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Table Talk: Oh Johnny Chan

Table Talk: Oh Johnny Chan

I’m virtually coming to you from South Africa. The inaugural trip by the World Poker Tour to Johannesburg piqued my curiosity, and I fake-traveled to the Emperors Palace Casino. It’s an amazing city, but with all the talk of safaris, I’m a bit scared of lions, tigers, and bears. (Oh my.) So I’m inviting you to join me in a café inside the casino, where I only have to be wary of gamblers and poker players. (Oh my.)

Let’s get some business out of the way before getting to the incomparable Johnny Chan.

Several tournaments had interesting outcomes over the past week. One of the biggest wins was on the Heartland Poker Tour, a United States televised poker series that travels to some of the lesser known casinos across America to offer poker to the masses.

The 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Greg Raymer, has become a fixture on the tour and made history at the latest stop in Iowa. Over the summer, he won his first HPT title in New Mexico, where the first prize was $71,875. In late September, he won the St. Louis HPT Main Event for $121,973. And on October 22, he did it again, winning the Prairie Meadows Main Event in Iowa for $72,089. Though the eight seasons of the HPT does have one other three-time winner, Raymer is the only players to win three titles in one season. Raymer’s still got it, complete with his signature sock/sandal look. It evidently works for him.

Female players chalked up some wins over the past week, with Vanessa Selbst winning a $5K NHLE tournament at the Bellagio’s Festa al Lago series in Las Vegas. Many recognizable pros turned out for the events despite the absence of the WPT. Selbst played a $1K NLHE event and finished second, then days later, she won the $5K event for $90,693.

Meanwhile, Melanie Weisner was one of the players who traveled to Johannesburg,South Africa, for the World Poker Tour’s inaugural event. And just before the Main Event began, Weisner claimed her first ever open tournament win in the $1K NLHE six-handed event for $41,289. Back in the United States, the World Series of Poker Circuit was happening in Hammond,Indiana, and Amanda Musumeci scored a win there in Event 11, the $580 NLHE tournament. She won $31,851 and a gold WSOP ring for her first major victory. Go, ladies!

Speaking of the WPT in South Africa, the tournament was a $3,600 NLHE tournament that allowed busted players to re-enter. Many of them did, and the total number of entries was 230. The prize pool was $736,230, and that paid out the top 27 players. As of today, the final table of six is playing out, starting with Dominik Nitsche as the chip leader. He’s on fire a bit this year himself.

While Howard Lederer was in the news again this week for playing high stakes cash games and the Festa al Lago Main Event in Las Vegas, that’s going to have to wait until next week. Johnny Chan must take precedence.

The video should be seen to be believed:


It seems that the video is a sizzle reel, meaning a sample of sorts, for a television show that Johnny Chan hopes will find a Hollywood partner. The Las Vegas-based reality show reel starts with Chan playing some poker with Doyle Brunson, and then it explains that Chan is hosting five poker pros at his home and staking them for $200K each in tournaments. This is where it gets even better.

The “pros” explain that poker is a game of skill, and the token female speaks her part from the swimming pool, showing ample cleavage, then getting out of the water and walking away, the camera following her backside. Classy.

Simon is the first player introduced, and he is “the playboy,” complete with a room full of women clamoring to rub their hands all over him and get their nightclub dress-clad bodies close to him. Jay is “the genius,” the Asian player driving through Las Vegas in an expensive convertible car. Estavan is “chico loco,” the Hispanic young man who parties hard and plays poker with a very busty woman next to him, just watching the game. Malia is the “queen of hearts,” pictured in a bikini, tight nightclub dress, and in bed with a man that she doesn’t look thrilled with. Finally, Matt is “the bully,” who doesn’t seem much different from the other guys in the video.

Some on social media argued that the video is an exaggeration of the game and its players but is meant to attract a non-poker audience, which is ultimately good for poker when it brings in more players. The majority of the voices, though, were simply stunned by it. The acting was not the best but the players were clearly trying to act out their parts, and the stereotypes about poker and players were jumping off the screen. “Ship iiiiiiit!” says one poker player when he scoops his pot of fake chips. “I’ma kill you guys,” says the bully after the other guys throw him in the pool.

I believe there is little chance of this idea being picked up for an actual reality television show series, but then again, I never could have predicted half of the shows that are actually on air. If this makes it, Johnny Chan will look to the non-poker world like the biggest honcho in poker, and the poker community will cringe at every stereotype and unreal portrayal of poker.

Did you watch it yet? Please watch that video. You’ll laugh or cry, or both.

With that, I’m signing off from my fake South African café. Someone at a real café, please enjoy a strong drink for me. You’ll need it after the Johnny Chan video anyway.

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