Thủy Tiên turned toward me, her gorgeous hazel eyes beamed straight at my fragile soul as if she knew my intentions were less than honorable. She held a drink of cognac in her right hand, her drink of choice for occasions like this, while the fingertips of her left hand began a rhythmic tapping that grew more intense like a Chinese water torture session bearing down on an untamed detainee. Then, just like a scene straight out of a late night cable special, she took a small sip of cognac, just barely enough to wet her lips, and proceeded to question me if I have what it takes to go all the way with her. I felt vulnerable, exposed, and a bit excited at the same time. All I could do was lowered my sight to deflect her stare (and to calm my nerves) and then replied sheepishly that she was free to do as she wishes…but, I also made it quite clear that I would go in with her if she’d make the first move. Her eyes lit up as soon as I finished my pathetic answer and then exclaimed the three words that I dreaded the most, “I’m all-in!” while laughing at my futile attempt to hold my composure. My heart sank as I looked down at my dwindling stack of chips and then painfully “mucked” (folded) my cards while congratulating her on being able to “read” my poker hand like a book….again.
KD, LB, and TT backstage
That’s how I first met the impossibly beautiful Thủy Tiên, at a Superbowl party-turned-poker-showdown this past February. She showed up fashionably late, with her signature “tóc búp bê” hair bang and a spunky personality to match. Given my predilection for hot-looking Thúy Nga singers, she caught my undivided attention at “You play poker?”…
As Thủy Tiên was raking in her winning chips, I glanced to my left and saw Lưu Bích shaking her head in disbelief while Trúc Linh and Kỳ Duyên snickered excitedly over my misfortune. To add salt to my wound, the BFF stars opined loudly that I was no match for their Thủy Tiên. Inexplicably, I started coming up with several lame excuses for losing the hand and even tried to convince others that Thủy Tiên surely had the better hand and that I surely made a smart decision to “lay down” my second-best hand. To this day, I still wake up in the middle of the night, hearing their malicious laughter over and over again; my own version of the crying of the lambs that haunted FBI Agent Clarice Starling in the psycho-horror-thriller The Silence of the Lambs.
In poker, what sets the poker pros apart from the amateurs is their ability to “read” their opponents. And one of the biggest mistakes that beginners tend to make is trying to act strong when they have a weak hand, and pretending to act weak when they have a strong hand. The pros know this, and they can devour beginners in no time when they can spot these “tells.” That’s why they like to ask you questions while they are deciding what to do. Of course you don’t have to say anything, but unless you are on TV playing for a million dollar purse, or are exceptionally anti-social, you’d be more likely to yap and say the reverse of what you have, and that would be the worst mistake you can make. Looking back at that hand, as far as Thủy Tiên was concerned, I might as well confess to her that: (a) I was not confident with my hand, and (b) If she had moved all-in, I would automatically fold.
Once Thủy Tiên got situated, it didn’t take her long to start taking over the game with her innate ability to read other players’ hole cards, a skill that I sorely lack even after countless hours of watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN. In my defense, it doesn’t help that I hadn’t played Texas Hold’em in years and was pitted against a gang of stunning (and mischievous) Thúy Nga singers, in a game that requires paying attention.
DH, KD, TT, and LB at Diamond Club, VA
Thủy Tiên had already entered my psyche a few years back when I first saw her on Paris By Night 63. She was new to Thúy Nga and it was her only second appearance on Vietnam’s most prestigious entertainment program. For her part, she sang “Em Sẽ Đến,” a popular hit written by songwriter Vĩnh Phước, who happens to be her older brother. It’s been quite a few years since then, but I can still remember standing in front of the big screen TV, captivated by this talented new singer’s voice and her mysteriously beautiful eyes. She had on an electric blue dress that complements her shapely silhouette; and she flirted with me (ok…the camera) throughout the song. If anyone wants to learn how to connect with the audience via a DVD (well…VHS in this case), they should watch that performance by Thủy Tiên and see how her eyes never really left the camera, and how her unique hand gestures can draw you into her world. Of course, I was already a goner even before she got to the chorus…
Thủy Tiên in her captivating electric blue dress
After that unprofitable poker game, we met several more times in the following months. Once at her elegantly decorated home in Huntington Beach, Cali, another time at Lưu Bích’s poker-ready home, and a few more times at casino shows on the east coast. The last time I saw Thủy Tiên was at Diamond Night Club in Virginia, where she, Lưu Bích and Lương Tùng Quang were on a tour to introduce their latest CD hit Vi Yêu 2 (available at thuytienmusic.com or thuytiennutrition.com). The Kyduyenhouse crew and I were in the area to do a show at Quán Văn earlier in the day, so Thủy Tiên and Lưu Bích got us some tickets for us to come see them after we finish our gig. Diamond Club was packed with their fans, and the dynamic trio did not disappoint. They were electrifying in Amore Mio, and after spotting Kỳ Duyên in the crowd, they managed to pull her on stage to sing Medley 80 with them. Thủy Tiên seemed happier that night. When I asked her why she was smiling so much, she replied that she’s happiest when she performs for her fans (and I thought she was happy to see me…ehhehe). All kidding aside, I could tell that she was truly in her elements and it was quite amazing to see how she worked the crowd into a frenzy with an equal mix of American and Viet music.
Between breaks, she and Lưu Bích came over and hung out with us to chit-chat and trade shots of XO cognac. It was past midnight when the DJ halted the heart thumping trance beats and switched to a slow tune for amorous couples to reacquaint one another. Upon hearing the song, Thủy Tiên looked at me and extended her hand across the table to signal me over. I was thinking she had some new jokes to share or something to ask...so I got up and made my way to her. To prove how clueless I truly was, I was still holding a piece of fruit-on-a-stick in my hand when I asked her what she had in mind. She then gently took the piece of half-eaten cantaloupe and put it away and asked me to dance with her. Don’t cry for me Argentina, I thought to myself as I grabbed her hand and swiftly led her to the dance floor before she had a change of heart.
Once there, her left hand, the same hand that tortured me not too long ago with calculated taps, found its way onto my right shoulder while her cognac-holding right hand felt soft and timid in my hand. Somehow, Thủy Tiên did not seem so threatening anymore. In a way, she appeared vulnerable and unguarded in the darkness of the club that she ruled just moments before. I commented that she looked deceivingly innocent in her new pink dress that she just changed for the second act. She laughed and joked something about how I should not believe everything I see and then gave me a big hug and said “Ya know? I’m glad we got to know each other.” At that moment, with her head rested lightly on my shoulder, I saw Thủy Tiên beyond her starlet eyes and her hard line poker-playing persona. I wanted to tell her that I felt privileged that I got to dance with her, but I thought that she’d know by the way I held her hand. It was then that I realized that the cries of the lambs that used to haunt me will no longer be haunting, for they would remind me of the day I first met Thủy Tiên …
The undersigned and Thủy Tiên in her memorable pink dress
Duy Hân works as a supervising analyst in the advertising department of a large financial organization. He earned his B.S. from the University of Maryland and is a recent MBA graduate. Duy Hân lives in the Washington DC area and has a beagle named Alaska that likes to take long walks on the beach. He can be reached at AskDuyHan@gmail.com.
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