The Nature of Poker (Week 7) – Chip Counting

Andy Black

For much of his career, Chip Reese was regarded by the poker community as the best all-round cash game player. He was Doyle Brunson’s closest friend and the big man was devastated when Chip died suddenly in 2007. Almost every day for thirty years they had played against each other in Bobby’s room in the Bellagio and had enjoyed endless wide-ranging conversations about poker, sports betting, and other less important things in life.

The previous year 2006 was the inaugural year of the Players’ Championship $50,000 buy-in and, at that time, this was the largest buy-in tournament there had ever been and only the best of the best plus a few stragglers played it. Chip won the tournament and when he died the next year the trophy was named after him -The Chip Reese Memorial trophy.

Chip did not play many tournaments so when I played against him in the $5000 (with rebuys) no-limit single draw low ball World Championship in 2007 it was one of the highlights of my poker career. With 14 players left, we were the 2 leaders and I managed to pull off a huge bluff on him with a 10 high straight (remember the worst hand wins so a straight is never the worst hand). I studied him intensely during our time at the table together and his play and attention always stayed very consistent in terms of quality.
He did not strike fear into me the way Stu Ungar or Doyle did sometimes but he just seemed unbreakable, maybe that’s the best description.

He was once asked what made him more successful than other players and his answer was that although some other players’ A game was better than his he only ever had an A or a B game whereas other top players sometimes had a C,D,E or F game.

I have often thought about this since hearing this and having played him it wasn’t just that he avoided mistakes, it was also that his determination to bring the best of himself to each hand never wavered enough to bring his intensity of performance down below a B.

This would have required a phenomenal personal honesty about his poker game and a never-ending desire to play each hand as well as he could along with the numerous other qualities he brought to the game.

After beating him in that hand I went to the final table with the chip lead (in a game I had only played twice, perhaps showing questionable preparation). I played a hand against Hall of Famer Todd Brunson for which I would give myself an F grade. Then I lost the rest of my chips to yet another Hall of Famer and eventual winner of the tournament Eric Seidel in an unavoidable flip but the damage had already been done by a mistake that Chip Reese could never have made in the earlier hand against Brunson junior.

Here are some questions that thinking about Chip brings to my mind;

How many different grades do I have for my game?
Am I even grading myself honestly?
Maybe I am blaming all my bad results on bad luck?
Can I awaken the Chip within and get rid of those Cs, Ds, Es and Fs?

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Born in Belfast and resident in Dublin, Andy Black is probably Ireland's most famous poker player on the world scene.

Currently sitting 2nd on the Hendon Mob for Irish players with €4.9 million in live earnings, his largest scoring coming from a 5th place in the 2005 WSOP Main Event.

A regular supporter of all IPT live events for many years, Andy will be attending all future Irish Poker Tour festivals providing support and in-person training to players.

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