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Poker News | World Poker News

Chip Reese Remembered

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The memorial service for Chip Reese was held on Friday, December 7th at the Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas.

The memorial service was so well-attended that the primary room and an overflow room were filled to capacity while still others stood wherever they could squeeze in. Family members spoke, including 18-year old Casey, Chip’s son and the one to discover that his father had died in his sleep on the morning of December 4th. Friends talked to the crowd about favorite memories and feelings that aren’t often heard in poker rooms. Doyle Brunson and Bobby Baldwin were among those who spoke at the service.

Members of the media attended the service, though no one attempted an interview or tried to get the “big” story. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and WPT founder Steve Lipscomb were both in attendance, as well as numerous other business and college friends of Chip. By all accounts, it was a touching and beautiful remembrance of him.

Back at the Bellagio two days later, there was a bit of a somber atmosphere. While poker players swarmed the tables to play the Five Diamond Poker Classic preliminary events or the satellites for the upcoming $15,000 main event, there was something – someone – missing.

Nowhere was this more recognizable than in Bobby’s Room, the high-stakes room at the back of the main poker room that is reserved for “The Big Game.” Chip was one of the primary players in that mixed game, one that often ran at $4000-$8000 with the likes of Todd and Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Phil Ivey, Eli Elezra, David Benyamine, Sam Farha, Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, and Daniel Negreanu.

This day, three of them sat around the poker table in Bobby’s Room, but they were not playing cards. The small group was talking, presumably about their close friend who will no longer be joining them there. At the age of 56, Chip should be frequenting that game for many more years, but he left the world far too early.

The past week has been tough on many in the poker community. His close friends are grieving more than most others will be able to understand, but there were also many players whose lives had been touched by Chip’s generosity, warm smile, friendly table chatter, or words of advice. These thoughts and memories fill the air as if they were a fog, causing everything to be somewhat hazy when walking through the cash games and tournament area at the Bellagio. And that fog seems as if it can be put into words at a moment’s notice, at the mere mention of his name.

Members of the poker media have been affected by the loss of arguably the greatest all-around player in the game. They have struggled for nearly a week to find the right words, publish the news without invading the privacy of the family, and simply come to terms with the loss of such a profoundly important – and relatively young – player.

Gary Wise wrote an article for and is in the process of penning several more tributes for other publications, and when asked for a comment himself, he wrote:

“I always assumed that Chip would be the one to inherit the mantle of ‘grand old man of the game’ passed from Johnny Moss to Doyle Brunson. It seemed like a natural fit; he was an enormously successful and charismatic man and held in full the respect of the community. It’s still shocking to me that we’ll never see that torch passed to him. Chip was always professional, warm and personable in my dealings with him, a true ambassador of the game. I can only wish that I’d gotten to know him better.”

BJ Nemeth, currently working for the World Poker Tour, has been in the poker industry as writer and photographer extraordinaire for years. His thoughts, in part, were as follows:

Chip Reese is the Lou Gehrig of poker, quietly playing in the shadow of his friend Doyle Brunson, the Babe Ruth of poker. Brunson gets all the attention, and all the media coverage, and all the fans mobbing him for photos and autographs. Both players focused primarily on the big cash games, but Brunson spent more time playing on the tournament circuit, racking up attention-getting victories. Chip Reese preferred to stay out of the limelight and quietly win money in the side games…

“While Reese never promoted himself, he did promote the Big Game. He was a smooth-talking salesman who would attract wealthy players to the game and try to make it an enjoyable experience – making it more likely for them to come back, even if they were losing. Without Reese’s efforts, the Big Game would have been a lot smaller…

“There’s no argument that the highlight of Reese’s tournament career was his victory in the first-ever WSOP $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship… Facing one of the most star-studded final tables in history (including Doyle Brunson, T.J. Cloutier, and Phil Ivey), Chip Reese rose to the top, outlasting Andy Bloch in an epic seven-hour heads-up battle. While he wasn’t the most famous player at that table (maybe not even in the top five), his opponents confirmed that Reese was still one of the best all-around players in history. Harrah’s and ESPN (and poker fans everywhere) got their wish, as a poker legend had won their most prestigious event…

“Even though Chip Reese received more than $1.7 million for the victory, Harrah’s is still in his debt. The same way that Moneymaker defined the WSOP main event for modern fans, Reese defined the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, cementing its place as one of the top three events of the year. So how can Harrah’s repay him?

“Honor his legacy by renaming it as the ‘Chip Reese $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship.’ It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”

Michael Craig, author of The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King and current writer for Full Tilt, expressed his initial thoughts about Chip’s passing in his blog. An excerpt:

“I didn’t know Chip Reese well, though I suspect few people did. I interviewed him in connection with ‘The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King’ during Summer 2004. Although the interview was short and solitary (I have had many, many more interviews and other encounters with most top players), it was very revealing. Reese was an enigma. In an age where just a fraction of his skill created celebrity, he was one of the best known and least understood professional players.

“Reese deserves a tribute and an examination – for his incomparable talents, his remarkable bearing, and for all he symbolized of an era that he did much to create but left too soon. A full assessment won’t be 100% laudatory. There has to be, to some degree, a recognition that behind the smile and the sunny manner was a man who devoted himself with every fiber of his being to separating you from your money. In fact, a memorial to Chip Reese must recognize the dichotomy in all gamblers: being nice is good business and good form but its goal is to strip other people of their money and leave them feeling alright about their loss.”

Paul “Dr. Pauly” McGuire posted a tribute on his Tao of Poker blog that read, in part:

“In 2006, Chip Reese won the inaugural $50,000 HORSE event proving to the world that he could win the biggest buy-in event in the history of the WSOP. Since he rarely appeared on television poker programs, that was his coming out party. His final table will also go down in history as one of the toughest of all time…

“I fell asleep a lot during that magical night. I passed out in my car. I passed out in the media room. I passed out in the stands while sweating the final table. Reese did not tire one bit and eventually won.

“Poker lost a legend this week. I was fortunate that I got to see him play live on a few instances. He always carried himself with class. Never trash talked. Never mugged for the cameras. He never berated his opponents. He never bragged about his abilities. He just played poker.”

And for that, Chip Reese’s place in poker history – and in the hearts and minds of poker players everywhere – is solidified.

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