It’s the last mid-level break of the night on Day 4 of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event and hidden among the 300 names in the chip counts is Johnny Chan.
Yes, that Johnny Chan.
While the only other two former Main Event champions still in the field, Greg Raymer and Ryan Riess, are playing on the ESPN main stage for what will be part of a future broadcast, Chan is at a table almost as far way from the spotlight as possible.
As the seconds tick down on the level, Chan grabs his bag, steps out a side door and hurriedly makes his way to the back lot, again taking a route different from most of the other players sneaking outside for some fresh air or maybe a cigarette. Or Chan’s case, a few quick puffs on a cigar.
Chan first came to prominence with his win in the 1987 WSOP Main Event. He won his second title the next year in a hand made famous in Rounders against Erik Seidel. The first person he runs into in the back lot is a dealer, who ask Chan a question he’s clearly been asked hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times.
“They gonna make Rounders 2, Johnny?,” the dealer asks.
Chan’s appearance in Rounders that helped create the Chan legend is now part of poker lore. The hero Mike McDermott finds himself in a hand with Chan and after bluffing Chan, decides its time take his shot in the biggest underground game in New York City.
“It’s never going to happen,” said Chan. “It’s already been ten years.”
The idea of producing a sequel to the cult classic poker movie has been bounced around for ten years, even going so far as having studios greenlight the project. With Rounders writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien busy with Season 2 of their hit Showtime drama Billions, finding time write the script and deliver Rounders 2 seems highly unlikely.
Surrounded by poker players that have probably seen the movie dozens of times and would love the chance to use McDermott’s famous “Sorry John, I don’t remember” line after beating him in a pot, Chan is left to his own devices.
While the movie might have helped the Chan legend, he’s fine being hidden in the corner of the room. The Main Event is the only WSOP event he’s played this year and he makes no bones about why he chooses to take time away from the lucrative Bellagio and Aria cash games to play the event.
“There’s a lot of extra dead money in it,” said Chan. “And of course, you get to play with players from around the world.”
Having won the event twice, finished runner-up to Hellmuth in 1999, and cashed a total of seven times, you’d think the Main Event was something special for Chan. Not quite.
“I try. I enter, I’m going to try and win, right?” said Chan. “I try to play my best, but it’s just another day at the office.”
A win for Chan would make him the third player to capture the Main Event three times, joining Johnny Moss and Stu Ungar.