Friday, May 20, 1988 | 6 a.m.
Johnny "The Oriental Express" Chan lost the biggest pot in poker history Thursday but still managed to win his second consecutive world championship and become the Binion's World Series of Poker all-time tournament money winner.
The 29-year-old professional gambler and Las Vegas restaurateur had led the $10,000 buy-in no limit. Texas Hold-em world championship at the Horseshoe since late in the second round Tuesday. However he lost it Thursday to 28-year-old Eric Sidel of New York and twice had to come back from $800,000 down to beat the one-time stock options trader.
In becoming the fourth player in World Series history to win the world title back-to-back, Chan collected a record $700,000 first prize and outlasted a record field of 167 of the world's best card players. The victory in the four-day event brought Chan's all-time World Series money winnings to $1,554,000 and made him the winningest player in the tournament's history.
Chan passed hall-of-famer and two-time world champion Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, who won no tournament money this year but has $1,211,925 in World Series winnings. Brunson is followed on the all-time money list by former world champ Jack Keller ($1,201,320) and fellow two-time world titlist Stu "The Kid" Ungar ($1,039,740).
They are the only two players to top the $1 million mark in World Series tournament winnings.
Chan, who collected a then-record $625,000 by winning last year's finale, joined the elite club of players who have captured back-to-back world titles. Others were Johnny "The Grand Old Man" Moss (1970-71 and 1974), Brunson (1976-77) and Ungar (1980-81).
En route to winning poker's biggest prize, Chanhad the dubious honor of losing the biggest pot in poker history.
Losing by $400,000, Sidel went all-in on a pair of 9s while Chan had a pair of 8s. The five community cards didn't better either player's hand but gave Sidel a $1,204,000 pot and left Chan with about $400,000 worth of chips.
Twice in the tournament Chan, the owner of the Point One Cantonese-Szechuan restaurant in Las Vegas, found himself with just $270,000 in chips compared to Sidel's $1.4 million.
But both times Chan, the more experienced player, marched back and, catching a straight on the "flop" (first three community cards), bested a pair of queens and won the final pot of $593,000 to gather all the chips.
"I was not worried - sooner or later I figured we would have to play (the big hand)," Chan said. "Because of his style of play, I knew not to play a big pot with him, but just call (and win the smaller pots) until I had the cards."
"He's a great player," said Sidel, who collected $280,000 for second place. "I don't have a lot of experience playing head-to-head. I was nervous and a little lost out there."
It was no the first time Sidel had known great disappointment. He was one of thousands of stock market investor who suffered heavy financial losses during last year's stock market crash.
According to friends, Sidel began playing poker seriously after the crash and improved greatly. This was Sidel's first time entering any poker tournament, but he is a world class backgammon player who has won several championships.
Rounding out the top 10 prize money winners were:
3. Ron Graham ($140,000), 4. Humerto Brennes ($77,00), 5. T.J. Cloutier (63,000), 6. Jim Bechtel ($49,000), 7. Quinton Nixon ($42,000), 8. Mike Cox (28,000), 9. Jesse Alto ($21,000), 10. Jeff Rothstein ($12,500).
Others sharing in the record $1.6 million purse were:
Winners of $12,500- 11. Steve Kopp, 12. Gary Lundgren, 13. Ralph Morton, 15. Jay Heimowitz, 16. Garland Walters, 17. Fred David and 18. Roger Moore.
Winners of $10,000 - 19. Jimmy Athanas, 20. Mike Harthcock, 21. Phillip Earle, 22. Junior Wited, 23. Ken Flaton, 24. David Rubenstein, 25. Howard Lipman, 26. Don "The World's Best Unknown Player" Williams.
Winners of $8,750 - 27. (tie) David Sklansky and John Spadavecchia.
Winners of $7,500 - 29. Norman Berliner, 30. Hugh Neville Todd, 31. Jack Keller, 32. David "Chip" Reese, 33. Phillip Hellmuth Jr., 34. Ali Frsai, 35. T.A.B. and 36. Stefan Dios.