Johnny Chan – Living The American Poker Dream

Posted September 1, 2009 by Andrew in Articles

Johnny Chan is one of the greatest poker players of all time. He has 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, and became world champion twice. And look at how much the man’s won—over four million dollars from career tournament earnings, not counting what he’s earned from cash game winnings.

He’s always at the famous Bellagio’s “Big Game”, the world’s highest-limit cash game, which can make or break millionaires overnight. Risky? Maybe so, but it’s worked to his advantage. It’s possible that Johnny Chan has brought home hundreds of millions of dollars from regular poker play. Now that’s something to tell your wife when she starts complaining about how you should go out and get a “real” job.

Then again, Johnny Chan is no ordinary poker player. He’s one of the best the game has seen, and was the last player to win back-to-back World Series Main Event Championships.

Johnny Chan is living out the American Dream. He was born in China, before his parents applied as American immigrants. While they first lived in Arizona, they eventually settled in Texas. Chan helped with the family restaurant business, though his real passion was poker. He would save his earnings and take trips to Vegas.

We all know that gambling is all about risks, and it came to the point that Johnny Chan had to take the biggest risk of all: quit a stable job and become a professional poker player. His family was upset. Nevertheless, he pursued his passion, going through many years of financial hardship. Sometimes he’d take odd jobs just to put food on the table, especially during those long losing streaks. And everyday, no matter how hard a hit he took the night before, he would practice, finding every way to improve his game. His skills grew sharper, his confidence grew. He developed that trademark discipline and self control— and won his first World Series of Poker bracelet in May of 1985.

Chan’s perseverance paid off, literally. At his first WSOP Main Event Championship, he beat some of the toughest players in the business—Dan Harrington, Howard Lederer, Bob Ciaffone, Mickey Applebaum, and Jack Keller—eventually succeeding against Frank Henderson to bring home $625,000. At that time, it was the largest prize that anyone had ever received from a poker tournament. He had earned it.

The next year, Chan broke records again by winning a back to back victory, beating Erik Seidel, Humberto Brenes, T.J. Cloutier, and Jim Betchel. His prize was $700,000. Poker aficionados still talk about his final hand, flopping the nut straight and slow-playing it all the way to the river. In fact, it inspired the scene in the film Rounders. Chan came close to winning three world championships in a row, but was defeated by Phill Hellmuth. He won a fourth bracelet in 1994, a fifth in 1997. All in all, he’s won 10 bracelets and cashed in 27 times at several WSOP events.

Chan inspires all poker players to continue to improve their game, to ride through the losing streaks and see each defeat as an opportunity to learn, and to never ever give up.

That’s what dreams are about, after all.


About the Author

Andrew

Andrew Keyes is a poker enthusiast, a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant. You can visit to get poker articles along with winning poker tips, tested poker strategies, the latest poker news, free poker tools, cool poker resources, and more! Visit today and you can download some of the best poker bots for automating your poker play!