Saechao wins WSOP Casino Employees bracelet

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Chiab “Chip” Saechao, a blackjack dealer at Central Valley’s Tachi Palace, beat 732 casino employees to capture Event 1 of the World Series of Poker, this year’s first bracelet and $70K. This was his third WSOP event; he had won seats to the main event in 2010-11, but after bad runs in both, he nearly gave up on poker. Instead, the blackjack dealer of 10 years headed to Las Vegas with every intention of playing the $500 event, and he had every intention of winning it.

Saechao led at the end of Day 1, to which he credits one particular hand. He didn’t realize he was chipleader when he got involved in a hand with another fairly large stack. He was in position with 6-8 when he raised and got a call from the small blind. The flop came with two hearts, and Saechao paired his six. He put the small blind on a flush draw and wasn’t surprised to learn his read was right when he shoved the turn. He survived the hand and when his friend told him he was chipleader at the end of Day 1, Saechao said: “Oh, that’s cool.”

“When I got to the final table I was really card dead, and just couldn’t pick up a hand,” said Saechao, who started that final table eighth in chips. “The guy to the left of me was on a huge stack and just bullying everyone, so I knew all I had to do was stay patient and pick up one hand and he would double me up because he was calling everyone. After he doubled me up and I had a bit of a stack, I was able to start playing my game.”

So what’s next for Chip? He’ll continue playing for fun, but has no intentions of trying to make a living via poker. The father of three said he’ll stick to dealing blackjack and will try for another seat at this year’s main event.

“(I’m going to) take it one step at a time,” he said. “It’s nice to have the bracelet; I’m very proud of it. … But it would be a lot nicer to have one like (world champ and fellow Central Valley local) Jerry (Yang) has.”

— Leslie Pauls is the Ante Up Ambassador for Central California and pro poker player. Email her at anteupcali@gmail.com.