Chan moved with his family in 1962 from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, then in 1968 to Phoenix, Arizona and later in 1973 to Houston, Texas where his family owned restaurants. He was going to continue in the family business, but when he was 16 he went on a junket to Las Vegas, Nevada. When he was 21, Chan dropped out of the University of Houston, where he was majoring in hotel and restaurant management, and moved to Las Vegas to become a professional gambler.
World Series of Poker
Chan attributes some of his early success to the fact that many players had not previously played against Asian players. He shot to fame in the late 1980s, winning the championship event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in two consecutive years (1987 and 1988). A videotape of the 1988 WSOP final heads up match is featured in the movie Rounders, in which Johnny Chan makes a cameo appearance. He almost won a third consecutive title, but finished in 2nd place in 1989 to Phil Hellmuth. He is the last player to win back-to-back WSOP Main Events, a feat many prognosticators think he could hold forever given the increasingly larger fields. Jerry Buss, an avid poker player and owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, promised Chan an NBA championship ring if he could win three in a row.
Chan is known for keeping a "lucky" orange in front of him on the table, and after the second consecutive WSOP title other players began bringing fruit to the table in hopes of increasing their luck. Chan says he only had an orange with him because of its pleasant scent, as he was bothered by tobacco smoking, which was allowed in many tournaments then. Chan was once a smoker, but now he neither smokes nor drinks alcohol.
In 2005, Chan won his tenth World Series of Poker title, defeating Phil Laak in a Texas hold 'em event. He is tied with Doyle Brunson for second place with 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, behind Phil Hellmuth (11). He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002.
World Series of Poker Bracelets
|1985||$1,000 Limit Hold'em||$171,000|
|1987||$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship||$625,000|
|1988||$10,000 No Limit Hold'em World Championship||$700,000|
|1994||$1,500 Seven Card Stud||$135,600|
|1197||$5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw||$164,250|
|2000||$1,500 Pot Limit Omaha||$178,800|
|2002||$2,500 No Limit Hold'em Gold Bracelet Match Play||$34,000|
|2003||$5,000 No Limit Hold'em||$224,400|
|2003||$5,000 Pot Limit Omaha||$158,100|
|2005||$2,500 Pot Limit Hold'em||$303,025|
Up to 2006, Chan has won $3,744,331 at the World Series of Poker.
Chan competed in the $400,000 Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament in February 2005. He came back from only having $20,000 chips out of $3,200,000 in play to finish in second place to Gus Hansen. Chan later competed in Poker Superstars II during the summer of 2005. He defeated 22 of the best players to make it to the finals. Then he defeated Todd Brunson in the finals after three matches to win the $400,000 first prize. Chan appeared in Poker Superstars III where he made it as far as the semi finals but was defeated by Todd Brunson after three matches.
Other televised appearances
Chan has yet to make a final table on the World Poker Tour (WPT), despite playing in numerous events.
Chan also featured in the 2004 and 2005 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions events and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship in the same years.
On NBC's Poker After Dark Chan won the "World Series of Poker Champions" tournament by eliminating Doyle Brunson, Chris Moneymaker, Chris Ferguson, Jamie Gold and Carlos Mortensen. This tournament aired the week of January 15 2007.
As of 2007, his total live tournament winnings exceed $5,900,000.
He occasionally appears in the GSN series High Stakes Poker.
In addition to playing poker, Chan owns a fast-food franchise in the Las Vegas Stratosphere Hotel and is a consultant for various casinos and game makers. He has aspirations of opening his own casino. Chan has also written for Card Player magazine.
Chan has six children.
In 2005, Chan collaborated with Mark Karowe to release Play Poker Like Johnny Chan (ISBN 1-933074-48-5), an instructional book on several variants of poker. On November 28, 2006, the follow-up titled: Million Dollar Hold'em: Winning Big in Limit Cash Games (ISBN 1-58042-200-4), which focuses on Limit hold'em strategy, was released. In 2007 Chan launched an online poker room at his Chanpoker.com domain.
Chan has a regular article in the bi-monthly magazine Trader Monthly.