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McEvoy, Nguyen enshrined in Poker Hall of Fame4 November 2013
But when the two were inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame Sunday, they had one major characteristic in common -- emotion. Both players choked up as they spoke of how important joining the greats of the game was to them. McEvoy had trouble getting words out. Nguyen teared up. And the audience lapped up stories about their past.
The 68-year-old McEvoy, who won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1983, didn't try to hide the emotions coursing through him.
"I was very emotional the day I received the news I'd been elected to the Poker Hall of Fame. My wife Yolanda started to cry," said the four-time WSOP bracelet winner at the induction ceremony at the Wine Cellar in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
"I was emotional when I heard the news and I'm emotional now," McEvoy added. "This is something I'll treasure the rest of my life."
"Next to winning the Main Event last century, this honor means the most to me," McEvoy said. "I used to say I'd rather be in the hall of fame than win another bracelet. And that's the truth."
McEvoy, who won his bracelets playing no-limit Hold'em, limit Hold'em, Razz and limit Omaha, has nearly $3 million in tournament earnings. He's also a noted a poker "thinker." He's authored more than a dozen poker strategy books and countless poker columns. Not bad for an accountant from Grand Rapids, Mich., who decided to move to Las Vegas in the late '70s to pursue a career in poker. But McEvoy's most lasting impact on the game may be felt in the lungs of poker players.
McEvoy was the leader of the movement to make poker rooms smoke free. For decades, poker rooms -- like the casinos they were attached too -- were filled with cigarette and cigar smoke. But thanks to McEvoy, poker rooms -- unlike the casinos they sit in -- have gone smoke free.
T.J. Cloutier, who introduced McEvoy, credited McEvoy with helping save his life by eliminating smoking in poker rooms.
"I use to smoke four and a half packs a day when I was playing tournaments, Salem 100s," said Cloutier, who quit smoking in 2000, in large part because he couldn't smoke at the poker table anymore. "Hell, I used to have one lit in the ash tray, one behind my ear and smoking one."
Nguyen took a markedly different path to the Poker Hall of Fame than McEvoy. The 51-year-old "Prince of Poker" was born in Vietnam and came to the U.S. in the mid-'70s as a 14-year-old refugee from the war-torn country.
Nguyen started in poker as a dealer. But he quickly discovered that his talents were on the other side of the table. He played in his first cash game in 1991, and has amassed $11.7 million in tournament earnings. He won the WSOP Main Event in 1998, has reached 19 WSOP final tables, 8 WPT final tables and has won five WSOP bracelets. He's also the only player to have won the Main Event and the $50,000 WSOP Poker Players Championship. (At the time of his win, the tournament was a $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event.)
He's also known for dropping "baby" into every sentence and drinking Michelob beer. When Nguyen beat Kevin McBride to win the WSOP Main Event, he knew he had the win in the bag and wasn't shy about letting McBride know it.
"You call and it’s gonna be all over baby!" Nguyen predicted. And he was right.
And in his Hall of Fame induction speech, he dropped a few more babies -- and some tears.
"It's hard enough to understand me," Nguyen said with a laugh. "Tonight, don't listen to me. Just give me you heart baby. Because that's where I come from."
"You know baby, for the man to succeed, you have to have a good woman behind you," Nguyen said with tears starting to form. "And I do with Julie," he said, pointing to his wife. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
"Money comes and goes. People come and go," Ngyuen added. "But this will stay. The Hall of Fame will be here hundreds of years from now."
Eventually, Nguyen ended his speech the way only the Prince of Poker can.
"This is it baby. All my English is gone. Thank you so much."
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