Scotty Nguyen - Great or a Jerk?
First, he imploded at the 2007 WSOP Main Event to finish in 11th place after making a crucial mistake against Phillip Hilm. He clearly went on tilt after the hand and ended up busting short of the final table.
The next year, Nguyen would go on to win the $50,000 WSOP H.O.R.S.E. World Championship, but not after some drunken tirades towards eventual second place finisher Michael DeMichelle. A lot of people lost respect for Scotty after his escapades at that final table and many have begun to question his overall greatness.
Scotty Nguyen during WSOP 2008
For many years, Scotty has been considered the prince of poker. He has used his charm and customary "baby" expression to entertain and befriend many players. He is very gracious to fans in the hallway and is always willing to sign autographs and take pictures with fans.
Also, there has been many times he has taken a bad beat at the table from clearly inferior players, but he takes it in stride and a smile.
The 2007 WSOP and 2008 H.O.R.S.E. events are unfortunate blips on Scotty's reputation, but they can be explained. Many players have succumbed to the pressure of the Main Event and have made asses of themselves. Look at Havad Khan in 2007.
He made such a spectacle of himself that rules were changed and unofficially dubbed with his name. Also, Scotty made a clear misstep that he probably felt cost him the Main Event. This type of pressue can be overwhelming, regardless of the caliber of player.
The 2008 H.O.R.S.E. event is a combination of two things, Michael DeMichelle and alcohol. It has been clearly publicized that DeMichelle was being an ass at the final table. Even Barry Greenstein did not appreciate his antics. DeMichelle was clearly behaving in a way that made him seem to be showing up the other players.
Most players kept an even keel, but Scotty had too much to drink and with many people that get drunk, their tongues let loose. Scotty let loose at the wrong time and the world got to see the adverse affects of alcohol.
What many people have not pointed out was his runner-up finish to Eli Elezra in the 2007 World Series of Poker. That final table was more like a party atmosphere between the two heads up, and Scotty was clearly plastered then.
The point is that Scotty does not always act like a fool when he is drunk. However, throw in negative pressure and alcohol and bad things can happen.
Scotty Nguyen is still a great player. He has won over $10 Million in tournaments lifetime. Scotty's 2009 to date would make a great year for lesser poker players. Scotty won the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. title at the LA Poker Classic in February and made 4 final tables at the WPT World Poker Classic. The last of those final tables was a 6th place finish in the recent $25,000 WPT World Championship.
Scotty Nguyen's reputation has clearly been hurt by his antics, however if he continues to perform, the public will develop amnesia. If you don't think this is true, then odds are that you have forgotten about the way Mike Matusow treated Greg Raymer at the 2004 WSOP. A few strong finishes and a bracelet later, everyone loves Mikey.
The same will likely hold true for Scotty. If he performs strong or even keeps his promise of winning $4 Million at the 2009 WSOP, people will probably go from "he is a jerk" to "we love you Scotty baby."