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Kou Vang becomes first inductee into MSPT Hall of Fame

24 May 2018

(PRESS RELEASE) -- After nine seasons, the Mid-States Poker Tour has inducted its first member into the MSPT Hall of Fame. Unlike other HoFs, which often require nominations and voting, the MSPT allows players the opportunity to win their way in by meeting certain criteria.

Established in 2017, the MSPT Hall of Fame recognizes those individuals who have shown superior skill and achieved specific long-term accomplishments. The criteria to earn a spot on the MSPT Hall of Fame is as follows:
  • Achieve a minimum of 25 MSPT Main Event Cashes and one MSPT Win or one MSPT Player of the Year.
  • Achieve a minimum of 10 MSPT Main Event Final Tables and one MSPT Win or one MSPT Player of the Year.

On Sunday, 20 May 2018, Minnesota’s Kou Vang, 36, became the first player to earn his way in. Vang, who won the MSPT Season two Canterbury Park, notched his 25th Main Event cash when he finished fifth for $57,357 at MSPT FireKeepers Casino Hotel, which was the largest poker tournament ever held in Michigan with 1,287 entries.

“It's definitely a great feeling,” Vang said. “It feels absolutely wonderful to get recognition for the commitment and dedication put into chasing live poker glory. I am very glad MSPT found a way to acknowledge the players that have supported them throughout the years. It feels good, feels at home.”

Indeed, Vang is one of only four players – the others are Jeremy Dresch, Dan “DQ” Hendrickson and Matt Kirby – to have cashed every season of the MSPT.

Poker and the American Dream
At just five years old, Vang, who was born in Thailand, immigrated to the United States at a Vietnam War refugee. Growing up in a first-generation immigrant family, there was a heavy emphasis on education and wealth. Not knowing what he wanted to be, Vang joined the Army National Guard straight out of high school with an idea that he might pursue a career in law enforcement.

“Life before poker wasn’t too bad,” explained Vang, who has been married for 14 years and has six kids. “I was going to college for law enforcement and I found a telemarketing job for a local mortgage firm. I excelled at it pretty quickly. I was promoted to telemarketing manager/loan officer within a few months. In 2002, mortgage rates had just hit an all-time low in 30 years so I was able to do very well. I even gave up college. I started my own company and was very successful working within my community as my niche.”

In 2003, Vang was among those who discovered poker thanks to the “Moneymaker Boom.”

“Without Chris' win I am sure I’d probably still be working some office commission job,” said Vang. Instead, he started playing with friends every weekend, which in turn led to playing online.

“Many of us went on to play online poker professionally and I was able to have great success on Bodog Poker, Full Tilt, Ultimate Bet and Cake Poker specializing in low to mid-stakes MTTs. In 2011, after Black Friday, my wife and I seriously considered moving to Panama or Malta to continue my online poker career, but eventually decided to stay home due to the big family we wanted to have.”

He continued, “In 2014, I made a commitment to follow the MSPT around the Midwest while also playing on unregulated online sites. Having that as my base and not only live poker to rely on made life a lot less stressful. The brutality of live poker variance can kill many dreams. Every year I can only play as many as 12-15 MSPTs and about 50 other live tournaments a year whereas online I can do that in one week.”

Growing alongside the MSPT
To date, Vang has 25 cashes on the MSPT, eight final table appearances, and $311,005 in earnings, which puts him ninth on the tour’s all-time money list. He also has two runner-up finishes and a win from Season two.

“My proudest moment on the tour absolutely has to be my win vs. Everett Carlton,” said Vang. “The guy is such a legend in the Minnesota poker community and defeating him really helped make a name for myself in our local scene. Getting that brag out of the way.”

He continued, “Losing the heads-up match to Andy Rubinberg in the 2016 MSPT Wisconsin State Poker Championship after a 4.5-hour battle really made me realize many things about my own game and the endurance I need to build for the modern-day poker tournament grind. I also played poorly from my own perspective and that made me want to work that much harder to get better as a player overall. Nothing in my career has burned me more than that lost.”

Not only has Vang changed his game over the years, he’s had a front-row seat to the evolution of the MSPT.

“The MSPT has grown so much through the years,” he said. “The fields are so much bigger now, making cashing so much harder. Players are also a lot better now given so many training materials available. I use to play the MSPT and knew almost everyone at the table, now unless it’s in Minnesota, I’m lucky to know three. I think this will make the MSPT HoF that much more exclusive and prestigious.”

Vang will be headed to the World Series of Poker this summer where he plans to play dozens of bracelet events plus all the MSPT events at The Venetian.

“Just this year I have picked up a backing deal for live poker, so I’m going to start utilizing that to further my career and probably play in some other countries as well.”
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