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Johnny Chan

Johnny Chan Biography
by Chad Holloway of

Johnny Chan was born in 1957 in Canton, China. Chan's family relocated to the United States in 1968, first settling in Phoenix and then in Houston, where he worked in the family's restaurant business. During his free time, Chan enjoyed trips to the bowling alley until he discovered poker. He played nickel and dime games with his friends until he decided there was more money to be made from his father's friends in an underground game at the restaurant. Chan was so successful that the participants ousted him from the game by telling him it was no longer going to take place, although it did.

At the age of sixteen, Chan went to Las Vegas with a $500 bankroll. Playing illegally in Vegas, Chan turned his meager $500 into $20,000; however, his good fortune did not last long as he blew it all the very next night. Chan briefly attended college at the University of Texas in pursuit of a degree in hotel and restaurant management, but he decided to drop out to become a professional gambler. In order to find success, Chan knew he would have to change his ways. Doyle Brunson summarized Chan's flaws: "Johnny was a hot-headed kid with some talent. But he didn't know when to keep his temper under control or know when to quit playing." Chan worked hard to quell his temper by dieting, exercising, and kicking his four-pack a day cigarette habit. He even began to bring an orange to the table in order to cover the smell of other people's cigarettes; as such, the orange has become Chan's lucky trademark.

Chan earned the nickname the "Orient Express" when he entered Bob Stupak's America's Cup Tournament and eliminated thirteen of his sixteen opponents in thirty minutes. His greatest poker accomplishment came when he became one of only three players to win back-to-back World Series of Poker Championships, doing so in 1987 and 1988. Jerry Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and an avid poker player, offered Chan a NBA Championship ring if he could three-peat, which he nearly did, finishing second to Phil Hellmuth Jr. in 1989.

Chan has won eight other championship events, bringing his total number of W.S.O.P. bracelets to ten (1985 $1,000 Limit Hold'em for $171,000; 1987 Main Event Championship for $625,000; 1988 Main Event Championship for $700,000; 1994 $1,500 Seven-Card Stud for $135,600; 1997 Deuce to Seven Draw for $164,250; 2000 $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha for $178,800; 2002 $2,500 No Limit Hold'em Gold Bracelet Match Play for $34,000; 2003 $5,000 No Limit Hold'em for $224,400; 2003 $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha for $158,100; 2005 $2,500 Pot Limit Hold'em for $303,025). Chan's other poker accomplishments include appearances on Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament, Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, National Heads Up Poker Championship, W.S.O.P. Tournament of Champions, and being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002.

Chan, who wears a diamond rattlesnake ring and is known for his aggressive playing style, has appeared in two Hollywood films, Rounders and Lucky You. He has also collaborated with Mark Karowe on two poker books, Play Poker Like Johnny Chan and Million Dollar Hold'em: Winning Big in limit Cash Games. Chan, who doesn't drink alcohol, is married with six children and enjoys traveling, Mercedes Benz cars, and Versace clothing. He currently resides in Las Vegas and has career tournament winnings surpassing $6.3 million.


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