2007 World Series: Big han's for BABYHAN

"You're playing like a champion, Tuan!"

Those words floated down to the ESPN stage, dainty as the lady who delivered them. In fact, at the moment, Tuan Lam was playing with even more in his heart. He was playing like he already had his eye on the championship bracelet.

Lam took second place in the six-handed no-limit hold'em event in the 2005 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker for $55,000. Although he's played a few $10,000 live events, he's never had a huge cash. Now, he's on the verge of the world's biggest cash of the year and the second biggest prize in poker history.

Players just took their dinner break and I'm skipping mine to deliver the news that Lam now holds the chip lead in the 2007 World Series. [Note: Official chip counts just came in and show Lam is actually in second place after Lee Childs won a monster hand against John Armbrust at the end of the last level.]

His chips came largely at the expense of PokerStars' John Armbrust. It was an unraised pot with Lam and Armbust in the blinds. The button limped in, So did Lam from the small blind, and Armbrust checked his option. The flop came down Kd6s8s. Lam led at the pot for 350,000, Armbrust called, and so did the button. The crowd "oooooh"ed when the turn brought the king of spades. This time, Lam checked, and Armbrust came at the pot for 1.5 million. The button folded, but Lam called. The crowd "ahhhhhh"ed when the As fell on the river. Lam checked again and Armbrust didn't think for long before announcing, "The bet is three million." Lam called and it was immediately clear Armbrust was beat. Lam flipped up Js9s for the flush.

That pot, bigger than ten million, moved Lam immediately to the chip lead.

Ambrust (left) and Lam prepare to go to battle

Lam, known as BABYHAN on PokerStars, can be found playing some pretty big cash games online. That's just about all he does to make money. At 40 years old, his face looks a lot younger. Hailing from Canada, it's been pretty common to see Lam break his poker face and crack a smile at his friends on the rail. During slow periods in the game, he walks over to them and speaks in rapid-fire Vietnamese. I have no idea what he's saying, but it's pretty clear that he's happy.

A one-time dealer, Lam now spends his life playing online poker. Whatever he's learned there seems to be serving him well here today. At the dinner break, he has more than 15 million chips. Only 17 players remain in the event and Lam is looking good to make the final table with ease.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in