“I’m just a tire builder from a small town, man” – WPT World Championship qualifier dreams a dream

WPT World Championship trophy
Mo Afdhal
Posted on: November 03, 2023 08:15 PDT

Every poker player dreams of taking down a big one. But for some, a shot at this year’s WPT World Championship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And the $40 million guaranteed prize pool promises life-changing money up top for almost everyone sitting down to play. 

Chace McKamie is one of the players getting ready to pack his bags for Las Vegas. The former US Marine and father of five qualified for the WPT World Championship after winning a $12,000 package on ClubWPT. His previous biggest buy-in was $525.

PokerOrg spoke with McKamie ahead of the event to find out how he won his way to the Wynn and what it would mean to go deep in such a huge tournament.

PokerOrg: First of all, congratulations on winning the satellite. That must feel pretty great, right?

Chace McKamie won his $12k package on ClubWPT and is dreaming of a deep run

Chace McKamie: No doubt, appreciate it.

How did it come about?

CM: I normally just do the regular VIP stuff on ClubWPT, but last December I decided to take a shot at playing the Diamond events. Just two days before I was supposed to renew it, I decided to play this big satellite.

I think there were like 1,500 people signed up and and I'm just watching the Dallas Cowboys game and playing the tournament on the side. Then I look up, and there's 50 left, and I'm like, man, I got a shot. So, I just sit on the couch, playing. I mean, the competition's not that fierce on the app. You just play good cards and hope they hold, that's all you have to do.

Then we got to the final table, and there was a big chip leader. The first-place prize is the $12k package, and second is $150, so it's all or nothing. And the massive chip leader tried to bluff me. I have pocket tens, we get to the river and he goes all in. Nothing really made sense in the hand. I called, and he had like eight-three. And that's really what gave me a decent chip stack.

Then we finally get to heads-up. And the match was back and forth. He had a three-to-one chip lead on me. And then we kind of flip-flopped a little bit. I was three-to-one, then ended up being six-to-one. He limped, I jammed with eight-five of clubs, and he snap-called with ace-queen. I flopped him dead, all clubs and he has no club in his hands, so I took it down.

That must have been an amazing feeling. And getting through a field that big to take down the one prize.

CM: Yeah, oh man, it was all or nothing. It's funny because, you know, somebody's trying to bluff in that situation. It's like, man, we've got to get all the chips. There is no ICM pressure.

Yeah, it's tough to pressure people when it's basically winner-take-all.

CM: Right? We're playing for all the chips here.

Do you play a lot of these satellites on ClubWPT?

CM: To be honest, I don't really, because they are normally later on at night and I've got kids and stuff at the house. I play live in a local card room, and I play a little home game tournament in Hope, usually with 14-15 people. Nothing wild, but constant, pretty much every week.

Eliot Hudon won the WPT World Championship last year for a monster $4,136,000 payday

How did you get into poker?

CM: Oh, man, I've been playing poker since I was eight years old. My parents had a home game they used to run, playing five-card stud, five-card draw, stuff like that. But I didn't really start playing hold'em until I got into high school. A bunch of high school friends had a game on Friday or Saturday nights. We were just having fun, it wasn't a big game.

I didn't start picking it up seriously until 2017. That's when my twin brother passed away. And I couldn't play softball anymore because of my job. I build tires and you have to avoid injuries to your legs or hands, so physical sports were out. I had to pick up something that I would enjoy doing, and it was playing poker. I went to Tunica and found out how much I didn't know when I played in a main event there. And I mean, I just didn't know anything.

So, I really dove into everything in 2017 with positions, bet sizing—I was just full-blown into it. And that's when I started playing every week. I got into ClubWPT and just tried to play correct. You know, I wasn't playing for big money or anything, just trying to play right and see how that worked.

What's the biggest buy-in you've played leading up to this?

CM: My highest buy-in is $525. That was at Tunica during the Run Good series, the low main event. I had aces and this guy had sevens, he flops a seven and I'm out. I mean, this is probably the first 30 minutes of the tournament. That was an experience.

Daniel Negreanu WPT World Championship Daniel Negreanu was among the big names playing at the 2022 WPT World Championship

There's going to be a lot of big names playing this event. Is there anyone you'd like to sit at the same table with? Or that you want to avoid?

CM: I'm looking at this as more of an experience. So, if I could have the experience of sitting with Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth, or Brad Owen, Rampage, Andrew Neeme, you know, some of those vlogger guys. Or Jason Koon. I'd probably prefer Phil Ivey to Jason Koon because Koon's a killer right now, but that would be a pretty sweet experience.

Do you have any plans to take any of your family with you?

CM: It's just solo. I was going to take my wife, but she started a new job recently, and it just didn't line up. So, I'm just going by myself, like I normally do when I go to tournaments. Just keeping it normal, no distractions.

Are they excited for you? Do they understand the opportunity you've earned?

CM: Oh, yeah. As a matter of fact, an interview ran on the state news about the opportunity. It was just a little two and a half minute clip. So, just about everybody's aware.

Chace McKamie on KATV Chace McKamie was interviewed on KATV, a TV station based in Little Rock, Arkansas

That's incredible. So, what are your aspirations for the event?

CM: Yeah, a cash would be pretty sweet. It would make all the buildup worth something. I've been thinking about this since January 22. You're talking about a whole year, basically, of buildup. So, just to at least get something, that would be pretty nice. The deeper you go, the more you're thinking about the big money. But again, it's all a freeroll. $17,000 was the min cash last year, so you know, that would be nice, because I don't have that right now.

Winning it all would change my life. I'd get to quit my job and kickback. We don't live outside our means – with $120,000 I'd have everything paid for. So, the rest, we could just retire and I could play events when I want to, or not at all. It would definitely be life-changing. Even making the final table would be life-changing. I'm just a tire builder from a small town, man.

The WPT World Championship plays out December 12-21 at Wynn Las Vegas. PokerOrg will be out there with full Instant coverage.

Photos courtesy of WPT