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Poker Legends: Johnny Chan

“Not too many players try to bluff me. If there’s any bluffing or stealing, I’m going to be the one doing it.” This quote is from Johnny Chan, also known by his nickname The Orient Express. He is widely considered one of the best poker players of all time. With 10 WSOP bracelets to his name, he’s tied for second place all time winner with Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson. Chan was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002, is the last person to win back-to-back WSOP main event titles in 1987 and 1988, and he’s also the first foreign national to ever win the main event.

Besides crushing the poker tables by developing a strategy that was way ahead of his time, Chan has been an influential member of the poker community.

Photo credit: Wikipedia - Johnny Chan bei der World Series of Poker 2008

Pushing Poker Strategy Forward

As a dominating force in the poker scene, Chan has pushed poker strategy forward in many ways. Besides authoring multiple books, including SuperStar Poker Strategy, Million Dollar Hold’em, and Play Poker Like Johnny Chan, he’s also credited with his own postflop exploit, simply called The Chan Play.

Even as a teenager Chan had a knack for the game. According to his website, he first visited Las Vegas when he was 16. He visited the card room, watched the play, and smelled blood in the water. So he took out a credit card for $200, hocked his gold necklace for $120, and ran that $320 bankroll up into $30,000 within a week.

Rounders Appearance

One of Chan’s most famous pop culture moments is when he had a cameo as himself in the cult classic poker movie “Rounders”. When the filmmakers contacted him and asked if they could play footage of him winning the WSOP, he agreed.

The real twist came when his teenage daughter found out that the movie would be starring Matt Damon. Hoping to get a chance to meet the heart-throb herself, she convinced her father to ask if he could make an appearance in the movie. And so we get the famous scene where Matt Damon bluffs Chan off a huge hand in a Vegas casino.

The Good Luck Orange

If you’ve ever seen footage of Chan at the poker table, you may have noticed that he always has an orange sitting next to his stack of chips. By now it’s become his good luck symbol, but he actually started the tradition for practical purposes.

Chan used to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day, and when he quit in 1982, he still found himself in smoke-filled card rooms for hours on a time. To fight off the cravings, Chan started bringing an orange to his games to cover up the smell of the cigarette smoke. The orange has been with Chan ever since.


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