05 December 2007

Chip Reese's Passing

I covered the World Series of Poker during the summers of 2006 and 2007. When I first arrived, I was awestruck mingling through the tables with my Best Buy camera. I was a hack among poker hacks, dreamers, hustlers, and a select few risk management professionals. After the first few days, I was comfortable sneaking through the Amazon Room, although it most often looked like a rhino wading through a limoge shop near the Louvre. I was I think fortunate enough to interview many players, from the one-hit wonders to the university wunderkids to the rock stars of the game.

I never really made any attempt to befriend players, although I became friendly with several. I've always assumed that these men and women had plenty of friends and companions, and that there was no need to bring in another one. When the true friendships have occurred, I've benefited greatly from them.

Barry Greenstein has a poignant audio post on The Poker Road. Certainly, he has one thing right: the lives of these poker players celebrated and revered by the public are anything but glamorous. Too often, these men and women live really dreadful lives. There are the broke players I've barely met who have filled my cell phones with pleadings to help them find backing or can be seen milling around rooms and events. There are the vices. There are the marathon grinds at the table. There are the boom to bust to boom to bust journeys. The implied pot odds blur into the desperate shoves, the bad runs spewing from the reckless abandon.

For whatever reason, we all seem to have some novel need here in the 21st Century to connect directly with catastrophe and grief. Maybe it is a gap in truly meaningful relationships in our lives, replaced by the MySpace or user name or avatar buddy. Maybe it is to somehow lift one's place in the world, a world where the everyman's popularity can now be measured by hits and comments and views and links.

I do know that Chip Reese seemed different than most of this band I would walk amongst. Doyle was the newfound King of the People, but Reese was one of those who came out only when the ROI looked good enough. He was never a bracelet chaser, having especially seen through the shallow significance of the unwearable metal wristbands. No, he would come out when the buy-in was high enough and the luckbox factor was low enough to make sitting in one of these crazy tournaments worthwhile. I always found it odd that the other person as selective as Reese when it came to tourneys seemed to be Gabe Kaplan.

He was commonly tagged as the greatest cash game player alive, and he played at the highest stakes online as CaseyAtTheBat on FullTilt. Yet it seemed that his warmth and generosity toward his close friends was the trait that will be missed the most. He had moved from the young hot shot to the grizzled veteran, and he could easily separate the pretenders from the legitimate players among the never-ending new faces he would face online, at the Bellagio, or in the biggest tourneys. For the select few in his inner circle, he was simply a friend of the highest order.

His death is a wake-up call, but not for any sort of reason related to poker. Does the sedentary life of a poker player create a body more susceptible to an early death or obesity? Maybe, but so does watching the NFL or being a cube monkey. No, Reese's death is a wake-up call for each of us to look at our lives and our relationships. Here was a man of the highest integrity in a world of deception and deceit, a friend of the highest order who regularly exposed the weaknesses of his peers and took their money. This is a wake-up call for each of us that investing in relationships, taking the time to deepen friendships, adding laticework to the goings-on with our companions, that these are the worthy pursuits of us all. Rest in Peace, Mr. Reese.


Blogger BadBlood said...

Great post Craig.

9:32 AM  
Blogger jusdealem said...

His sudden passing was a shock to me, even though I know the lifestyle makes it hard to stay healthy.

Interesting audio from Barry. Thanks for linking that.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Standing Around Breathing said...

Thanks for another great post! I hate to hear that Chip passed. He was always interesting to me and I hate that I'll miss out on anymore interviews with him, though I'm sure there will be plenty written about him in the next few weeks! That will be one Cardplayer I will have to hang on to be round-filing it!

5:12 PM  
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