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September 20, 2019

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Johnny Chan out to make history at World Series of Poker Main Event

Chan near top as Main Event plays down to 205 competitors

Johnny Chan

Jae C. Hong / AP

Poker pro Johnny Chan is among the chip leaders in the World Series of Poker Main Event and is looking to make history with a third victory. Chan won the event in 1987 and 1988.

Notable High Chip Counts

  • Theo Jorgensen — 3,088,000
  • Alexander Kostritsyn — 2,564,000
  • Johnny Chan — 2,559,000
  • Michael Mizrachi — 1,793,000
  • Johnny Lodden — 1,670,000
  • Phil Galfond — 1,025,000
  • Jean-Robert Bellande — 946,000
  • Robert Mizrachi — 270,000
  • Eric Baldwin — 250,000
  • David Benyamine — 250,000

Earlier this week at the Rio, a crazed fan approached poker pro Johnny Chan's table and started yelling.

His voice boomed through the Amazon Room during the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event as he shouted out compliments to Chan.

"Johnny Chan is the greatest," he said repeatedly.

Chan's performance at this year's $10,000 buy-in Main Event is making it hard to argue against the statement. Chan will enter Day 6 of the event Thursday at the Rio among the top chip counts with his 2.559 million chips.

The Main Event is down to 205 players out of a starting field of 7,319 and everyone is assured at least $48,847. But Chan is after more.

"I'd like to write another chapter," Chan said.

Chan famously won back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Event titles in 1987 and 1988. He came close to the unfathomable three-peat in 1989 before Phil Hellmuth beat him heads-up.

Since then, Chan has cashed in the Main Event three times but never has threatened to win it.

"The last 20 years, I've never had this many chips," Chan said. "That's the No. 1 thing that helps a lot. When you have chips, you can make plays and make moves. I'm very happy with where I'm at."

Chan hovered around an average chip count all day at the Rio, but caught fire late to catapult himself back into the top 10.

The biggest pot he won came when an opponent went all-in on a fifth bet before the flop hoping to get Chan off his hand. Chan was having none of it and called with pocket Kings, which had his opponent's Queen-Jack crushed.

"I got pretty lucky," Chan said. "A guy decided he was going to put all his chips in with nothing."

There's still a long way to go with formidable competition for Chan. Four players will return Thursday with chip stacks of more than 3 million, including Danish professional Theo Jorgensen who two months ago won a World Poker Tour tournament in Paris for $850,000.

Canadian amateur Evan Lamprea is the chip leader with 3.5 million chips. Other notable players within striking distance include Russian online poker-made millionaire Alexander Kostritsyn, online superstar Phil Galfond and poker pro turned "Survivor" contestant Jean-Robert Bellande.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi also has a dangerous 1.8 million chips.

Eric Baldwin and David Benyamine are two other top pros still alive, but are down to hardly any chips and will have to push all-in early Thursday.

Chan is not afraid of any of them.

"I think I'm playing pretty well," Chan said. "I'm going to get some sleep and hopefully tomorrow I can do a little better."

Chan has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets in total, which trails only Hellmuth's 11 for the most of all-time.

This year's Main Event, which pays $8.9 million to the winner, would be quite a way to tie the record.

"Once the train starts rolling," Chan said, "nothing is going to stop it."

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at for live updates from the Main Event.

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