We get inside the mind of the truly great Johnny Chan, 10 times world poker champion: “I suppose the only regret I might have is that I didn’t beat Phil Hellmuth”

With 10 WSOP bracelets, Jonny Chan, the Orient Express, is one of poker’s true legends

What’s your game?

I play limit poker – $1,000-$2,000 and higher. In the Big Game we actually play mixed games, maybe five or 10 different games. We’ll play eight hands on each one and as soon as that eighth hand is done we’ll switch games for another eight. But we do that only in the Big Game.

Is the Big Game too big?

Absolutely. If you walk into the Bellagio without a million-dollar bankroll you feel like you’re broke because the stakes are so high. But I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon because these guys have been playing for years – and if it’s not broke, why fix it?

Dream heads-up?

Bruce Lee. He had the killer instinct. If he was fighting today he’d be the best karate guy around. If he was playing poker he’d bring that instinct to the table and I always want to play the best in the world.


I wish I hadn’t eaten so much rich food because I’ve had gout [a form of arthritis] from eating too many lobsters and shellfish. These little crystals of uric arid build up inside your joints and can make your leg swell. You’ve got this little bubble that moves around in your joint. It really hurts. It happened about eight years ago, so now I have to watch what I eat because once you’ve got it you can’t get rid of it.

Biggest regret?

I live a good life so I don’t have any regrets… I suppose the only regret I might have is that I didn’t beat Phil Hellmuth in 1989 [at the WSOP Main Event, which would have made Chan the first player to win the World Championship three years on the bounce].

Most memorable hand?

It’s probably a pair of Sixes. Back in 1982 I was playing at the first America’s Cup tournament at the Vegas World casino and every time I held a pair of Sixes I would win. It was a freaky day. Even my final winning hand was a pair of Sixes, which held up against Dewey’s [Tomko] A-K. It was one of the first big tournaments that I won.

Away from the table?

When I’m away from the poker table I love to eat great dinners, work out, shop or travel. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world. The next place I’m probably going to visit is Costa Rica or the Bahamas. Of course, the Turks and Caicos islands are my new number one place. (The Johnny Chan Invitational is being held on the islands near Cuba.)

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