A 7 had come on the river and poker pro Dave Colclough had just been check-raised for all of his chips. Considering how large the bet was that Dave had popped out on the end and how early in the tournament it was, you had to consider he had a very good hand. There were no straights on the board and no flushes available, and Dave stared and stared at his cards and his opponent for what seemed like ages before sighing, calling, and flipping over his pocket pair of fives to reveal a set, three of a kind. But it wasn’t good enough, because his opponent, staring from the No. 8 seat impassively with dark shades and straight black hair, flipped over her pocket sevens and raked a pot large enough to knock Colclough straight out of the Copenhagen EPT tournament only 10 minutes after it had begun. Score another one for “Bad Girl,” poker champion Xuyen Pham.
“I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I FOLDED STRAIGHTS AND FLUSHES RIGHT AWAY.”
I caught up with Xuyen (pronounced S-Wen) later that month by telephone, but even that was a tough call, as my first few attempts had found her on a heavy schedule of multiple Internet tournaments and live poker action. Xuyen likes to play, and with the way things have been going, who can blame her? Xuyen has been gathering tournament results in the UK for a few years now, but it was at the World Poker Championships in Dublin last year that she announced her power in a big way, tearing through a field of the top players in the world to pick up first place and a quarter of a million Euros. That’s not bad for someone who had never played poker before leaving her native Vietnam, not bad for a woman, and not bad for one of the top stars in poker. In that WPC televised final, Xuyen came from behind to topple Hendon Mobster Joe Beevers head up. “He had more than a million and I had 370,” she recalled modestly. “But in my first double up, I got A-10 against Joe’s pair of eights.” And Xuyen went from television anonymity to stardom. “The public, they think they know who the stars are. But, they don’t know how it’s going to turn out!” As for being one of the first female European poker players to reach these heights, Xuyen said, “The first thing is that I’m a woman and I haven’t been around too long. A lot of people in England, they respect Lucy [Rokach] but no one else; they don’t think a woman can be a good player.”
That’s not so if you hear the other pros talk. Not one person accused Xuyen of winning the WPC through a fluke, and the respect she has earned at the table plus her banter with the boys shows that she is well-regarded among the top players. Xuyen is now also a sponsored player. Along with her partner, English pro “Smokin’ Steve” Vladar, she plays the European Poker Tour and other tournaments for her sponsor, William Hill. Vladar had originally been sponsored to help the company develop its software, and he was to wear the sponsor’s shirt in the WPC event, a large buy-in affair that Bad Girl hadn’t even been sure she was going to play upon their arrival in Dublin. But after winning the last remaining seat in the last satellite for the event, Bad Girl got a one-off to wear the Hill brand. And after she dominated her way to victory, the company knew it was into something special. It signed Xuyen there and then.
Xuyen Pham’s rise to the top has been quick, but she’s put the hard work in. Arriving in England about five years ago, Pham found herself frequenting a casino where she gambled at Caribbean stud. “One day a friend said to me,” Pham recalled, “‘You see that game over there? [It was poker.] The players stay in the casino longer because they lose slower.’” Pham sat right down at the poker table without even knowing the rules. “I don’t know how many times I folded straights and flushes right away,” she laughed. “They told me it was all about pairs and three of a kind!” A kind dealer finally pointed out what a flush was, and Pham was off, playing poker in all her spare time.
Xuyen is humble about her ability, but she’s clearly got a special instinct for tournament poker. “I’ve always played tournaments, and I learned by standing behind people and watching them.” The first game she took to was seven-card stud, and after only three days, she made her first final table! Xuyen learned on the back of that initial run, playing comps “never bigger than £60” while she honed her game to the top level of poker. “I don’t know where it comes from,” Xuyen explained. “Maybe everything is natural. I play different players different ways; some players you slow-play and some you don’t. When you have a strong player, you have to wait for him; you have to wait for him and trap him.” Back at the EPT in Copenhagen, Xuyen has been rather quiet since her double up. She’s sitting on 26,000 in chips in two nice stacks, and is on the left of Hendon Mobster Ross Boatman. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d played together; the Situs Poker Online 2021 scene is getting bigger, but it’s still pretty tight. But now, at this first major event in Scandinavia, there are lots of Nordics thrown into the mix, and in fact, the guy on Bad Girl’s left is wearing a Danish consortium logo and a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood drawn tight. He’s hunkered over in a big pot, which he wins after raising with A-9 from early position, and Pham takes note. The Dane is riding high, raising every pot while Pham is whittled down to about 21,000. Xuyen grinds in, putting her chips in a single stack; she grinds in and bides her time, and then bites. In one fell swoop, she doubles through the Dane with beautifully played pocket aces that Xuyen never raises with; she only checks and calls to induce the bluff and get her man to stick his money in with king high.
Late that night, 45 players are left and Pham is moved to a table of murderers’ row; Marcel Luske, Padraig Parkinson, and Erik Sagstrom are all on her right. She raises the pot, three times the big blind, and an Englishman in the corner comes over the top all in. Xuyen takes her time, her long hair cascading down over her face and chips. She folds up shop. Xuyen ends up in the money in Copenhagen, taking 16th place and 35,000 Danish kroner. That’s a good result, but she’s aiming for the top. And Xuyen “Bad Girl” Pham has the talent and the desire to surely make it happen.