A Glimpse into the Life of Poker Great Johnny Chan

Johnny Chan may be the greatest poker player in poker history, but there’s a lot more to his life than just poker. His heritage and history are rich, and his six children bring a great promise for the future. Oh yeah, and he’s won almost six million dollars in live poker tournaments. Sound like an impressive life? Absolutely, it is!

Johnny Chan came to America in his youth, with his parents who ran restaurants. It was when he was in college that he decided to leave college and devote his life to being a professional gambler. One can only imagine the initial reaction of his parents; matching the reactions of so many parents of youth who decide to be professional skateboarders or who decide to go on to become the video game champion of the world. So many of these young people never make it to the top of their chosen field. Johnny Chan is one of the few who can easily say that he absolutely made it to the top of his field. Not only is he the only one to win two consecutive World Series of Poker events, he has so many other poker tournament titles that the full details are overwhelming. The total earnings speak for themselves, and some of the earnings came in huge lump sums, like for the World Series of Poker wins, but other winnings are, as you can imagine, much more ‘modest’ than $700,000 at once.

Johnny Chan also runs a fast-food franchise and dreams of opening his own casino. One can imagine that this could be another successful venture in his life. It seems that all he has set out to do well he has been able to do each one incredibly well. Running a casino should not, in theory, turn out any differently from his many tournament accomplishments.

When asked about his strategies for winning, Chan says that not a lot of players at the time when he entered the game in America knew how people were playing poker in Asia. This difference in his game gave the perfect element of surprise to his earliest competitions and he was therefore able to beat all of his opponents since they didn’t understand what he was doing. If the other players cannot read you, and are not reading the same strategy sheets you are reading on the Internet, it can be very difficult to know what he is doing. As you know, in poker it is extremely important to be able to predict, with at least quasi-certitude what your opponents are going to do. Of course, this kind of reading of one’s opponents does not work 100% of the time, but it is important that in at least some of the hands that you be able to read the strength of the hands of your opponents. If this is never possible, you will find yourself in frequent trouble and rarely able to predict when someone is bluffing or when they truly have a good hand.

Philosophy is different in Asia than it is in the West. Everyone knows that, but still it comes as a surprise to many that something that simple could make such a huge difference in something like poker. When it comes right down to it, poker and philosophy might be more linked than anyone ever thought. This could be pretty good news for all the people who want to play poker but don’t want to go to college; maybe going to college to study philosophy could be a solution. While Chan dropped out of college to become a poker player, he has had amazing success at it; we should all be so lucky…or so talented.


Darnell V. Denman
Poker Player

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