His mother kept him home from school for a year so she could care for him until he was healthy again. To keep Chip entertained she showed him card games, including poker. When Chip went back to school at 6 years old, he was extremely skilled at these games; he would play against older boys and he usually won. Chip credited that year at home playing card games with his mother as particularly crucial to his success later in life.
While in high school Chip played football, was a champion debater, and an outstanding student who got accepted to Dartmouth. There he majored in economics, played football, and debated. In his free time he continued to win card games with his fraternity brothers, professors and others. After Dartmouth he was accepted into Stanford Law School, but he never got there. In 1974 Chip went to Las Vegas with $400 in his wallet, while playing poker he turned that into $66,000 and enjoyed doing it so much that he never left and became a Las Vegas resident.
Over the years Chip enjoyed a tremendous amount of success as a poker player, winning championships and winning much larger quantities of money in private high stakes games. He also partnered with his friend Dale Brunson, another top poker player, and the two ran a very successful sports betting operation. But once they became involved in business enterprises they were easy targets for people with “colorful” ventures. They lost quite a bit of money on ventures like oil and mining operations, and on efforts to raise the Titanic and find Noah’s Ark. But for Chip playing cards and betting on sports was the best of both worlds, extremely enjoyable and financially rewarding. According to a 2003 People magazine interview* he possessed a 13,000 square foot Las Vegas home, a Santa Monica beachfront condo, and a Montana lakeside home. According to Dale Brunson, Chip also donated exponentially to charities but kept that private, never discussing it with the media, or permitting it to be publicized.
In December, Chip passed away suddenly in his home at the age of 56, from what is believed to have been a heart attack. Perhaps his heart was affected by his childhood rheumatic fever. He is survived by his former wife and their son and daughter, among others.
What was one of the keys to his triumphs as a card player? “I can bet $100,000 and feel nothing,” Chip said to People magazine. “If you think about the money and what it means, you’re gone.” I’m not proposing you become a professional poker player. I am however saying if you have an unsatisfied dream, then like Chip, give yourself the chance to realize it. You never know what you can accomplish and how much enjoyment you can attain by doing it until you actually try.
Take that first step, even if it’s simply learning more about the subject that has seized your dreams.
* References to the People magazine interview are from The New York Times obit, “Chip Reese, High-Stakes Card Champion, Is Dead at 56.” (12/7/07) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/07/sports/07reese.html?ref=obituaries&pagewanted=print