Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Few Words About Chip Reese

Stepping away from bridge talk for a moment, I'd like to post briefly about poker champion Chip Reese. Somehow I missed the headlines that he passed away last December at the age of 56 and only learned the news today while reading Gus Hansen's new poker book, "Every Hand Revealed," for which Reese wrote the foreword. After learning of his death, I have quickly caught myself up, reading eulogies online.

Reese's career in poker spanned from his college days at Dartmouth through the poker boom which made his and those of many of his fellow professionals' household names. It is now a part of poker lore that during the summer after graduation from college, before proceeding on to business school, he travelled to Las Vegas for a weekend trip and never left. He spent the next 30-plus years playing in the biggest cash games in town, winning millions of dollars, and somehow endearing himself to the very people he was competing against. Poker, like bridge, is a fiercely competitive game...unlike bridge it is often played for large amounts of money, even more reason to bring out negative energy. It is remarkable that a common refrain among people remembering him was--"no one ever had a bad word to say about Chip." Reese was respected as one of the very best players and people around. Barry Greenstein noted that he was always there for his children--he would leave a poker game regardless of how he was doing to attend his son's little league contest.

My favorite Reese stories stem from his being often oblivious to things he cared little about or had no time for, a trait that I share with him. A Alvarez relates it in his book, "The Biggest Game in Town." 'The degree to which Reese fails to think about these things is famous around town. He is rumored to have lost, in his own house, every piece of jewelry he ever owned, and for a period to have paid without question a monthly water bill of over two thousand dollars. After some time, the water company discovered that the pipe supplying his house had broken and was flooding the area for acres around. Reese himself had not noticed.' Some may see in these words the picture of a nut with no regard for money and no understanding of the world around him. I see them as evidence that he had the singular ability to focus on what was important to him and disregard all else. He used this focus to become both a great poker player and a great family man. Good enough for me! RIP Chip.

No comments: