Raleigh’s own Vanessa Truong made World Series of Poker history this year when she walked away the No Limit Hold‘em main event champion at the WSOP Circuit Harrah’s Cherokee tournament, which ran from April 21st to the 24th.
Truong, a Vietnam native who emigrated to the U.S. in 1989, works as a technician in a nail salon in her adopted town in North Carolina. A keen amateur poker player, the Cherokee main event with its $318, 646 top prize was her first recorded live cash event. While not quite the same tale as a total amateur winding up with a million-dollar win, Truong became the recipient of the largest payout to a female player so far in the tournament circuit’s history.
According to live updates and reports during the event, Truong had one of the shortest stacks of the 1,164 entrants into the tournament.
Speaking to WSOP reports after the event she confirmed: “The first day was terrible, because I have no cards…Then…through the second day it was like…up, down, win some, take some.” Despite not having favorable cards, she managed to collect 90,000 in chips at the end of day one, which was followed by a positive day two where she finished amongst the top five stacks with a little over two million in chips.
Not fazed by competing against some of the most experienced players on the WSOP Circuit, day three for Truong “was super roller coaster.” She fought her way to the final table where six out of the eight knock-out blows that were delivered came from her hand. She even took down and defeated the last four players at the table including her final opponent and regular tournament player Daniel Pearlman of Florida.
The final match between Truong and Pearlman was a lengthy one, lasting around three and a half hours and played out over 115 hands. Truong’s husband Rusty, whom she calls “my crazy Rusty, my cheerleader,” was on hand to offer motivational support during the nail-biting climax. When the final card hit the deck and Truong was awarded all the chips in play, Rusty received an emotional and joyful embrace from his delighted, main event champion wife.
Telling official reporters at the event that she “can’t explain it, kind of like in a dream” after her triumph, Truong became the second female WSOP Circuit event champion in the history of the tour, joining Yashou (Michelle) Chin who won the Horseshoe Council Bluffs’ main event in 2015. Truong’s record payout for a female player has also ranked her with some of the best female players on the tour: Loni Harwood, La Sengphet, and Nancy Birnbaum, each of whom have three gold circuit rings.
Truong’s momentous achievement has earned her a new ranking of 30th place on the Global Poker Index’s All Time Money List for the state of North Carolina. She is ranked amongst the esteemed company of fellow Raleigh residents the 2004 World Series of Poker Champion Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, seven-time WSOP cash winner Maciek “Mike” Gracz, and 2010 WSOP Champion Christopher Bell as well as WSOP veteran player Mike Sowers and former online tournament pro Anthony Spinella.