Chiab “Chip” Saechao of Visalia in California surprised the poker community by emerging as the champion of the first event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the Casino Employees Championship. The Casino Employees Championship is meant exclusively for the benefit of people employed in the gambling industry.
As the champion of the event, Saechao not only received a large cash prize of $70,859, but also a WSOP gold bracelet, his very first as a poker player. Excited about his victory, Saechao said that he will use his winnings to clear his debt and give some of it to his wife. Admiring his shining gold bracelet, he said that he will “wear it and show it off.”
Thirty-five year old Saechao works as a blackjack dealer in Tachi Casino, Lemoore, California. Speaking about his job, he said that he likes it because he can make money with it and it is much better than working in the hot sun.
The Thailand-born Saechao grew up in a refugee camp before migrating to the US when he was 15 years old. He graduated from high school and enrolled in the College of the Sequoias. He says that the glamour, glitter, and excitement of the casino gaming industry attracted him so much that he did not finish his college.
About his association with poker, Saechao said that he began playing poker two years back and won a WSOP seat through a qualifier. Saechao had already played in two WSOP Main Events before participating in the Casino Employees Championship. He said that he usually plays low-stakes poker and low buy-in tournaments. The Casino Employees Championship is the first live poker event in which Saechao won a cash prize.
Owing to the rush of the Memorial Day weekend, the Casino Employees Championship was played over two days and two nights. Patricia Baker, who works as a poker dealer in Little Torch Key, was the runner-up of the event and received a nice cash prize of $43,754.
Just before the first WSOP event, WSOP Director Jack Effel thanked all casino employees for their professionalism and dedication to the industry. He also introduced Richard Turnbull, a poker dealer from Reno, Nevada, who is now 85 years old. He started working as a poker dealer when he was 37 years old and has stuck to the profession. Turnbull, who was honored on the occasion, made the customary announcement that marks the beginning of each WSOP event.