Among the most entertaining human-interest stories to emerge from the 2021 World Series of Poker’s first week of action featured one of the game’s most familiar faces and voices, celebrity poker announcer Norman Chad. Chad entered Event #2, the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship, as a charity benefiting the Hope for Depression Research Foundation.
Chad’s fundraiser earned the foundation $12,500 through the backing effort he started two months ago. That collective donation, supported by 139 backers, was locked in before a single card was dealt. Chad also hoped to earn those backers a payday, and while that didn’t happen, his work on behalf of anti-depression research remains a high point early in the 2021 WSOP.
Chad returned to the WSOP on Monday to play in Event #7, $1,500 Dealers Choice 6-Handed. He took time to speak with Poker.org about his $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. fundraising experience.
Chad: ‘Most enjoyable’ experience, relaxed atmosphere
Regarding his play in the event, Chad said, “It was fun. I had a great Day 1 and it was probably the most enjoyable [tournament] I’ve ever had. Because the table is just a blast. It’s hard to find the [H.O.R.S.E.] tournaments, and what I like to find is when people are just having a good time.”
The self-deprecating Chad played himself as an amateur, but he’s actually more skilled at mixed games than people know. He final-tabled a seven card stud hi/lo WSOP event in 2012, and he nearly made the final of a WSOP Online Omaha 8-or-Better event earlier this year. But that’s still different from the caliber of the players in the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E., which are, well, the very best in the world.
“I’m decent at all the games other than no-limit hold’em,” Chad admitted, “which unfortunately is what I announce. I’m terrible at no-limit hold’em. But the other games I play a lot and I’m, you know, better than average, but not as good as the pros.”
Chad had played against some of the H.O.R.S.E. Championship’s players before, and he competed against about a quarter of the event’s 78 entrants. “I ended up playing with 20 or 22 of them during two days,” he said. “There was maybe one person who was demonstrably worse than I was. So everybody else I could tell was better, and I could see the different things they do that I can’t do. And I just always had to get lucky to stay with them.” Chad busted in about 38th place, a few hours short of the money-paying top 12 spots.
High-stakes social environment part of experience
A couple of the event’s players noted that Chad was quite talkative and relaxed himself amid the high-roller event. He said, “Well, you know, it’s weird. I’m not [talkative], away from the poker table. I’m not social Sammy. And I don’t like being around a lot of people. I usually like being around dogs and kids. But in poker, it’s like something else turns on.
“At the poker tables, it’s like I’m a different person. So always, when I’m playing a poker table, I’m very active. And you know, I’m very social at the table. I try to make the table loosen up, which is more fun to play when you’re in a good mood.”
The relaxed atmosphere at high stakes or in events other than no-limit hold’em is a well-known phenomenon, too. Chad had some thoughts on that as well. “You know, people who only play no-limit hold’em don’t seem to understand this, but when they come over, they see it. When you’re playing the mixed games — and today, I’m playing the dealer’s choice, which is 20 games — It’s always a more festive attitude.
“This is something different. You’re not playing no-limit where at any moment you could go out. So that alone makes it a little bit more relaxed. And for some reason, it’s just a more casual type of table dynamic when you’re playing several different games. It’s hard to explain.”
Depression research important to Chad
The enjoyment and special experience in playing the elite high-roller event was still only a part of the tale. Chad’s fundraising work will have a lasting impact. “I probably would never be entering a $25K,” he said. “That was never going to happen. So I decided, yeah, let’s enter the $25K. And let’s have a bunch of people play. I’ll play for as many people as I can. And we’ll raise money. With a 1.5 markup, the point-five markup was all for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. That guaranteed them $12,500 from the markup, no matter how I did.
“People were really good about the depression, charity end of it. You know, we’ve gotten a lot more publicity the last couple years because of a couple of high-profile athletes who have dealt with mental health problems. Naomi Osaka, the tennis player, and Simone Biles just talked about it. I’ve talked about it more, about the problems with clinical and severe depression. It actually helps people who have depression to know that there’s others that suffer from it, too.”
Chad was thrilled with the 139 backers his fundraising effort received. “My dream at the first was to have 250 backers, all paying $100 each plus the $50 markup. It didn’t work out that way, but the 139 backers was great. As I told my wife, I would have given up 30 days at the back end of my life. Actually, she would probably give up 30 days at the back end of my life as well, if I could cash in this one tournament, because it just would have been so nice to pay back the 139 people. So she was actually the most disappointed that I did not cash. So that’s 30 extra days with me.”
Featured image source: PokerGO/Antonio Abrego