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Chip Reese: Hall of Fame Poker Player

Chip Reese was on the fast track to becoming a lawyer.

His grades were outstanding, he was known for excelling in debate club, and he already had everything lined up to go to Stanford’s School of Law.

The only thing standing in the way was himself, and his passion for gambling.

“I had to make a choice between being a lawyer or a professional gambler. I chose the more honorable of the two.”– Chip Reese

Although Chip is no longer with us, we still don’t want to overlook his long list of accomplishments. He has competed against the best poker players in the world and has proven himself to be worthy competition.

To learn more about Chip and his decision to choose a life as a professional gambler, please read through his biography.

Young Scholar

Even though his given name was David Edward Reese, he’s more commonly known today as Chip Reese.  He was born on March 28th, 1951 in Dayton, Ohio and had a pretty normal upbringing. He had two sisters: Nancy and Laurie, who he was especially close to when he was younger.

A few months after Chip started his first day of kindergarten he contracted rheumatic fever and was forced to be home-schooled for the remainder of the year. During his year off, his mother spent a great deal of time teaching him how to play various card and board games.

Among these games, Chip was most interested in learning how to play poker. Half jokingly, Chip will tell everyone,

“I’m a product of that year.”

He was eager to play poker against his friends, but no one his age knew how to play. He eventually was able to compete against the older boys in the neighborhood in exchange for baseball cards.

It wasn’t long before Chip managed to win every single baseball card within a mile radius. Once Chip got older, he started playing poker against his friends in high school for small amounts of cash; he was near impossible to beat. The only activity he spent as much time on as poker during high school was football, as he loved to play and was a very talented player.

Even though he didn’t invest a great deal of time into his school work, he was very intelligent, leading his debate team to the Ohio State Championships and being at the top of his class.

He applied and was accepted to Harvard University, but he chose to go to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire instead.

This was still a great Ivy League school, but his parents were surprised by his decision.

Chip chose to major in economics, even though his ultimate goal was to go to Stanford’s School of Law to become a lawyer. Just like in high school, Chip was a member of Dartmouth’s debate team and he played football during his freshmen year.

Chip became a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, where he found a lot of people who were interested in playing cards.

He played gin rummy, bridge, and of course poker. His classmates could hardly even be considered competition for him, as he could probably count the number of times he lost on one hand.

He was actually so talented that the fraternity named the card room after him; it will forever be known as, “David E. Reese Memorial Card Room.”

Welcome to Las Vegas

After Chip graduated, and before it was time for law school, he decided to visit Las Vegas with one of his friends who grew up there. He headed to the casinos for the first time and was disappointed to see how quickly $400 can fade away.

Chip was eager to stay in Vegas and see what he could do, so he accepted a job offer selling plots of land for his friend’s father. He didn’t make much, but he made enough to pay for rent and spend the nights playing his new favorite version of poker: 7 card stud.

Before the end of the summer, Chip took the $500 he had been saving and entered a tournament at the Sahara Casino & Resort.

Chip managed to take first place, walking away with the $40,000 grand prize and leaving his hopes of being a lawyer behind.

In just a couple of months, Chip had built his bankroll up to $100,000.

Chip has always been known for ceasing opportunities whenever they arose. One night, Chip saw Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss playing hi-lo split across the room. Luck wasn’t on their side that night though, so Chip thought it would be worth it to risk $15,000 of his bankroll to enter their game.

The stakes were $400/$800, so he would have to be cautious with his money to avoid going bankrupt.  By the end of the long weekend, his bankroll had risen to a stealthy $400,000. He was impressed that he was able to win against the world’s top competitors, who he would later become close friends with.

While Chip was still honing his poker skills, he longed to find a place where he wasn’t worried about being cheated by the casino or other players. This is when he decided to approach the owner of the Dunes Casino and plead with him for the Poker Room Manager’s position.

With him in charge of things, he knew he could prevent cheating from occurring and would be able to create a safe environment for both the players and the casino. After much debate, he was given the job and held that title for five years. He only quit so that he could invest more time preparing for the World Series of Poker.

World Series of Poker / Other Accomplishments

In 1978, Chip won the $1,000 7 Card Stud Split event during that year’s World Series of Poker. Not only was he awarded $19,000, but he also won a prestigious gold bracelet. Just four years later he won his second gold bracelet for placing first in the $5,000 Limit 7 Card Stud event.

He walked away with over $90,000 that evening.

As it was obvious that Chip was a very talented 7 card stud player, Doyle Brunson asked him to write the Stud section of his book, Super/System.

Outside of the WSOP, Chip has won a variety of other competitions including the $10,000 Deuce to Seven Lowball event of Amarillo Slim’s Superbowl of Poker, the $5,000 Limit Seven Card Stud event of the 1984 Grand Prix of Poker, and the $2,500 Limit 2-7 Lowball event of the Annual Diamond Jim Brady competition.

In 1991, Chip Reese was officially inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, as their nineteenth member. At age 40, he was the youngest player to be awarded this honor. Actually, the age requirement to be considered for this honor is 40, so he was actually inducted as early as possible.

In 2006, a new World Series championship event would require players to play five different types of poker (Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Seven-card Stud, and Eight or Better Hi/Lo. After seven hours of intense play, it came down to just two players: Chip Reese and Andy Bloch. It was close, but Chip was able to walk away the champion, winning over $1.7 million dollars in the process.

Chip could often be found at Bobby’s Room of the Bellagio Casino & Resort, competiting in an event called, “The Big Game.” The buy in rate for this game is $100,000, and at least $2,000,000 can be won each session.

Chip has won and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in this room over the years, but just being able to play against some of the best poker players in the world is awarding enough for Chip.

Family Life

Chip finally decided to settle down and get married when he was thirty-five years old. He married his long time girlfriend, Noralene Boyer, and they bought a multi-million dollar home in Las Vegas together.

After the wedding, Chip and Doyle Brunson started a sports betting tout service, as it allowed Chip to make money through working from the comfort of his own home. This business also helped him discover a successful betting system that he could use for baseball.

Gambling was still a big part of his life, but he felt like he owed it to his wife to stay home as much as possible. It wouldn’t be long before Chip and Noralene had two beautiful children together: a daughter, Taylor Reese, and a son, Casey.

His family was always his main priority. At one point he left the poker table down $700,000, just so he could make it in time to see his son’s little league game. Despite trying their hardest to work out their differences, Chip and Noralene got divorced after almost twenty years of marriage.

Chip Reese passed away on December 4th, 2007 at his home in Las Vegas. No one is certain about his cause of death; some believe he died from a bad case of pneumonia, while others believe he died from a blood clot that originated from an earlier gastric bypass surgery.

We may not be able to agree on how he died, but we can agree that the world said goodbye to an amazing poker player that day. His accomplishments will never be forgotten.
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