By Sean Chaffin
Winning a trip to play in the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic was certainly the biggest score of Chipp Xiong’s poker career. The ClubWPT player’s previous biggest win had been $250 and he’d also won a set of golf clubs. A trip now to this historic WPT event, which dates back to the tour’s first season, certainly beats stepping into the tee box on his local golf course.
The 55-year-old IT worker from the Chicago area has been playing poker for about three years. He plays in casinos here and there, but also at home with friends quite a bit. His poker crew also visits Las Vegas a couple times a year to play cash games with friends.
The married father of three joined ClubWPT about two years ago at the Diamond level. He mostly plays on the weekend and in some of the larger events. After seeing the Five Diamond seat event, Xiong jumped in the action. After four hours, the unthinkable happened – he won the tournament and punched his ticket to the WPTTs premier event.
“At the final table, I was down to the small stack,” he says. “I was just all in, all in, and had a little luck here and a little luck there. At any final table, sometimes the cards go your way and sometimes they don’t. When it goes your way and it goes right, it changes a lot of things.”
Winning the event was surreal, a “Did this just happen?” moment as this player from the Windy City describes it. He had to look again at his computer screen to make sure he’d actually won.
Xiong’s wife couldn’t make the trip to Sin City because of work commitments, but may be coming in later in the week for a short vacation. In the meantime, he hoped to bring his A-game to the Bellagio and prepared in the weeks before the tournament.
“I’ve just been mentally focused on the game,” he says. “I watched some WPT on YouTube and watched some final tables to see how the Hall of Famers play and see how they raise and reraise. It’s been pretty much watching and trying to learn from the pros and see how each individual’s experience played out and brought them better results.”
Originally from Laos, Xiong and his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was eight years old. Life was a major adjustment.
“It was a big learning curve, a big culture shock – particularly learning English and a news way of life,” he says.
When not playing poker or working, life at home is like that of most regular dads. He coaches his kids’ soccer teams and enjoys spending time with his family. Other than that, hitting the links with friends is also a pastime. He still has those clubs from ClubWPT when he’s ready to tee up. But at the Bellagio, Xiong is hoping for a real hole in one with the added ClubWPT $1 Million Bonus on the line. Any qualifier from the site who can win a live WPT event earns an extra seven figures. So far, this recreational player is loving the experience on one of poker’s biggest stages.
“It feels good, I feel like my hard work and dedication paid off,” he says of earning his trip to the Five Diamond. “You’re now going to play with the best of the best and you’ve just got to go out there and play your game and be mentally ready for it. You’ve got to put all your knowledge into it and play the best hand and hopefully that gets you to heads-up. That’s pretty much my mentality.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer based in New Mexico and Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.