2008 World Series: War of words

PokerStars player Phi Nguyen is today renewing an old acquaintance. Seated on the feature table, behind 1,500,000 at day's start, Nguyen has Mike Matusow to contend with, but knows that currently all the bragging rights between mild-mannered Californian and the self-styled "Mouth" are his.

At the final table of the $2,500 no limit hold 'em tournament at the 2003 World Series, Nguyen was the unknown face among such luminaries as TJ Cloutier, David Singer, Steve Zolotow, Kenna James and, yes, Matusow. And as all of those notables bit the dust, it came down to a final three featuring Nguyen and Matusow, as well as Jim Miller.

"This bracelet, I got it from him," said Nguyen today during a break in the main event action, pointing at the wrap of gold around his left wrist. Nguyen won through that day, earnt himself that chunk of gold (plus $222,800), and found his name on Matusow's lengthy hit-list. Today they're doing battle again.

Phi Nguyen

The early exchanges have ended with honours event, but Matusow with the chips. The Mouth button raised Nguyen's big blind and, recalling the hand, Nguyen said: "I knew he didn't have to have much. I had nines and I knew I was ahead. So I called him."

The Mouth had ace-queen but ended up turning a queen to stay alive in the tournament. Good read from Nguyen, but a costly one. The Mouth remains in the game.

However, should Matusow decided to give up on poker, Nguyen has an incentive for him. "I'll cut this bracelet in half and mail half to him," said Nguyen. "But only if he retires from poker." That, folks, is fighting talk.

But these are not punches above Nguyen's weight. Phi has made a habit of going deep at the World Series, and has 14 cashes, most recently 10th in a $1,000 event last month, including five final tables. He's already improved on his best main event showing, which was 164th in 2006, and is now in the final 160. It's enough to make any opponent retire.