The night before the final table, I walked by Chan's table and chatted with poker player Thor Hansen who was also seated at the table. Hansen told me that he had played with Chan many, many times and that he was the best Hold'em player he has ever played with. That statement says a lot, considering that Thor Hansen himself is one of the most skilled poker players in the world. Chan sat there, already the chip leader at the table, and looked focused, confident, and like he was really enjoying himself.
Chan's lucky hand in the tournament was pocket queens. At one point during the final table, Chan was all-in pre-flop against chip leader Frank Kassela. Chan had the Q♥ Q♣ and Frank Kassela had AA. To the crowd's delight, the board came K♥ K♣ Q♦ 7♥ 6♠ which made a full house for Johnny Chan. After that hand, he was the new chip leader and never let go of that position.
In the end, it came down to Johnny Chan and Phil "Unabomber" Laak in a heads-up competition for the bracelet. This will probably be the most interesting WSOP event broadcast on ESPN this year. Laak is a great player and makes for amazing television. Chan had a substantial chip lead going into the heads-up duel and Phil Laak was clearly enjoying himself. Laak tried to rattle Chan by jumping around the table, doing push-ups while Chan was considering calling one of his bets, offering Chan money on side-bets, and joking whenever possible.
In the final hand, Chan raised to $30,000 with the Q♠ Q♥ and Laak re-raised from the big blind holding the K♦ J♥. Chan didn't take long to re-raise the maximum $92,000. Laak went into the tank and counted out his chips trying to determine how pot-committed he was but finally called. The odds for Chan winning the pot at this stage were 71.7%, making him the big favorite. A huge crowd had gathered around the ESPN final table hoping to see poker history in the making. They would not be disappointed.
The flop was a decent one for Laak; it came J♣ 5♥ 5♣, giving Laak 5 outs (the two remaining jacks and the three remaining kings). Despite the decent flop for Laak, however, the percentages were now 79.7% in Chan's favor. The turn came T♦ and Chan was now the 88.6% favorite. The river brought what most of the crowd had hoped for, the winning card for Johnny Chan, a T♥. Chan's hands shot up in the air and the crowd couldn't seem to stop clapping their hands as they had just witnessed a truly momentuous victory in the history of poker.
In the subsequent ESPN interview, Chan joked about how Phil Hellmuth was probably kicking the chairs back home. Chan also mentioned an interesting fact: apparently, he doesn't play many tournaments because he prefers side games, thus making his win percentage extremely high. This tournament was only the third WSOP he had played so far this year and he is only planning on playing about three more. Phil Hellmuth plays most of them and Doyle Brunson probably plays about as many as Johnny Chan. Congratulations Johnny, it was truly a pleasure watching you play.
Johnny Chan received $303,025 for his efforts and Phil Laak $156,400.