Poker legend dies at 56

RYAN NAKASHIMA

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

LAS VEGAS (AP) - David 'Chip' Reese, a card star who won one of the biggest cash games in the world and three World Series of Poker championships, has died. He was 56.

Reese died in his sleep and was found by his son early Tuesday morning at his Las Vegas home after suffering from symptoms of pneumonia, said poker great Doyle Brunson, his longtime friend.

"'I knew him for 35 years, I never saw him get mad or raise his voice," Brunson said. "He had the most even disposition of anyone I've ever met. He's certainly the best poker player that ever lived."

After attending Dartmouth College, Reese was on his way to Stanford business school in the early 1970s when he stopped by a Las Vegas poker room and won big, said World Series of Poker media director Nolan Dalla.

"He just accidentally stumbled into Las Vegas and never left," Dalla said.

His immediate success at cash games and low-key persona won him friends, even among those who wound up passing him their chips.

Despite winning three World Series champion's bracelets over the last four decades, including a $1.8 million HORSE event in 2005 that combines five poker disciplines, Reese focused his attention on high-stakes cash games away from the limelight.

"I've seen him with a million dollars in front of him," said Dalla, describing how Reese would put out racks of $5,000 chips "like he was betting a few bucks."

Reese was part of a generation of players in the 1970s that challenged established greats like Brunson, Thomas 'Amarillo Slim' Preston Jr. and Walter Clyde 'Puggy' Pearson, Dalla said.

Brunson and Reese eventually became business partners, investing in everything from oil wells and mining to TV stations and racehorses and becoming sports betting consultants. None of the ventures was successful, Brunson said.

"We went to look for the Titanic. We went to look for Noah's Ark. We were two of the biggest suckers whenever it came to business, but we both had poker to fall back on," Brunson said.

"Thank God we could play, so we always survived."

Reese's prowess at both cash and tournament play was cemented with his 2005 win, said World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack.

"Many consider Chip the greatest cash-game player who ever lived," Pollack said in a news release. "His victory in the inaugural $50,000 buy-in HORSE championship ... made him a part of WSOP lore forever."

Reese is survived by a son, a daughter and a stepdaughter, Brunson said. He was recently divorced from his wife.

Services are planned for Friday in Las Vegas, Brunson said.


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