Note. Casey Reese spoke first, followed by David Chesnoff(attorney), and Brian
Dalembert(Casey's personal coach).
Thank you, David and Brian, for those wonderfully touching words. And Casey, however proud your dad was of you yesterday, he's twice as proud today.
It would be superfluous for me to tell you what a wonderful family man Chip was. All of the other speakers will no doubt convey that sentiment. Suffice it to say that , Casey, Taylor, Britney, Brian, Gavin, Lori, Nancy, Ester, .... he loved you all as much as any man can love his family. And to those of the rest of us privileged enough to be called his friend he gave equal amounts of love. I know he especially loved Doug(Dalton ) and Doyle(Brunson)
One reason that Chip was so successful, and was such a good person, is that he not only understood the importance of family and friends, but he always paid attention to the lessons that life provided. Chip's extended Dartmouth family lost one of its own earlier this year. Dr. Chuck Thomas, who was probably Chip's best friend going all the way back to their childhood, died three days short of seven months ago. Chip arranged for the use of a private jet owned by his good friend, Larry Flynt, and graciously asked if I wanted to come with him.
We attended the funeral, and on the way back, Chip told me and another family friend, Joe Dare, the story of Larry Flynt. When Larry was shot, the bullet ended up lodged in his spine
in such a place as to leave Larry the following choice. He could leave it where it was, and
spend the rest of his life in excruciating pain(from which relief could only be had by the use
of a potent drug concoction called a "Brompton Cocktail") or he could have the bullet removed surgically, which would leave him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair
for the rest of his life. Larry did not complain, but simply chose the latter, and got on with his life. Chip admired this. "No matter how bad you think things are going in your life at any given moment, there are people out there who have to deal with choices that we could not even fathom", he said." Much of what has been written in the press about Larry is negative,
but I have nothing but respect for the guy."
They asked us to limit our talk to five minutes, and I only learned of this five minutes ago, but since Chezzy(the lawyer) didn't seem to let it bother him, I am going to say up front that I probably will go over. And I think it only fair since I have more history with Chip, almost forty years, than any of the speakers.
As the other speakers know, there are so many stories and so many things you could talk about when it comes to Chip Reese. I have decided to limit my talk to two of Chip's favorite subjects; poker and food. Also, I want to correct a couple of inaccuracies that I've found in the media coverage of this sad affair.
The first inaccuracy was in an obituary that ran on ESPN.com. The pertinent part read
"Reese, who learned how to play poker while at Dartmouth College "......
Chip Reese did not learn how to play poker while at Dartmouth College. This is roughly
equivalent to saying, "Michael Jordan, who learned how to play basketball while with the
Chicago Bulls,"....... Chip Reese, in all likelihood, was already one of the best poker
players the world would ever see when he first set foot on the Hanover plain. All it would take
for this to become self-evident was for Chip to be put on a world stage.
Chip loved poker, and even better he liked the fact that it was one of the few (soon to be
Olympic) sports that you could play while eating. Now, in Bobby's Room inside the poker
room at the Bellagio, in addition to playing $4000-$8000, you can get pretty much whatever
you want to eat prepared by the best chefs in the world.
The poker room at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house (which is now known as the Chip
Reese memorial poker room) was very plush, but there was no Carmen Bates or Nate to
run and get you food when you wanted it. This presented a problem for the young Dipper
who, nevertheless found a solution.
We didn't have money on the table in those days. Instead, we did transactions. Everyone started out at minus $2. As the game went on and Chip won the money, he would
sell you another $2, and so on. After a couple of hours of playing, Chip would typically sit in his usual spot at plus $32 or so and the rest of us would be in various states of minus.
One of the regulars in the game was Dave Smile, now Dr. Smile, who back in the day was known as 'the Miley'. He was also known as 'the smiling maggot'. He was also known as the 'deuce of spades'. Miley would get to about minus $12, then excuse himself to go downstairs to the Beta kitchen where he would fix a sumptuous plate of hamburger helper.
Back then, hamburger helper cost less than $1, and a pound of hamburger was also less than $1, so Miley had less than $2 tied up in this meal he never intended to eat. Instead, he
would simply waft the dish in front of Chip, who, after about 30 seconds, would look over at his friend and say, "Miley, where do you stand on the board?" To which Miley would disingenuously reply, "Gee, Dave, I dunno, I guess I'm about minus $12". At which point
Chip would look over and say, "Hulkie, put me down to plus $20, move Miley back up to even, and somebody pass that nice hamburger helper over to the Pippy!"
Chip could only win so much money at the Beta house and so he had to branch out.
These were the "trust-fund babies" that David Chesnoff referred to. David, we're talking
about the same thing, but I see in my notes that I was going to call them "sons of wealthy parents or campus drug dealers, or both." One such legendary game had Chip playing
hollywood gin rummy with a young man from Bones Gate. They played all night and in the end Chip took the last of his adversary's money. He put the $500 in a tin box he used to have and went to sleep. When he woke up, the money was gone. He and Chuck looked
around to no avail, and ultimately surmised that this resourceful fellow must have watched
Chip put the money in the tin box and had stolen his money back. Theory became solid
fact when this young man came back the very next day with a 'fresh' $500 bankroll. This
time the lad wasn't as lucky. Chip won the $500 from him again, and hid it so that there would be no third time.
Chip found enough games with these fellows, as well as with professors and graduate students at Tuck business school to where in his senior year his bankroll reached $4000.
To put this in perspective, in my first year at Dartmouth, tuition was exactly $4000/year.
This, of course, marked another milestone for Chip. It was the last time he ever visited the campus laundry. You see, with his new bankroll, each month he would go out and buy brand new underclothes, invite me up to his room and as he was piling a month's worth of
dirty underwear into my waiting arms, say, "Hookie, do me a favor and take these out back to the nice dumpster.
Chip graduated in 1973. The average starting salary for an Ivy League grad at the time
was about $10,000/yr. Chip had a job in his uncle's company making $25,000/yr. plus a car
and expense account. He lasted less than six months. I know what has been written says
he was on his way to Stanford business school when he stopped off in Vegas, the rest being history. The notion that he was already accepted into that school may be fact or it may be legend, but the bottom line is that he was never going to end up anywhere but in
Las Vegas. He knew from the beginning that this(poker, sports betting, etc.) was all he really ever wanted to do.
Chip and I stayed in touch after college, and when he felt he had become established,
he called and told me to come out to Vegas. I was given an opportunity that most people
in this audience would give an arm or a leg to have had. To learn to be a poker pro and make a living under the wings of Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson. I lasted less than six months. I did learn two things. Anybody who makes a living solely as a poker player or
gambler is possessed of character traits, for example, patience, discipline, mathematical
skill, people skill, controlled agression and any number of others that would serve them
well in any chosen profession. I gained respect for this small group of people. Second, I
came to understand that, even though he made it look easy, what Chip Reese accomplished was unbelievably and extraordinarily difficult to do.
Most recently, I moved back to Las Vegas to take a job as a poker dealer. My
wonderful mate, Stephanie, had wearied of the cold and gray of the Ohio winters and I
had wearied of the practice of law. I asked Chip if he could help me get a job in Vegas and,
of course, he did. Moreover, not once did he say " are you sure you want to give all that
schooling up", or "do you think this is the right choice". He knew I would be able to make a
living here and would be happy. He also understood that the intrinsic value of a poker dealer
is the same as that of a poker legend or of a scum-sucking lawyer. Chip was without
question one of the most non-judgmental people I have ever met.
This new career change allowed me the opportunity to deal to the finest poker players in the world. The Doyle Brunsons, the Eli Elezras, the Bobby Baldwins, the Barry Greensteins, the Todd Brunsons, the Phil Iveys, the David Benyamines, the Gus Hansens,
the Johnny Chans, the Jennifer Harmans, .......
Am I leaving anybody out? If I have, please raise your hand, because I want to make
sure I suck up to all of you.
I once asked Chip how he was able to stay ahead of this game with this unbelievably
talented line-up? Chip told me, "On any given night, my 'A' game is not necessarily any
better than the rest of the field. It's just that my 'D' game is not much worse than my 'A'
game. Most people who had the privilege to play with him or to watch him play would
undoubtedly agree with this assessment. Yes, he made a lot of money playing poker,
but, other than affording his family a better life, this fact was largely irrelevant to Chip.
He sought to play every hand correctly. That was his truth. He understood that this was
the essence of his art. Lady luck will not let you win every pot or even every session.
But if you do the right thing time after time, as regards the play of the cards, in the long run
you will be a winning player. Chip Reese was completely and utterly true to poker and that's why poker was true to him.
The last inaccuracy I would like to clear up is the obituary in the Las Vegas newspaper
that reported that Chip Reese died of pneumonia. I'm sorry folks, and I don't mean to be crass, but Superman does not succumb to pneumonia. It took some work but I was able
to find out what really happened. You see, poker has become huge not only here in the States as well as the rest of the world, and many of you may not know this, but it has
become even bigger up in heaven. The 'big game' is not up there yet, but they have various
buy-in tournaments every day. The problem is that God is not pleased with the caliber of play in His poker room. "Look at them", He said to Saint Peter just the other day, "they all
play like donkeys". "How did they ever keep any money while on earth?"
"I fear that most of them did not", replied Saint Peter.
"Well, we are going to have to do something about this", said God, "Isn't there someone who could teach them?"
Just then, Saint Peter's newest sidekick and handyman, Dr. Chuck Thomas came over and tugged on Saint Pete's sleeve.
"Iknow just the man for the job," said Chuck.
So, Chuck and Saint Peter came down to Earth and told Chip of their dilemna, and
asked if he might help them out. Chip pretended to think about it for awhile, as if pondering
a call, but he knew he was ready for this new challenge.
"Okay, fellas, deal me in," Chip said, flashing that famous grin.
So down this magnificent hallway the three of them went. Chuck with his right arm
around Chip and a look on his face that said, "man, is it good to see you again, Chip."
And Chip with his right arm around Saint Peter. And as they came around the corner for
Chip's first day on the job and entered this glorious poker room, Chip turned to Saint Peter
and said, " Now, Pete, who do we see about getting some food around here?"
Thank you, Chip, you were a great friend.