Johnny Chan - The Orient Express

orient express

Johnny Chan got his nickname “The Orient Express” when he was a relative newcomer to the poker tournament scene. Chan had come to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player in 1978 and earned his famous nickname in 1982.

During the four years in between, Johnny Chan grew and matured, as a person and as a poker player. To paraphrase the famous poker player Doyle Brunson, Chan had some talent but was a hot headed kid. Brunson felt that Chan needed to learn to know when to stop playing and how to control his hot temper.

Johnny Chan’s temper did have a definite effect on his game in the earlier years. Sometimes he would get over emotional, because of his temper, causing him to make bad judgements during the game. Johnny won big many times, but he lost big many times also. At times he would take a regular job in order to bankroll his poker playing, sometimes as a chef, dealer or pit boss.

In 1982, Johnny Chan’s poker playing seemed to get even better. At the same time he decided to change some aspects of his personal life. He was a very heavy smoker at the time, and gave up his four pack a day cigarette habit. He also started to take better care of himself physically, by eating better, exercising and not drinking.

In January that same year, a confident Johnny Chan entered into a tournament being hosted at Vegas World, in Las Vegas, Nevada.. The tournament was Bob Stupak’s America’s Cup Tournament, a $10,000 No Limit Hold ‘em game. It was there that Johnny Chan showed the world his superb poker skills by winning first place. He played well and earned a seat at the final table, and he successfully eliminated 13 out of the last 16 players in just over 30 minutes. It was then that Bob Stupak gave him the nickname of the “Orient Express.”

Johnny Chan winning the 1982 America’s Cup Tournament wasn’t just the story of a flash in the pan poker player. It is true that sometimes a poker player will hit a good streak of luck and win a tournament, but not in Johnny’s case. That same year he also won the mixed Hold’em / Stud Championship held at the Golden Nugget. Johnny Chan, the 25 year old Asian poker player who was born in Canton, China, was on his way to becoming one of the world’s best poker players of all times.

The “Orient Express” had started rolling, and Johnny Chan was on a trip that would last the rest of his life. His innate ability to read the other players, combined with his self assurance and keen poker skills would prove to be the makings of a true poker champion. Within a few short years the “Orient Express” would go on to make poker history by being the only person to win a coveted gold bracelet in the World Series of Poker Tournament Championship two years in a row, 1987 and 1988.