EPT Baden: Thangs for the memories
Thang Duc Nguyen
by Simon Young
After four days filled with poker's joy, drama, disappointment, disbelief and the ridiculous, a gaggle of 331 players whittled down slowly but surely to just one. The lucky last man standing was Thang Duc Nguyen, a German chef who owns his own restaurant in Hamburg.
He had sailed along peacefully, almost unnoticed throughout, before making the final day. Even then, when he got onto the final table of eight, he kept quiet, staying steady in chips while those around him embarked on a rollercoaster ride, swinging high, then low, and then out through the exit.
The more astute observers identified Nguyen early as the likely winner. And they were proved right. He collected €487,397 to go with a shiny trophy presented by the excellent staff here at the Casino Baden in Austria.
Ben Johnson, the runner up, from Brooklyn, New York, won €251,560 and many plaudits for his clever game. He is a pro player online at, like Nguyen, PokerStars. He was only here because his friend had won a seat in a cash satellite at the last minute, and he decided to come and keep him company.
The final table was packed with action, with first Italian Dario Minieri, then Belgian Daniel Dodet - both PokerStars players - taking the chip lead. Here is how the action unfolded:
8th Peter Eirchhardt, Sweden, €47,167:
Having finished Day 2 as chip leader, Eirchhardt was fancied to take this all the way. But a few misunderstandings left him the short-stack as they all sat down at the televised final table. After sticking around for a while, he decided to make a stand with his K-Q spades. He faced a call from Dario Minieri with 8-8 and the flop of A-8-10 sealed the Swede's fate. Okay, he had a gutshot straight draw, and the turn of 5 spades also gave him a flush draw, but you sensed he was destined to walk, and the river of 4 hearts confirmed it.
7th Jonas Molander, Sweden, €62,890:
Another Swede, PokerStars cash qualifier Molander was next to pick up his coat. He cashed in London last month, and is no stranger to the EPT circuit, but was unable to secure his first EPT title to go with the Helsinki Freezout he won last December. The problem was he picked a bad time to push from the button with Q-8 hearts for his 155,000 chips. Ben Johnson was waiting in the big blind and called with A-J. The board of K-K-3-5-10 gave Jonas no support.
6th Rodion Cherednichenko, Russia, €78,612:
Cherednichenko was the massive chip leader after Day 1A, having more than twice as many as his nearest rival. Some thought he would blow it, but instead he showed great poise in making it this far. It all came to an end, though, when he got into a pot with Daniel Dodet. The flop was 10-3-8 all hearts. Dodet moved all in with 9-9, one of them a heart. Cherednichenko called with 10-J for top pair, but the Q of hearts on the river broke his heart.
5th Sasa Biorac, Germany, €94,355:
He looked like he would struggle early on the final table, but Biorac, who runs an import business, kept going while others failed. Well, until this hand... Dario Minieri raised under the gun with 6-6, it was folded around to Sasa who thought this was the time to move all in with his A-2. He was short on chips and maybe he could catch Minieri out. Unfortunately for him, the flop came 6-3-8 giving the Italian the set.
4th Daniel Dodet, Belgium, €110,057:
After flirting with the chip lead on the final table, Dodet got bogged down in several raise-re-reraise-fold battles, and lost a couple of key pots. Eventually he got involved in a huge pot with Thang Duc Nguyen, was left crippled and departed on the next hand. They tussled pre-flop and settled on seeing it - 6-5-4 with two hearts. Dodet had the A-2 hearts for the nut flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. But Nguyen had already made his straight with 7-8. The turn and river brought no salvation, and Dodet was left with just 4,000 chips. Next hand he threw them in with A-9 but unluckily met Ben Johnson holding A-K. He was off.
3rd Dario Minieri, Italy, €125,780:
This young Italian played a hyper aggressive game - the sort that has made him so successful online at PokerStars - and although it gave him the chip lead at times, it also cost him his tournament. After getting up to over one million chips, he found himself down to the low hundreds of thousands and pushed all in with A-J. Sadly, he came up against Thang Duc Nguyen holding A-Q. The board of A-8-5-9-2 failed to bring the magical jack.
2nd Ben Johnson, U.S.A, €251,560:
Johnson, a pro player who enjoys live success as well as a prolific cash run on PokerStars, was only here because his pal had qualified at the last minute and he came to keep him company. It was worth the effort. Johnson had the chip lead for much of the final table and ended heads up against Thang Duc Nguyen with half as many chips. They jostled for a while, but there was only going to be one winner. And it wasn't Johnson. The end came when he re-raised Nguyen all-in when holding only K-3. The German had 4-4, and although a 3 came on the flop to offer some hope, a 4 came on the turn to make Nguyen's set. Johnson could still make a backdoor flush, but the river fell harmless.
So Nguyen, a likeable man, won the EPT here at the Casino Baden. The event was managed superbly, and the casino itself is now recognised as one of the best places to come and play.
We've had many moments of high drama and sensational poker. So, in the words of that famous Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back."