I've covered the World Series of Poker main event for 10 years. Every year, I've made my way to Johnny Chan's table. At first it was just to catch a glimpse of one of the game's legends. We never spoke, but I watched and tried to learn as much as I could from the man who won back-to-back main event championships in 1987 and 1988.
Chan and I first met in person in 2005 as he came to ESPN for a media tour and to be part of a "This is SportsCenter" commercial. Since that time, we get together every year at the WSOP and spend a few minutes discussing life outside of the game. Along those lines, Chan's latest accomplishments include two new grandchildren and the mere mention of them brought a big smile to his face.
One trend has remained true for Chan for quite a while: He doesn't like to play tournaments. This year was no exception. The main event is Chan's only event of the Series and the one that he'll always play over time. Tournaments just aren't for the man who sits second on the all-time bracelet list.
"Unless you finish top five in a tournament, there's no money to be made," said Chan during a break on Day 1A. "You can play for five days and only make a little bit. In a cash game, you sit down, make money and leave. It's much better."
Chan has been active at Aria and the Bellagio this summer, playing in a variety of cash games. He said his favorite game these days is whatever the customer wants to play, and according to him, the customers have had very deep pockets over the past few weeks.
Seated at a feature table inside the Amazon Room, Chan said that his Day 1A table is playing on the tighter side. He's chipped above a starting stack, but without the antes kicked in, he's simply sitting back and waiting. This is a tournament in which he's cashed in twice over the past four years and it's the only way the public gets to witness his incredible talents. The main event is something special to Chan and he's happy to give it another shot in 2014.
Small blinds: Greg Merson dropped a few thousand chips recently and came to the rail saying he's actually happy about it given the tendencies of his table. ... Tom McEvoy is seated with WPT Player of the Year Mukul Pahuja. ... There are five former champions playing in the field today: Chris Moneymaker, McEvoy, Chan, Merson and Ryan Riess. ... The latest $1,000 buy-in mega-satellite to the main event had 869 players registered. On WSOP.com, they are nearly reaching the guarantee in their 25-seat event, a great sign for online poker in the state. ... Mike Matusow has a rail of about six people who have been there for a few hours. He's holding court in the purple section and has above a starting stack. ... There is by far a greater buzz in the Pavilion Room, where the satellites are being held, compared to the Amazon Room. Less foot traffic and fewer players by far. Official numbers won't be announced for Day 1A until after the dinner break. ... The Event 64 ($10,000 pot-limit Omaha) final table is about to begin. ... Bruno Fitoussi made an early exit today and as he left his table, he looked at all of remaining players and said, "Get there. Good luck." ... How does Phil Laak pass the time while playing? Lance Bradley tweeted out the answer. ... I have not seen one player playing online poker at the tables. After all the complaining before the start of the Series, I'm not sure if the WSOP would be happy about that or not. ... The new setup in the Amazon Room will allow for more feature tables and better coverage of every hand during the final few days. ... Riess, Jay Farber and Marc-Etienne McLaughlin are the three members of last year's final table in action today. David Benefield was eliminated earlier.