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Poker Prodigy Series: Johnny Chan

by Craig Edwards
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Johnny Chan

For this installment of our Poker Prodigy Series, we look at Johnny Chan, a World Series of Poker legend, accumulating ten bracelets to be ranked in second behind Phill Hellmuth. 

We have featured the other three players on ten bracelets, Doyle Brunson, Erik Seidel and Phil Ivey, so finally we discuss the sixty-seven-year-old Chinese poker player.

How It All Began for Chan

In 1962, as a five-year-old, Chan moved from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, and then six years later his family relocated to Phoenix in Arizona. Finally, settling in Houston at sixteen years old, Chan began to work in the family restaurant where he started playing cards with the staff. Five years later when in further education doing business management, Chan dropped out of school to move to Las Vegas and become a professional gambler.

Prior to that at the age of 16, it is rumored that on his first visit to Las Vegas, he turned $500 into $20,000 in his first day but proceeded to lose it all the next day, and perhaps that shaped those decisions five years later

The record books suggest that back-to-back WSOP Main Events will likely never be equaled. Chan’s feat of back-to-back Main Events is the last time this remarkable feat was achieved. Back in 1987 and 1988 it was no mean achievement with fields of 150+ players but nowadays with fields circa 8000, it is close to impossible.

Back-to-Back WSOP Main Events Launch a Career

Johnny Chan’s first WSOP bracelet came under the radar in 1985 when he landed the $1,000 Limit Hold’em event of the series and it was his back-to-back wins in the blue-ribbon Main Events of 1987 and 1988 that brought him fame and fortune.

Chan went on to accumulate a further 7 bracelets:

  • 1985 – $1,000 Limit Holdem
  • 1987 – $10,000 Main Event
  • 1988 – $10,000 Main Event
  • 1994 – $1,500 Seven Card Stud
  • 1997 – $5,000 Deuce to Seven Ball Draw
  • 2000 – $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha
  • 2002 – $2,500 No Limit Hold’em Gold Bracelet Match Play
  • 2003 – $5,000 No Limit Hold’em
  • 2003 – $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha
  • 2005 – $2,500 Pot Limit Hold’em

Recent years have seen Chan take more of a back seat with his advancing years but is a regular entrant in the Main Event still, finishing 156th in 2010, and his last recorded WSOP cash was in the 2019 Main Event when he finished 560th.

His lifetime earnings from the WSOP currently stand at $4,355,464 from total live earnings of just under $9 million.

Chan’s WSOP career brought a notoriety and Chan starred in the iconic film Rounders as himself while later going on to star in the Hong Kong-made film Poker King in which once again, he starred as himself.

Known for His Cash Game and Single Table Expertise

Poker After Dark became something of a household TV show after the WSOP Boom of the early millennium and Chan won the one-table event on a phenomenal four occasions from the six times he sat down. The six-person winner-take-all TV game showcased Chan’s bottle and controlled aggression to the fullest.

No doubt, with age and the demands of tournament poker, Chan has ventured into cash games in recent years and is reported to have transitioned successfully. In 2006 he authored the book Million Dollar Holdem, where he detailed his style and how he achieved his success in those cash games.

Turning a Winning Hand in Business Circles

Undoubtedly, Chan not only has a shrewd brain for poker but also for business, as he turned his hand to become an advisor for casinos for their card rooms and other gambling areas of their business.

He also purchased a fast-food franchise within Las Vegas –the Stratosphere Casino and Hotel–. His other sideline is authoring a bi-monthly article in the Trader magazine where he discusses all things gambling for profit.

Johnny Chan’s Legacy

Johnny Chan will always leave a strong legacy in gambling, especially top-level poker with his achievement of retaining the WSOP Main event, something that is unlikely to ever be equaled in the modern age of over 8000 entrants.

Now aged sixty-seven, Chan has taken a back seat from the poker grind but can be found articulating his gambling skills for others and living off his business investments. He does, however, still play the WSOP Main Event every year and history says that with ten bracelets he is currently tied in second place among the all-time winners at the World Series.

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Craig Edwards
Craig Edwards, an online tipster in golf and snooker for over four years, boasts a track record of 7800 bets with a 28% return on investment. A snooker professional from 1988 to 1996, he was once a single-figure handicap golfer. Achieving the 282nd position in the WSOP MAIN EVENT in 2007, Craig possesses a unique insight into the psychological shifts of professional sportsmen, anticipating their mindset week by week.

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