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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – John Phan

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

John “The Razor” Phan is an example of what keeping your nose to the grindstone will do for you.  Phan has been on the tournament circuit for over a decade now, but only within the last couple of years has he really started enjoying the fruits of his labor.  Phan gives hope to poker players everywhere that eventually variance will turn in your favor, and as long as you keep an upbeat and positive attitude, you can eventually breakthrough in a big way too.  Don’t get me wrong, Phan had success in his first few years, but lately he has skyrocketed, including winning Player of the Year in 2008 in both CardPlayer Magazine and Bluff Magazine publications.  Now he enjoys the spotlight while being one of the most successful tournament players in the world.

Bon “John” Phan was born in Da Nang, Vietnam on October 10, 1974.  When Phan was just eight years old his family fled Vietnam, seeking a better life somewhere.  It wasn’t an easy journey, as the family first moved to Hong Kong, then to the Philippines.  Neither one of those places were adequate for the Phan family, so they eventually made one more boat trip to the place they’ve been ever since, the United States.  In 1982 his family arrived on the West coast of the United States, and settled down in Stockton, California.

One of his family’s favorite pastimes was playing poker.  However, they played it to enjoy one another’s company, and not for anything gambling related.  That, of course, would come later, but for now it was more about hanging out with friends and family while getting adjusted to a new country.

Phan’s family bought a small grocery store in the area, and that was Phan’s first, and only, “real job” before he started gambling exclusively for a living, when he was just around 16 years old.  Phan has admitted in interviews that he was never big on academics, and he only stayed in his community college classes long enough to get his financial aid money, so he could go play poker at one of the smaller room’s around the state.  One of his earliest poker memories is going to a very small underground room with a 20 dollar buy-in, and if you played for an hour they would give you another 20 dollars.  In these years he really honed his skills, and by the time he was 21 he felt he was more than ready to try his skill with the big boys at the larger casinos.

Phan started playing smaller poker tournaments, and had a few lower five figure scores to close out the 90’s.  In 2000 he placed in a World Series of Poker Dealer’s tournament, giving him his first taste of WSOP play.  In 2003 he placed in two WSOP tournaments, finishing 22nd in the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout and 17th in a $1,500 Limit Hold’em Event.  They weren’t outstanding finishes, but they were sort of fitting endings (and beginnings) for a player who started at the bottom and has worked his way up to the top.

In 2004 Phan really picked up the volume of tournaments he played, saying he was on the road nearly every single day that week.  Because he is single, he says it has made it easier to travel so much, but it’s still a tough life, and Phan proved to be the ultimate grinder in these years.  The positive results began to pour in, starting with a $160,000 score in January of 2004 with a victory in the Jack Binion World Poker Open, and just days later he won another event, adding $80,000 more to his bankroll.

The year 2005 was even better to Phan, as he almost took down Player of the Year Honors, and his first WSOP bracelet, but came up just short on both accounts.  Phan placed in dozens of tournaments, including making the money in two World Poker Tour Events, and one WSOP Event, finishing fourth in the $5,000 Seven Card Stud Event.  It would take a few more years, but 2008 will go down as one of the most memorable years for any player in poker history.

After ten years of playing at the WSOP, and coming painfully close, Phan decided to ease his pain by winning two bracelets just days apart.  On June 15th, Phan won the $3,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament, cashing in $434,789 dollars.  On the 22nd he won his second bracelet, winning the $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw Event, winning an additional $151,911.  That year alone he cashed in a total of five WSOP events.  However, the biggest cash of his career came in August 2008, when he won the $9,500 No Limit Hold’em Championship Event at the WPT 2008 Legends of Poker.  The cash was worth over one million dollars.

Phan is a Full Tilt Poker pro, and can be seen playing there when he isn’t participating in one of the hundreds of live events he plays in yearly.  On top of that, Phan is deep into his charity work, which included his heading back to his home country of Vietnam a few times a year, and helping them out however he can.

Phan has said that he has had to change his game over the years.  When he first started playing he said it was routine to see players folding A-K at two dollar tables.  Now with the influx of internet players, who seem to be predominantly aggressive, he’s had to find a way to be even more aggressive, while making premium plays at the same time.  As you can see, over the last few years, a few things have clicked.

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