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Daniel - Poker Journal

Chip Reese

09 Dec 2007

I attended the funeral the other day and the place was overflowing with people which is a testament to how many friends he had. I showed up early and yet still there was no sitting room and people were standing anywhere they could.

Chip’s son spoke and it was incredible. Simply based on his maturity and poise you could see that Chip had taught him well, a chip off the old block, if you will.

Frankly, I was happy to see that the funeral, while attended by a large group of poker players, wasn’t really about Chip the poker player at all. Despite the fact that Chip was without a doubt the greatest poker player that ever lived, from seeing the pictures and listening to his family you also got the impression that he may have been an even better father than a poker player.

I don’t know that there is such a thing as a “good funeral,” but if there is, then this was definitely one that would qualify. Again, little about Chip the poker player made the cut, instead it was about Chip the family man as well as a man of faith. I never really talked to Chip much about God and his beliefs and he was never one to jam things down your throat.

Based on his behavior at the table and away, though, I always got the sense that he was a man of faith. He never, ever, ever, had a bad word to say about anybody, even if that person was someone you could easily find fault in. I genuinely believe that he tried to focus on the good in people rather than any mistakes they may have made. Maybe the most non-judgmental person I’ve ever met.

Since Chip was a Christian there was obviously a preacher reading scripture and talking about Heaven, etc. It was a unique environment in some ways, as not al those in attendance were believers, but I don’t think it came off as “preachy” at all. A funeral isn’t really about those attending and their personal beliefs, it’s a reflection of the man and his family.

Several of Chip’s closest friends also got up to speak, closing with Doyle Brunson, who understandably started by saying he’d always imagined Chip doing this for him. Everyone who spoke, including Bobby Baldwin and David Chesnoff combined memorable stories about Chip, mixing in humor and emotion in such a way that left much of the room teary eyed.

At the end of the ceremony the family put together some pictures on video along with some music. Some great pictures of him and his family. You could sense just from the pictures that he was most happy when with his family. Some real funny pictures in there too with Chip having his face painted in some, and wearing just an awful wig in others!

After the ceremony was finished most of the people there headed to TPC Summerlin for food and cocktails. That, and of course more stories of Chip’s amazing life. By the end of the night golf matches were being discussed, other goofy bets were made, and I couldn’t help but think that’s the way Chip would have wanted it. He just didn’t seem like the type of guy that would want us to mourn for him. He didn’t crave attention or glory while he was here so I felt like he’d want us to carry on.

The poker world will carry on but it will never be the same. Chip was one of a kind at the poker table. He was probably the most socially intelligent person I’ve ever met. Fully understanding what it meant to be a professional and fully understanding his role as not only a player in the game, but as a “host.”

As for what made him so good? I loved what one of the speakers had to say. In fact, it was Chip himself who said it to him when asked why he plays with the best in the world. Chip said, “When they are on there A game they are all fantastic players, some probably better than my A game. The thing is, my D game isn’t much different than my A game.” Think about that for a moment. There is a lot important information in those words. You are only as good of a player as you are on your worst days and no one understood that and was able to execute that better than Chip.

When I played poker with Chip the word “graceful” would be a word I’d use to describe it. It was effortless. He was never really up and down like a yo-yo, you rarely ever saw him get all of his money in bad and in need of the deck saving him. Every play he made just seemed to “make sense.” It wasn’t crazy wild or erratic which you’d think would make him predictable. Not the case though, as I mentioned earlier he was a social genius which translates into not only understanding people, but also knowing what they think of you as well. I’m sure he’s bluffed me a million times and I had no idea.

We actually had this bizarre theme going on when we played poker- I never called him on the river and he never called me. It was so odd. Then one hand in 2-7 single draw with a $100,000 cap I raised with 2-3-4-5-8 which on all accounts is an absolute monster hand. He capped it and I finally called him. He showed 2-3-4-5-7 and said, “No wonder we never call each other.”

I always liked Chip and learned a lot from him. Playing with him was a privilege and I feel lucky for having had the chance.

I have other things to share blogwise but nothing as important as this so it can wait.