Partnerships usually don't last forever, and the partnership of Chip Reese and Danny Robison, who would become known as the Golddust Twins, came to an end by the end of 1978. They stayed lifelong friends, but each began a different path in life that could only enhance their stories, were a major motion picture ever to be done. Chip rose to poker's greatest heights, becoming known as the greatest high-stakes cash game player in the world. He was also the youngest player ever inducted into Poker's Hall of Fame in 1991. Chip later joined forces with the legend himself, Doyle Brunson, and their story together became another part of poker lore.
Danny Robison would be the first to tell you that he chose the wild path of partying, taking drugs, and chasing hookers. He pushed life to the ultimate edge, and finally found peace, as he describes it, when he discovered the Lord. Danny is this fascinating, complex, personality who plays high-stakes seven-card stud, and preaches the Lord's word at the same time. It was Chip Reese who had introduced Danny to religion. Danny was in and out of rehabilitation drug clinics about nine times, with Chip helping by picking up the bill. Chip had been influenced himself by Doyle Brunson, after Doyle was personally crushed with the loss of one of his daughters.
When Danny discovered religion, he actually stopped playing cards for a while, and would show up at the World Series of Poker — not to play, but to rent a hall to hold sermons in a sincere effort to save the poker players. Poker players referred to him as The Poker Minister. I remember once in the early eighties, I ran into Danny at the Golden Nugget, where Danny had rented a room from which to preach. As I walked by some dice and blackjack tables, I ran into Danny. Remember, we grew up together back in Dayton, Ohio.
Danny started shouting "Praise the Lord, here is Tom Sexton. Tom, I'm going to save you now." Danny got down on his knees on the carpet quoting the Scriptures, and doing it very loudly, drawing a big crowd. This wasn't some sort of act; Danny believes with all of his heart in Jesus, and sincerely wanted to save me and anyone else he could. A crowd gathered around us, as Danny kept on preaching.
Noticing all of these people circling around us, I said "Danny, please, you can get up now. I appreciate what you're doing, but it's okay to get up off your knees."
Danny sprung to his feet, Bible in hand, and literally ran into the Golden Nugget poker room shouting, "Lord be praised, Lord be praised, Tom Sexton is saved."
Today, it is 2008, and if you call Danny on his cell phone, you'll hear the following message: "This is Danny Robison. I just wanted you to know Jesus Christ saves, delivers, and heals bodies. I'll return your call if you leave your number. God Bless You."
During Danny's hiatus from poker, he studied religion very seriously and gave many unique sermons. Then he began playing seven-card stud once again. I once asked him, "Danny, I see you are back to playing cards again… what happened?"
Danny said, "Tom, I woke up one day, as a beam of light hit me. It was the Lord's voice telling me, 'Danny, you're one of the best seven-card stud players in the world. If you don't take these people's money, the other good players will. If you start playing again, you will be able to do the Lord's work with your winnings.'" Danny has donated a lot of money to the church and demonstrated other goodwill gestures, as a result of being a winning high-stakes seven-card stud player over many years.
If you were in a poker game, and a new female dealer sat in the box, very upset due to losing her first tournament toke envelope for $112, what would you do as a player at the table? Would you tell her you are stuck, so hurry up and deal, act like you didn't hear her and ignore her, merely sympathize with her, or give her on good faith, the $112 she lost?
At a recent dinner I was at with some mutual friends, Jan Fisher told me a story about Danny Robison, when she was a beginning dealer many years ago. She had lost her whole toke envelope with $112, and was totally devastated. Back then, that was a lot of money to a new dealer. She was dealing at a table Danny was at, and as soon as he heard about her plight, he asked her how much she had lost? He immediately handed her the $112 to help her out, and said take this. You can return it if the missing money is found later. Danny, for all the years I've known him, has always been this way. He has a good heart that is filled with a lot of compassion. Jan Fisher, who has been around the poker world a long time now, said she never forgot that nice gesture made by Danny Robison. It made a deep, positive impression on her, that one player had such amazing compassion! By the way, Jan later returned the $112 to Danny, after finding the lost envelope.
I recently talked to Danny and reminded him of the time he tried to save me at the Golden Nugget on his knees. I said, Danny, do you remember the passage you were reciting to help save me? Danny immediately said, "I sure do, it was Romans 10 – verse 9 and verse 10." (Note: The words in parentheses are Danny's extra interpretations of each verse.)
Verse 9: That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised (him) Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. (Not put on probation, but unconditionally saved.)
Verse 10: For with the heart (Inner Man) one believes unto righteousness (right standing with God) and with the mouth, confession is made into salvation. (Being saved from hell and going to heaven.)
Chip Reese, like Danny, had a very generous heart, and I experienced it myself early in 1979. I owned a dance studio at 1775 E. Tropicana called Starlight Dance Studio, which is where the Liberace Museum is located today. In fact, Liberace was the owner of the new shopping center, and he was my landlord. One day I was teaching a dance lesson, when the telephone rang. I got the shocking news that my Mom had suddenly died unexpectantly. Simply put, I was practically paralyzed with grief, and left the studio in a daze. I wasn't prepared for this at all. The report was she had died from a bleeding ulcer by herself at home, back in Dayton, Ohio.
I can't excuse what happened, but I wandered up and down the Las Vegas strip all night, drinking and gambling recklessly. I loosely gambled off thousands of dollars that night, in a depressed demeanor, and none of it would bring my Mom back. I found myself at a Las Vegas Strip bus stop on a bench at six the next morning. I woke up and pulled my pockets inside out. I was broke, as I had lost everything. I did find one quarter! I thought to myself, what have I done? Reality set in, as it hit me: I didn't have any money to even catch a flight back to Ohio for the funeral. I found myself walking down the Strip wondering what I was going to do.
When I reached the Dunes I walked inside to the poker room, and saw Chip Reese in a $2,000/4,000 poker game. I couldn't believe the money on the table. I watched the game for a little bit, thinking about my situation. I felt I had no choice, as I reluctantly approached Chip at the table. I explained my problem, as he listened very closely. In one second, Chip asked me what I thought it would cost for a round trip airfare to get to the funeral. I said, "I don't know… about $500, I guess."
Chip immediately handed me a $500 chip, and said, "Tom, take this and be sure to do the right thing, get back there for the funeral. Don't gamble, okay?"
I said, "Chip, I can't thank you enough." I always remembered the compassion Chip showed that day and never forgot it! I might add that I felt great when I paid him back. Chip was always a first-class act his entire life.
This four-part series about the Golddust Twins, between 1973 and 1978, is only the tip of the iceburg as far as their colorful and successful exploits. Someday, perhaps we will see a terrific book written about Chip Reese and Danny Robison in those early years, with that powerful motion picture to follow. I'll be writing two stories next that will highlight more colorful information about Danny, and pay a special tribute to Chip Reese, who unfortunately passed away recently at the young age of 56. The poker world was and still is in a state of shock that Chip Reese has left us… so stay tuned.
The Cab Is Parked,
Tom Sexton is a featured columnist for PokerNews.com. Tom attended the University of Oklahoma on a full gymnastic scholarship, where he was captain of the team four straight years, becoming the first NCAA All-American and Big Eight Champion in OU's gymnastics history in 1968. The Sexton family is well established in poker and includes Tom's brother Mike, the World Poker Tour commentator and poker's "First Ambassador", as voted by his peers. Tom welcomes your thoughts and comments about any of his articles. His e-mail is TSStarbuck1@aol.com.