Blast from the past: Johnny Chan makes deep run in Big O event

2023 World Series of Poker
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: June 18, 2023 11:53 PDT

On an intriguing and occasionally controversial Sunday at the 2023 World Series of Poker, there's been both history made and history revisited. While Benny Glaser picked up his fifth gold bracelet in the deuce-to-seven triple draw championship, a player who has twice that many bracelets but hasn't made the top 100 finishers in any event in over a decade is making his own deep run.

That's Johnny Chan, the 10-time bracelet winner and the back-to-back champion, in 1987 and 1988, of the Main Event. Chan's deep run in the newest poker variant on the WSOP slate, Big O (a five-card form of Omaha) has already guaranteed him his best finish at the WSOP since 2011, when he took 12th in the same deuce-to-seven championship that Glaser won today.

As the Big O players return from their Day 2 dinner break with the 1,458-entry field trimmed to a final 45, Chan has been reported at sixth in chips with about 1.125 million. That's some distance behind midday leader Adam Owen's 1.8 million stack, but it has Chan in a strong position as the remaining players work toward a final table.

Chan actually hasn't played a lot of WSOP events in recent years, for a variety of reasons, but 2023 marks a reversal of sorts. He's already locked up his second cash of the series, and that's the first time he's recorded multiple cashes in a single WSOP since 2010, and one of his two that year came in the small-field, invite-only Tournament of Champions.

Since then, Chan's been mostly a memory. At one juncture he was part of a three-way tie for the career bracelet lead, at 10, with the late Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth, who prevented Chan from logging a Main Event three-peat in 1989 by topping Chan in heads-up play. Since then, Hellmuth has gone on to claim six more bracelets, while Phil Ivey has also joined the 10-bracelet club.

Virtually any poker observer would've picked Ivey as the next player to snare an 11th WSOP bracelet, especially since Ivey participates in the elite small-field events where those top pros are likelier, on average, to garner some WSOP gold. Yet history has a way of twisting expectations, and as a Sunday at the WSOP runs into the evening, there's the chance that the unexpected might occur. It could yet be Chan who becomes the second WSOP player to make it to 11.