“The Men of Nguyen” by Vincent Spinelli and Roger Duffy is a gripping story about the rise and fall of two Asian-American athletes competing in the World Poker Tour. It was about as good as poker stories get. The book has its share of memorable scenes, not to mention fantastic descriptions of what poker is all about, but the real highlights come from telling how each player overcame his own difficulties to succeed in the tournament.
The two main characters of the book are Nguyen and Yang. They are both from Hong Kong and grew up going to a prestigious Catholic school. They both have immigrated to the United States, where they are playing poker for big money. Yet each of them has problems of his own to overcome before he can make a good impression on his fellow players at the tourney.
While Nguyen is the youngest of the four players and the last one to be signed by the tour, he has some serious talent. When he comes to play the tournament, he is still a star-struck teenager, scared to death that he won’t be able to compete with the other strong players at the tournament. At first, it looks like he’s got to quit. But then he has a dream to win. He turns down the cash he would normally win and instead begins to work harder to improve his game.
Yang has the biggest chip stack in the tournament, but because he’s considered a riskier proposition, he starts to drop chips all the time. This scares him and he worries constantly that he might lose everything. One day, a young girl who claims to be from the Philippines stops by and drops by his table to try to cheer him up. She convinces him to return to poker.
The two end up becoming very close friends, just like Nguyen and Yang at their poker tables. And at the conclusion of the book, they both win the entire tournament.
In addition to being a great read, the tale is also a lot of fun. A lot of money is at stake and the guys in the game are full of tension. The action keeps things interesting.
Since the book was set in Thailand, the language in the story is mostly Thai. That makes things quite difficult for those who have never read a Thai novel before. I think someone who does know Thai would probably enjoy the book a lot more but those who do not need to worry.
The reader is treated to English translations of the stories. However, the author does not try to force his or her own English into the text. We are presented with Thai only, and even then, only in places where it really makes sense to do so.
After reading the first Thai part, I found myself feeling quite frustrated with the attempts to translate things. I kept thinking to myself, “That’s not how it was meant to be read!”
I kept waiting for someone to pick up the pieces and translate the whole thing into English. Then I decided to go online and look for the book in its native tongue. Once I found it, I had my own Thai translation with me for reference.
I’m sure most people who have ever tried to read Thai novels will agree that this book will probably not be a winner for most people when they attempt to translate it into English. However, it’s entertaining and definitely worth the effort if you like poker and good stories.