Chino Rheem WPT Victory Triggers Character Debate

Chino Rheem WPT Victory Triggers Character Debate

Chino Rheem shortly after the fourth million-dollar cash of his poker career.

Chino Rheem shortly after the fourth million-dollar cash of his poker career.

This week’s win and runner-up showings at the 2013 WPT World Championship, by David “Chino” Rheem and Erick Lindgren, respectively, have touched off a bit of a debate on poker forums and social networks about the checkered pasts of both Rheem and Lindgren. Both players have logged million in tournament winnings, yet have had more than their fair  shares of troubles — even by poker-player standards — in holding on to those winnings and staying solvent.

Rheem’s and Lindgren’s difficulties have been frequent discussion fodder over the last couple of years, particularly Lindgren, whose millions in unpaid sportsbetting debts have drawn plenty of coverage, and who did a stint in rehab a couple of months back that may or not have had any real effect, depending on how one views it.

It’s likely that neither player would have been anywhere the WPT championship at the Bellagio if they hadn’t found backers to put them in the tourney, which means that Chino’s first-place prize of $1,150,297 and Lindgren’s second-place money of $650,275 probably went more to the backers than to those two players.

For better or for worse, such is the real nature of high-stakes tournament poker.  With no particular harshness intended, many of the famous names in poker are really broke gambling degens — “degen” in the sense of gambling far beyond one’s means and ability to sustain.

WPT tourney director Matt Savage, wise in the ways of these players, even had a little bit of fun with Rheem’s and Lindgren’s money issues in the champion’s interview.  You can view that here.  (And after that it was off to the cashier’s place, where a few people were believed to have been waiting.)

Here’s an excerpt of Rheem’s comments:

“[The win] was very special to me,” said Rheem, “because I’ve been given a lot of chances in my life, and before when I had a score I would tell myself that I wouldn’t put myself in the same position, and I still found myself in the same position. Hopefully I can have a better outlook on life and what I’m going to do with it.  I’m definitely going to try to not be so impulsive, and just make better life decisions.

“I want the public to realize, don’t judge unless you really understand or you know. Erick’s a great guy. Yeah he’s had his ups and downs, but who hasn’t?  Who hasn’t made mistakes?  He’s just trying to make better with his life doing what he’s very good at doing.”

It’s something of a non-apology, a sideways admission that he and Lindgren are unlikely to change their ways.  And that, in turn, leads to this thread over at 2+2, wherein the debate about Rheem’s and Lindgren’s bad-debt pasts has resumed in earnest.

While WPT TD Savage is wholly unlikely to ask tough questions given the promotional nature of his role, it doesn’t mean other people don’t ask them.  Some of the defenses were as interesting as some of the attacks, in particular one by Shane “Shaniac” Schleger.  Shaniac’s one of the deepest thinkers in poker, with what I would characterize as a greater sense of social and moral responsibility than many other players, so it was interesting to see him post this:

Originally Posted by mindraider View Post
Huge Congrats Chino!


To others:

It’s like you people don’t realize post-win interviews are meant to promote poker and not highlight the darkside of the industry (gambling addiction, debt).

Guess it’s not enough that Matt Savage throws NVG-tards a bone by slyly referencing Chino’s public image, y’all still want blood.

The level of schadenfreude and jealousy on these matters is gross. Regardless of their offenses, you should be embarrassed if you root for the destruction and not the recovery of another person.

Erick and Chino might have betrayed or ****ed people over in their time, but that doesn’t mean Erick doesn’t deserve the opportunity to support his family through poker or that Chino shouldn’t have the chance to pay back his debts and make things right.

There are people in the poker world still willing to give them those chances and put them in action, so I just don’t understand the inclination to hope these guys sink lower, unless you were done wrong by them personally or you yourself are a POS.

If you’re someone who wasn’t personally wronged by Edog or Chino and are still looking at them and calling them “scum” and rooting for their downfall, then you might want to reconsider who the real lowlife is.

I admit to scratching my head at that, and not just at the use of “schadenfreude” in an NVG post at 2+2, which is wholly wasted there.  I’m not sure if it has to be a black-or-white, pro- or anti-Chino (or Lindgren) issue, even though one could take that away from Shaniac’s blast — if you’re not supporting them, you’re trashing them.

The middle ground is not to be anti-Rheem or anti-Lindgren despite their past bad behaviors, but to also recognize that it’s just slightly better for poker itself in the long run if some other players had won — a Barry Greenstein, for instance, back when he was running well enough to donate tournament winnings to charity — instead of giving them away in the pits or sportsbooks.

Still, change does happen… slowly.  Over the long term, Rheem/Lindgren types have to be the very, very best players, or they are financially forced to depart from poker’s glamour scene.  There’s really not any jealously or schadenfreude involved in that; both Rheem and Lindgren are indeed demonstrably very, very good players.  But sometimes, you have to be both good and lucky at poker, or the game and the lifestyle eats you up.


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