How Chau Giang Found La Key To Online Poker Riches

From Vietnamese boat refugee to Bellagio Big Game regular, it is a life story that you would struggle to believe if you saw it in a movie – but it is the reality of the rise from rags to riches that marks Chau La Key U Giang out from the crowd…

By: Andrew Burnett

Giang left his native Vietnam as part of the mass exodus during the 70’s and found himself working poorly-paid jobs in the USA, but a gift for poker would allow him to rise above his early problems – and soon he would be a poker $millionaire.

We’ll get to his live career soon enough, but first a look at what the now 63-year old managed to achieve on Full Tilt Poker during the boom days of the noughties…

That graph, at the highest online stakes and against the world’s best internet nosebleed cash game stars, is up there with the prettiest you’ll see – and at the end of 2010 it even shows close to $4million profit.

Take a look at the following pair of hands – one NLHE and one PLO – and tell me a name you don’t recognise; this was elite poker, and Chau 'LaKeyU' Giang absolutely crushed it for several years…

Now, in those days it was perfectly normal for a young gun to appear online and massacre the finest players – think Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom for example - but Giang was already in his 50’s and with multiple WSOP bracelets and tournament victories under his belt!

Giang’s live tournament career cashes date back as far as 1991, with his first WSOP victory appearing in 1993, followed by bracelets in 1998 and 2004 – all at different games; Ace-to-Five Draw, Omaha8 and PLO.

In total he has cashed for $3,778,485, with his biggest payday - $773,448 – coming in 2005 at the World Poker Open where he finished second, ahead of Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen and Michael Mizrachi, but losing heads-up to the hitherto (and since) unheralded John Stolzmann.

Pretty impressive stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, but tournament poker was only a relatively small addition to his cash game prowess – an all-round mastery that saw him included in The Corporation team against Texan oil billionaire Andy Beal.

Most of the numbers in these online games and tournaments pale into relative insignificance, however, when the big money cash games run in Macau – and Giang has had his fair share of profitable moments in the Vegas of the east.

Here’s one hand, from 2010, that was shared from the often secretive Big Game held in the Poker King Club

♦ ♥ ♣ ♠

Blinds: HK$10k/$20k (US$1250/2500) - HK$10k (US$1250) Ante/person
Straddle: HK$40k (US$5k)

Local player: Ace, Jack raises to $100,000HKD
Chau Giang: Ace, Ace raises to $500,000HKD
Local player: calls (everyone else folds) heads up

Flop: J, J, 10

Chau Giang: Checks
Local player: bets HK$1.2 million
Chau Giang: Calls

Turn: Ace

Chau Giang: Checks
Local player: ALL IN
Chau Giang: Calls

River: 3

Chau Giang takes down HK$20 Million (US$2.6million) pot.

The 2009 book Deal Me In by Stephen John and Marvin Karlins, our Vietnamese-American hero explains that to him, “Poker is skill, it isn't luck. In the long run, day after day after day, you cannot get lucky all the time”.

A bankrolling-busting craps addiction also gets a mention, with Giang now being physically repulsed when he even sees a dice game – but when he sticks to poker, he is among the best who ever played the game!

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