The Poker Hall of Fame, curated by the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has announced the list of finalists for its 2015 inductees. Ten players have been nominated, from which two will be selected for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at their stories and the cases for – and sometimes against – their inclusion.
Born in China, David Chiu came to the United States as a adult. He initially lived in Colorado, where he opened a restaurant, but ended up taking on a second job as a dealer in a card room, which is ultimately what got him into poker. He quickly became a tournament specialist, eventually abandoning his other jobs to move to Las Vegas and pursue poker full time.
As is the case with his fellow nominees, Chiu has been around for a long time, since before the boom years. His first recorded cash in the Hendon Mob database also happens to have been his first gold bracelet, with a win in a $2000 Limit Hold’em event in the 1996 World Series of Poker.
That bracelet wouldn’t be his last. He picked up a second just two years later, in another Limit Hold’em event. He’s taken three more since, twice in Seven-Card Stud and once in Omaha Hi/Lo; the most recent of these is from 2013. With five in total, he’s in pretty rarified company; eight other players have as many as Chiu, and only fourteen have more, many of whom are themselves members of the Hall of Fame.
Like all tournament professionals, Chiu has no choice but to play a certain amount of No-Limit Hold’em, but it’s clearly neither his best nor his favorite game; over two-thirds of his 118 cashes on record are in anything but. Limit Hold’em, in particular, has been one of his specialties. He also has numerous cashes in Stud Hi and Hi/Lo, as well as in mixed events, including this year’s $10,000 Dealer’s Choice championship, where he narrowly missed the final table, coming in 9th. That said, Chiu nonetheless owes a lot of his profits to No-Limit Hold’em, as his single biggest cash came by way of a win in the 2008 World Poker Tour Championship, for nearly $3.4 million, which makes up more than 40% of his entire lifetime total.
Chiu’s biggest claim to poker fame, however, is his legendary observational skills, which he attributes in part to being partially deaf. Chiu lost 35% of his hearing as a child due to a swimming-related infection; he has often said that he feels he’s less distracted at the poker tables as a result, and therefore picks up on tells that others miss. He also says he has to pay more attention than other people in order to make sense of what people are saying, which has likewise improved his ability to concentrate. Aside from concentration, Chiu says the biggest contributing factor to his reads is experience watching players during his days as a dealer, during which time he picked up on various common behaviors, especially in the way people look at their cards.
Despite his five bracelets and three WPT final tables, Chiu is probably an underdog to get into the Hall of Fame this year. He doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of the other candidates, like Carlos Mortensen or Jennifer Harman, he hasn’t recently made a splash like John Juanda or Max Pescatori, and while his list of cashes is both long and long-running, he hasn’t had quite the same consistency as someone like Chris Bjorin, who we talked about yesterday.
What Chiu does have going for him, however, is that the Hall of Fame is affiliated with the World Series of Poker, which is where he’s had the most success over the years; fully 70 of his 118 cashes have come there, likely because it’s the most common place to find tournaments in games other than No-Limit Hold’em. Will that be enough, though? I would have to say that the answer is “probably not.” Although Chiu certainly deserves his nomination, it’s hard for me to imagine him getting the nod as one of the top two on this year’s list, though given my track record with predictions, he may end up thanking me for saying so.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.