- Nickname: Orient Express
- Facebook: johnnychanpokerplayer
- Twitter: @ItsJohnnyChan
- Website: www.johnnychan.com
- Birthdate: 1957
- Birthplace: Canton, China
- Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada
- WSOP Bracelets: 10
- Biggest Win: $750,000
- Total Winnings: $8,618,522
- Sponsored by: Rush2Win
In 1988 Johnny Chan defended his WSOP Hold’em crown playing his opponent perfectly, we talk you through the closing plays below. While the feat may not be repeated, the footage of the event has been. In the 1998 film ‘Rounders,’ Matt Damon’s character, Michael, gives the clip of the final hand no less than three viewings and later on Johnny Chan turns up in the movie playing himself in a brief cameo role.
The film raised the profile of professional poker, inspiring many to take up the game, including future world champion, Chris Moneymaker. The part also propelled Chan into celebrity-hood and he enjoys the notoriety it affords him and without a doubt the extra income too. After all, his taste in Versace clothes and Mercedes cars doesn’t come cheap.
Chan’s current star status is a far cry from his early years, spent modestly in Canton, China. When he was 6, his family moved to America, living first in Phoenix before finally settling in Houston. Initially, Chan had difficulties coming to terms with the language though he fared better culturally, becoming a handy tenpin bowler. He also worked in the family’s restaurant and their expectations for Johnny were that he would continue in the family business as he grew up.
The restaurant was to play an important part in his future but not in the way his parents expected as Johnny would one day discover an underground poker game going on in the back room. He joined in and the teenager’s talent was quickly apparent to his fellow players, so much so that they ousted him soon after as he was taking all their money.
At 16, Chan decided to try his luck in Las Vegas. In just one evening he turned his starting money of $500 into $20,000 and the following day, lost it all again. Chan decided that perhaps being a restaurateur was the more sensible option and so he enrolled in a hotel and restaurant management course at the University of Houston. But a passion for poker still burned inside of Chan and when he became legally old enough to gamble, the lure was too strong and he quit college and moved to Las Vegas, much to the disappointment of his family.
‘A hot-headed kid with some talent’, was Doyle Brunson’s description of Chan’s play during those first years in Vegas as Johnny experienced winning and losing in equal measures. Then, in 1982 he decided to make some drastic changes to his unhealthy lifestyle. Out went the eighty-a-day cigarette habit and in came a new exercise regime and healthy diet. The changes had the desired effect on Chan’s poker and, in the same year, after having steamed through 13 players in half an hour in the America’s Cup, Chan acquired the nickname the ‘Orient Express’. That train just keeps a-rolling.
He won his first WSOP bracelet in 1985 and his tenth twenty years later, the first player to achieve that number. On the way, he’s managed two consecutive WSOP main event titles and unbelievably almost made it three, losing out to Phil Hellmuth in 1989. He got his revenge in 2002 though, beating him heads-up in the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em event, the same year he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
He also holds the record for victories on NBC’s ‘Poker after Dark’ television program with three wins and one second place on his four appearances on the show. On top of that, he mentored Jamie Gold, all the way to his success in 2006’s WSOP main event. Although, so far, Johnny’s won no more WSOP bracelets he continues to finish in the money, in 2008 he got 329th place earning over $32,000 and in 2010 in came 156th banking $57,102.
Like many sports, poker has its fair share of superstitious competitors and Chan falls into this category. Claiming never to have lost more than two hands with the same deck, he often asks for the pack to be changed if he does lose. People also used to assume that it was for luck that Chan would bring an orange with him to tournament tables but, as an ex-smoker, Chan used to sniff it to clear his head during the days when casinos were smoky places.
Superstitions are not the secret of his success. For that, you’ll have to read one of his two books, ‘Play Poker like Johnny Chan’ or ‘Million Dollar Hold’em: Winning in Big in Limit Cash Games’. Aside from writing books, it could be said that Johnny has come full circle as he now owns his own fast food franchise in Las Vegas. But despite his remarkable success he has one dream that remains unrealized: To open his own land based casino.
In 1988, Johnny Chan was defending his Hold’em crown in the 19th World Series of Poker and once more made it to the final two. Heads-up with him and seated to his left at the blue–baize table of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino was Eric Seidel. The flop was showing Q♠ 8♦ 10♥ and Seidel checked. Chan bet $40,000 and Seidel holding Q♣ 7♥ raised $50,000.
Chan, resting his head on his hand, checked his cards once more before finally, almost reluctantly, putting in the required number of chips. The turn was a 2♠ and Seidel checked. Again, Chan took his time, fiddled with his chips and tilted his head in an expression of deep concentration. Then in one brief moment, just discernible through his aviator shades, Chan’s eyes looked ceiling-ward and a flicker of a grin started to appear on his face before his facial muscles quickly regained control.
He checked and the river card of 6♦ was dealt. Seidel had the top pair and there is no possibility of a flush and so he pushed his chips ‘all in’. Chan immediately called and standing, turned over his cards revealing J♣ 9♣. He had had a queen high straight since the flop and had played Seidel perfectly. Chan had successfully defended his title, something only three players had done before and an accolade unlikely to be repeated, unless you count it’s appearance in the film Rounders.
Last updated May 2013