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John Phan Has the Razor's Edge
Probably one of the most entertaining players to watch on the poker room floor is John Phan. Whether he's taking more than 10 minutes to decide his next move, double-fisting his coffee or taking a phone call in the middle of play, he's always having a good time. Never one to take it too seriously, Phan's energy is great to be around as he's always laughing and chatting with others. I managed to squeeze in between surrounding friends, fans and promoters and talk with the talented player. And my suspicions were confirmed - Phan is a ton of fun.
How are you doing so far at the World Series?
Actually, really good. This has been my best year so far. I've cashed three times and I came in second place (in Event 17 - No-Limit Hold'em). I was supposed to win a bracelet, but I'm happy. Second is good.
What do you want to accomplish at this World Series?
I want to do really well in the Main Event. That's my goal this year. I have been working on my game a lot and playing really good, and I'm really focused. Making the final table of the Main Event is my next goal. I've already achieved my first goal this year which was making one final table.
How did you get into poker?
I loved to gamble when I was young. We usually had home games as a kid when I was 6, 7, 8, up to 10 years old. When I was 15, I started going to poker rooms in California. I played $2-$4 and $3-$6 for the longest time. And once I turned 21, I realized I was making a good living, better than working, so I was like, "Why do I have to work?" I'm supporting my whole family by playing poker.
So your parents didn't mind you gambling as a minor?
Actually, they didn't know about it. But when I turned 23, that's when I told them what I do for a living.
And your parents support you 100%?
Yes. They really enjoy watching me on TV, and whenever I play, they always call me and check up on me to see how I did.
That's great. So how do you think poker has changed in the last five years?
Because of TV, it's gotten so big now. Every year there's so much more money in the poker tournaments, the fields get bigger and bigger, so there's so much endorsement money.
Do you like the fact that the playing field has expanded so much?
Yeah, because the bigger the field, the bigger the money. It's great. But it's tough because there's so many more players, but if you really play good and focus, I think the pros will win more than the beginners.
As a pro, how do you stay focused?
The field is so big, there's so many amateurs, and they make so many mistakes. With a pro you know when to play your hand and when to make the right move. It works out for me that's how I look at it.
Do you have any superstitions?
No. I just have to clear my mind before any event. My mind has to be totally fresh and nothing bothering me, then I'm okay with my game. But if there's any distractions, or if I have a problem, then I'll be off my game. I used to let that happen, but not anymore. I'm pretty clear now.
You always look like you're having a lot of fun when you're playing, how do you manage to do that under all the pressure?
I'm just having a good time. Winning is nice, losing is "oh, well." I play everyday, it's like my job so when I go to work I want to have a good time and have fun. It would be nice to always win, who doesn't want to win? But you can't win all the time, so in this business you win some and you lose some.
How do you celebrate a win?
I usually give a percentage to my family. I give them at least 20%. I donate a lot to Vietnam. For myself, I like to hang out, go to clubs, have a big party.
Are you married?
No, I'm single.
And loving it?
(Laughs) Of course. I'm living the best life anyone could dream of right now. The past 10 years have been the best. I can't complain, even though I'm always single.
Do you like Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is fun, but it's too crazy. It's parties and clubs every day and every night. You can get carried away if you don't behave yourself. The pit games are the worst. A lot of top poker players go out, get drunk and then play the pit games. As long as you have control it's all good.
What are your plans after the World Series?
Take a vacation. I need two weeks off. The last three or four years I've been traveling a lot. Whenever I do good, I take some time off.
Okay, last question. How did you get your nickname "The Razor?"
Because I raise a lot, and I got the Razor phone, not one, but two, when it first came out. And my game is always aggressive and sharp like a razor.
Thanks, John, it was a pleasure. Good luck in the Main Event.