Johnny Chan Believes in Varying Your Style

johnny chan poker

Johnny Chan, in his column “Card Shark” in the Trader Daily, tells of a poker game, where he was pitted against Doyle Brunson in a High Stakes Poker televised event.

Johnny Chan, recounts the story to bring attention to the importance of varying your style when playing poker or making trades. In this particular tournament, Johnny Chan was able to take pot worth $300,000 because he varied his cash management style throughout the game.

The following is a paraphrase account of Johnny Chan’s article called “Vary Your Style.”

Johnny Chan had been invited to play in a No Limit Hold’em poker game that was going to be televised, called High Stakes Poker. In order to play in this game, each invited player had to buy in for their own money. These players were playing with real cash, not tournament chips. So when you’re playing, and you see a $200,000 pot, you actually see $200,000 on the table.

The ante was set at $100 with $300 and $600 blinds. Most of the players, who ranged from talented amateurs to top pros, were making a $100,000 buy in. Johnny Chan decided that he would buy in for $150,000. Chan usually plays rather aggressively, but he noticed that the other players were mixing it up more than usual, probably due to the television cameras. He decided that he would play a more conservative game.

Later on, Doyle Brunson made the suggestion that we “put the straddle” on the game. When this is done the player that is under the gun is the last one to act before the flop and has to put in an extra $1200 blind. Professional poker players often do this to bring other players out of their comfort zone.

A hand was dealt and Johnny Chan had a pair of aces. Having decided to mixup his play, he raised the pot to $4000. A player had just returned to the table in time to get a hand, he was an amateur player from Chicago. He was dealt an ace of spades and a jack of spades and immediately said he was raising to $4000. Unfortunately he had been away from the table and missed the fact that Johnny Chan had already raised to $4000. The player from Chicago, was told by other players that he had to put in at least $8,000 in order to raise. If he had known that Johnny Chan had already made it $4000, the Chicago player might not have called. The fact that he had verbally stated his declaration, made him obligated to put in at least $4000. The person who had put up the straddle went $6,800 more, than the play returned to Johnny Chan.

Johnny Chan, saw this as a good opportunity to make this hand a big pot, and he raised $20,000. The play went back to the guy with the ace and jack of spades. The player raised Johnny Chan all in, the other players folded and Johnny Chan called. The pot for this hand was well over $300,000. The flop produced a seven of diamonds, four clubs, and four of spades, the turn was an eight of spades, which gave the other player, a nut flush draw. When the river card was turned, it was a king of hearts, giving Johnny Chan the winning hand.

If Johnny Chan had not varied his style of playing that day, and continued to limp in as he had been doing during most of the game, he would not have won as much as he did that day.