Marty Derbyshire

An Orange County ice cream shop owner took down the first event on the Season XVII World Poker Tour schedule at the Gardens Casino last week.

Thanks in part to the Gardens Casino adding $250,000 in cash and prizes to the $5,000 buy-in WPT Gardens Main Event prize pool, Simon Lam walked away with $550,055 in cash, a $15,000 seat in the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, and a brand new 2018 Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster, valued at $50,000.

The event drew a healthy 584 entries. Plus, with $200,000 in cash added by the Gardens Casino, the total prize pool reached $2,944,800. A total of 73 players made the money.

Lam is originally from Brooklyn. His previous best WPT run was a fourth-place finish in the September 2016 WPT Borgata Poker Open Main Event in Atlantic City for $250,970. Additionally, Lam finished runner-up in the 2017 Borgata Spring Championship for $219,341. He now boasts $1,953,027 in career lifetime earnings, despite only playing poker part time.

Men Nguyen steals the headlines

Lam grabbed the chip lead heading into the final table of six at the Gardens Casino this past Thursday. However, it was 63-year-old Vietnamese-American Men Nguyen who grabbed all the headlines.

The Bell Gardens resident spent the lead up to the final table drinking excessively and battling with tournament staff and the other players.

According to the WPT live updates, Nguyen was constantly announcing raise amounts that were deemed incorrect. He would not stack his chips in an organized manner, making them nearly impossible to count. Plus, he continually let the event’s shot clock expire when it was his turn to act. At one point, Nguyen shot an angle, dropping out calling chips and pulling them back after his opponent tabled his hand.

The floor staff went to the cameras on that hand and Nguyen was asked to put the chips back in. Ultimately, he was cut off from alcohol and given a one-orbit penalty.

When the play-down to the final six went late Wednesday night, Nguyen began napping at the table. He then left for close to half an hour before returning awake and revived.

Nguyen ended the night in a dead-heat for second in chips with Jake Schindler and Jared Griener.

The WPT Gardens final table

Griener ultimately bowed out sixth on Thursday, and Saya Ono finished fifth.

Craig Varnell took fourth. And despite taking the lead at one point, Nguyen finished third for $270,430.

Nguyen now has $10,934,911 in career tournament earnings. However, this cash marked his first six-figure score since June 2010. In that month, he won the 2010 WSOP $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship for $394,807. He followed that up finishing second in the 2010 WSOP $5,000 Six Handed event for $412,746.

Schindler finished runner up to Lam for $366,740.

Lam told WPT staff he was giving away the Mercedes-Benz SLC Roadster to his sister, who has coincidentally been shopping for a car. Live-stream commentators said Lam would be using some of his winnings to expand his ice cream business.

Next up for the WPT Main Tour is a stop at the Choctaw Casino & Resort in Oklahoma. It begins Aug. 3.

That said, it won’t be long before the tour is back in California. The WPT is hosting a WPT500 tournament at The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens beginning Aug. 18.

WPT500 Los Angeles will feature a $570 buy-in and an incredible 16 starting flights. Day 2 of the event will go off Sunday, Aug. 26. It will play down to a winner on Monday, Aug. 27.

Marty Derbyshire
Marty Derbyshire - Martin Derbyshire is a veteran of the world of poker and gambling, having worked as a reporter, producer, and editor in the industry for more than a decade. He has traveled the globe interviewing high-profile personalities and contributes to a number of publications, including,, and