch:
    There are many players that are reformed or reforming substance abusers. Playing straight is a tough adjustment. Some players will actually sabotage their game as justification to return to their comfort zone. “I tried it straight – but it just didn’t work for me.”

    In our study of the game, we obsess about card strategy and the behavior of other players. But sometimes the worst enemy at your table is you. You can worry about card selection and position all you want – but if you're sitting at the table with your gun loaded ready for a dramatic exit – you have more things to worry about than how much to raise in early position with pocket jacks.

    Scotty Nguyen is a brilliant player with an incredible track record. I don’t know what particular demons Scotty was fighting that night. But I hope with all my heart, he finds a way to defeat them.

  • #2
    Fascinating report Doe - please keep 'em coming.

    Wish I was there - roll on the Spring Big One III 8)




    • #3
      Great, great report and analysis. (Maybe you SHOULD be a psychologist, you make more sense than most I've read).
      I've seen Scotty "playing" his game. He loves to taunt, but, I've never seen him go into the self destructive mode you witnessed. I fear your summation might be correct...perhaps he is fighting some demons within. I remember his play at a final table in a limit HE event at the 2002 WPO. Four players left. He finds himself in a hand with a very young, (21yr old) first time tournament player. Very nice kid, scared to death, but playing a solid aggressive game. Scotty has deemed to nickname this kid "youngblood", and addresses him as such throughout the play. On the hand I remember most, Scotty lead the betting, heads up, with Youngblood. They see the flop and Scotty makes a bet large enough to put hisself all in on the hand. Youngblood is thinking, and thinking. Scotty begins to taunt him and begs him to call. Youngblood calls for time. Scotty continues to drink his beer, taunt the kid, and begs to be called. Youngblood finally makes the call. And as you may have guessed, beats Scotty taking hm out of the tournament. When I spoke to Youngblood later (I was sweating the kid hoping he would win the event) he tells me he was prepared to lay down his hand, but Scotties taunting led him to believe that he had him beat, and of course, he was correct.
      Not sure why Scotty choses his style...but I don't believe it's serving him well.



      • #4
        Las Vegas part 1

        Great report Oil Doe what a writter you are, hope the cards are being kind to you and your grope. Never thought a world champion like Scotty N could and did go on super tilt...daisy777


        • #5
          Fantastic stuff Doe. I'm hooked. This is better than ESPN any day.



          • #6

            I was there this night when all this happened and Scotty busted out the tournament. I had no idea any of this stuff happened. All I heard was that Scotty was out, and I was amazed because when I checked a few minutes prior he had tons of chips. Great Report Oildoe and it was nice meeting you at the orleans! Keep up the reports!


            • #7
              Great report Oil doe! Keep them up. And good luck to you out there!


              • #8
                maybe he sold 200% of himself and could not afford to make the money?" I've heard some pros do that.


                • #9
                  poker suicide

                  this was the best piece of writing i have read in the forum. Poker god/poker martyr, where do u get this tremendous insight? the bride at every wedding corpse at every funeral, i especially liked that. the ego needs to be fed truer words were never spoken. Sometimes i think poker and ego need to be divorced but i can seldom do it. the hunger is insatiable.
                  lol. that really was brilliant. Intelligence in my opinion takes many forms. In the area of insight u r a genius oil doe.


                  • #10
                    more shrinkage

                    Have you ever been sitting in a ring game and a consistent big winner makes one or two bad plays and then picks up their chips and leaves? I have seen this often and think it is the result of playing when you are no longer focused, no longer paying attention, when you have lost your "A" game. I think it is the sign of a seasoned player that they get up and leave the table.

                    Now in a tournament this can be a disaster, sure you can get up and take a break but who actually has the nerve to walk away from the table in the 7th or 8th hour of a tournament? Now not everyone is as talkative about an impeding meltdown as Scotty but I think this happens a lot more than we may notice.

                    In several of the tournaments I have monied in, I have noticed that around the time we hit money X2 (54 if they pay 27, 36 if they pay 18 etc.). Right around this time there is a rush of players going all-in and out. I have heard arguments that players are making a "rush" at the money, or trying to double up just once to make the money. I think it may also be something like Oil Doe said about not being worthy. You are close to being paid and hundreds of players (better players?) and pros (actual TV professional poker players) have busted out. So up comes the question: "What am I doing here?"

                    My point (should I decide to have one) is that not eveyone will make the grand announcement like Scotty but this happens a lot more, deep in a tournament, than most of us realize.


                    First, watch out that you don't do it. You need a strategy when you lose focus or get tired or drift. Name it what you will, you must prepare for it.

                    Second, take advantage of other players self-destructing, those chips have to go somewhere.

                    Third, a crashing player can make a very inviting target; inviting enough to lower your own standards of play. Be careful that a steaming player does not create a swirlpool and suck you down with them.


                    • #11
                      Hi Amy: Agreat post and as others have said before me, great insight.

                      I watched Scotty and Lear play heads up in Tunica (no tournament) his antics, loud mouth, taunting, beer and tequila drinking were exactly as you described above if not worse.
                      I saw him lose over $75.000 plus in just about 20 min. Gettin louder & louder and hate to say it but also getting more obnoxious.

                      The only point I'm getting to is I think this is his normal
                      behavior regardless of what he's playing.

                      Joybell (Gioia)


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by joybell
                        The only point I'm getting to is I think this is his normal
                        behavior regardless of what he's playing.
                        If this is Scotty's normal behaviour, his is a sorry lot indeed.

                        Corporate sponsorship for poker will be that much more difficult to attract with frequent episodes of this type, even though pro sports in general, and the networks broadcasting them in particular, do little or nothing to discourage the mindless rubbish spewed out with ever greater frequency.

                        It was a great surprise to see John Juanda lose his sangfroid; he's as cool a customer as I've ever sat down with at a poker table.



                        • #13
                          Thx y'all. It turns out that aspiring writers also like their egos fed

                          Joybell (who is a fascinating woman btw - for all those who missed meeting her in Tunica it was your loss) had told me about scotty's ring game she witnessed at the WPO - and the WSOP drama came flooding back to me.

                          The day after the WSOP stud event, I was fortunate to catch a cup of coffee with a pro that frequently plays with Scotty (can't name names here). I recounted the tail of the stud event. He thought that he had seen a change in Scotty over the last couple of years. He said (and I have no other info to verify this) that Scotty had successfully kicked the coke habit about 2 years ago - but that the adjustment was very hard for him to cope with - and although he was trying to make up for it with the booze - that seemed to be making it worse. Again maybe rumor, maybe speculation - just another footnote to that strange night in Vegas.



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