"I am still well above par the last few years," he said, with a bit of a smile.
Chen was one of the breakout stars at the 2006 WSOP, winning two gold bracelets during the Series. They included a victory for $343,618 in the $3,000 limit hold'em event and a win for $442,511 in the $3,500 no-limit hold'em shorthanded tournament. His previous biggest tournament cash was for $41,600 in the Bicycle Casino's Legends of Poker tournament in 2000.
As you can note from the year of that Bicycle Casino cash, Chen has been around for awhile. He just hasn't played nearly as many tournaments as many of the poker stars of today and he still maintains a full-time job at the financial trading firm Susquehanna International Group in the Philadelphia area.
That firm, founded by poker player Jeff Yas, uses poker in some of its training exercises. "We think poker is a good tool for decision making," Chen said. "If you make good decisions in a poker game it will carry over to financial trading."
Chen first played poker seriously in 1993, while studying for his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. "Getting my degree took six years, largely because of poker," he said.
Chen was a regular at the Oaks Card Club in Emeryville, California. As he focused more on poker, he became heavily involved with the rec.gambling.poker online discussion group and began attending the annual BARGE (Big.August.Rec.Gambling.Excursion) in Las Vegas.
It was there that Chuck Weinstock, one of the BARGE organizers and owner of the Conjelco publishing company, enlisted Chen and Andy Lotto to write a book about math and poker. Lotto dropped out, but fellow BARGEr Jerrod Ankenman opted in and the book "The Mathematics of Poker" was published last summer.
"Obviously it was good for Bill to win a couple of bracelets right when the book came out," Ankenman said of the well-received tome.
It was a good thing, then, that Chen didn't give up on the WSOP after a rather disappointing 2005 in which he only had two small cashes in his first big go at the Series. "But I felt confident after playing that year," he said.
The summer of 2006 was also a good one for Chen for another reason. After his bracelet wins, PokerStars signed him on as one of its team members. "That's the site I played the most so it seemed like it fit the best," he said.
Chen couldn't discuss the details of his contract, but said that the online poker site pays part of his entry fees. (Due to his workload back home in Pennsylvania, Chen doesn't travel to many tournaments besides the WSOP.)
This year hasn't been nearly as fruitful for Chen, as he cashed only four times in about three dozen events. "I sort of had the same opportunities as last year. There are two or three key hands in a tournament and last year I won them," he said. "This year I haven't."
Chen still has one last chance for a big WSOP score this summer. He finished his play in the main event Sunday with 29,400 in chips and will play in Day 2A on Tuesday.
Bill Chen is a member of Team PokerStars, where you'll find the world's largest poker room.Like PokerWorks on Facebook, follow us on Twitter!