David Edward Reese, born March 28, 1951, is not the epitome of a professional poker player, because that description is too broad, way too broad. He is the quintessential Hall of Fame poker player - the essence of a successful poker player in the purest and most concentrated form, a demigod.
Chip grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where he enjoyed playing poker for baseball cards. When his mother learned he was playing with the fifth-graders down the street she assumed he would learn a good lesson since he was only six years old. He did. He learned how to win, and before his older adversaries knew hat had happened, he had every baseball card on the block.
During his first year of elementary school Chip contacted rheumatic fever and was forced to stay home for most of the year. His mother stayed home with him and taught him all types of board and card games, and Chip now says, "I'm really a product of that year."
He continued playing poker in high school, but also found time to play football. Reese also excelled on the debate team where he won an Ohio State Championship and went to the National Finals. His parents assumed he would attend Harvard (where he was accepted), but instead got his degree from Dartmouth. He didn't become the legend at football that he may have hoped to become, but his old fraternity did dedicate their game room in his honor.
After graduation, Chip had plans to attend Stanford School of Law, but got sidetracked in Las Vegas. Arriving in town with $400, he visited a friend, then lost his cash playing blackjack. In the morning that same friend got him a job selling raw land with his father's company. It was enough to keep him in pocket money and Reese started playing some $5/$10 7-card stud, his favorite game.
Near the end of the summer Chip took $500 and entered a tournament at the Sahara Casino. Since taking first-place and pocketing $40,000 Chip has never looked back. By the time he should have been at Stanford, Chip had a bankroll of over $100,000 and by the end of the year, he had a playing partner, Danny Robeson.
Late one night, while playing $10/$20 stud, Chip saw some of the big-name players like Doyle Brunson and Johnny Moss playing hi-low split. "I was playing in my game but I was watching them and they were playing terribly." He called Danny and convinced him that the game was worth risking $15,000 of their bankroll, even though that would be a tiny buy-in for the $400/$800 stakes. Danny agreed, and Chip got in the game as a total nobody.
His unknown status helped him drain the game of any loose chips, and by the end of a long four-day weekend their bankroll stood at a healthy $400,000. His score allowed him to start playing some hold'em, and like most young players (he was 23) Chip was happy to jump into games like ace-seven and razz even though he had never played them. He wasn't to happy when he found himself broke several times, but his amazing ability to play even the best in the world at almost any game allowed him to quickly build his bankroll again.
Because there were still a problem with cheating in Las Vegas in the 1970's, Chip felt his best move was to run a poker room himself. He went to Morris Shenker at the Dunes Casino when he was 28, introduced himself, and came away with the poker room manager's job. Before long the Dunes was the place to play high-stakes poker, and players worried less about being cheated. And, it would be five years before Chip tired of running the room.
In 1978, Chip won his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet, taking the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Split Championship, and he won the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud Championship in 1982. Although the wins were fun, the tournaments were not nearly as lucrative as the side-games. Noted author and mathematician David Sklansky rated Reese as the best 7-card stud player in the world at the time, and nothing has changed since.
High-stakes player Barry Greenstein rates Chip as one of the best ever at side games, and notes that "his skill and control make him the prototype successful big-time player." They have played together for years now, but Barry still remembers when Chip used to try and convince him to play in their game by saying, "Buddy, we've got the perfect game for you. We're playing all of your best games. I can't believe you're not gonna take a shot."
Chip stayed single until he was 35, enjoying the fruits of his labor, and taking on all-comers in almost any game. He also began using computer programs to handicap sporting events, and has made millions with his system for betting baseball. Now that he is married, the sports betting has been a dominant income producer because he would rather spend time at home with his family or go see his kid's soccer games than be away all the time in a casino.
As far as playing styles go, Chip says that every player develops their own comfort zone, but the players that make the most money are the ones who are willing to gamble. He recalls being in poker rooms with Doyle or other top players and just sitting at a table and starting a game heads-up. There was no real edge for either player, but eventually other players would join the game, and some of them would be the kind you needed at the table to make some money.
Reese scoffs at the pros who won't sit at a game unless it is just right, with the perfect number of players. "Those guys have cost themselves a fortune over the course of their careers," he states, and much like Doyle Brunson always said, "you have to give action, to get action."
In the tiny world of ultra-high stakes poker, Chip Reese is a living legend who has earned his place in the Poker Hall of Fame (he was elected in 1991 at the age of 40). As the nineteenth inductee, he was only the third living player to be enshrined, and the youngest.
Now, at the age of 54, Chip can be found on occasion playing $4,000/$8,000 limit games at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas. If you do see him, you might want to keep in mind that Reese still declares, "there is nobody I won't play if the conditions are right." Wanna gamble?
Ed note: Wanna gamble? We think CD Poker is a great place to do so.