Amazon Red 352

Originally published on 25th July, 2010

Day 1C of the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event took place on Wednesday, 7th July. There were 2,313 players, including me:

If you wanted to avoid a big-name pro, those were good odds. 

At 11.40am, I walked into the huge Amazon Room of the Rio and took my seat. 

I showed my passport to the dealer and he said, “Welcome to the World Series of Poker. Here are your chips, sir.” And he slid $30,000 worth of chips across the felt to me. 

Touching the chips calmed my nerves a bit. I chatted to the dealer, small talk. The room gradually filled up. 

Suddenly, the dealer leaned in to me and gestured to my right. There was a guy in a red t-shirt with his back to me.

The dealer said, “Oh man, I know who THAT is. I’m not asking for his ID.” 

I looked over; the guy turned round.

It was Johnny Chan. 

The Orient Express, in the flesh. 

The dealer and I smiled at him and mumbled hellos. He grinned back. 

With the game barely ten minutes old, the player to my left went all-in with a set of 8s on a JT8 flop. Chan snap-called with TT, and doubled-up. 

I figured I should lower my expectations at that point. 

The Holy Grail for most of the players at the table was making it to Day 2. Live to fight another day, and all that. And I did, with $10,550 in chips. After a few hours on that day, and with about 9k left, I shoved with TT and the big blind woke up with JJ. Game over. 

It hurts going out of the Main Event. When you’re still in it, you can walk the Bad Beat Corridors of the Rio with a bit of a swagger. You’re a player in the World Series and it feels great. But when you go out? You’re nobody. You’re a spectator. 

I didn’t spectate or even think about poker for a few days after that. I still had a week in Vegas before my flight, so I did some sightseeing. It’s an amazing place and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Inevitably, the lure of the poker rooms got to me after a few days. I played a few side games and left with a profit of $150. Slightly shy of the millions being forked out at the Rio, but there’s always next year. 

And I can say this: I played poker in Vegas with Johnny Chan. And survived!

Johnny Chan photo by BJ Nemeth from