The names that matter the most aren’t merely chiseled on the facades of tombstones. They’re engraved in the hearts and minds of the survivors.
Chad Brown’s name shall forever be etched into the hearts and minds of hundreds if not thousands of those who knew him, respected him, and loved him. His memory will be remembered fondly by the many who played with him at the poker table, and were lucky enough to be around him when away from the game.
Chad Lewis Brown was born in New York City on August 13, 1961. He was raised in the Bronx and was a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees.
Indeed, Brown’s first love wasn’t poker. It was baseball. In his early 20's, Brown seemed destined for a career as a professional baseball player. As a hot new prospect, he had an opportunity to sign a minor league contract that might have eventually taken him all the way to the major leagues. However, Brown would have been forced into an unacceptable compromise.
As baseball entered a black period known as the steroids era, Brown was told flat out that if he really wanted to succeed he’d likely have to begin taking performance-enhancing drugs in order to bulk up and compete with athletes who were becoming increasingly bigger and stronger. Brown wasn’t willing to do that. Not only was taking steroids unhealthy and even dangerous, it was unethical. It was also cheating. Brown realized he’d soon have to find a new passion and another career.
If baseball was tough to break into, acting and film proved even tougher. Brown moved from New York to Hollywood and was cast in a few movies, most notably a 1990 horror film titled Basket Case 2, in which he played the role of a television newsman. Brown always looked the part of a perfectly manicured made-for-TV news anchor, one of the primary reasons he became the face of a new television show during the height of the poker boom more than a decade later called The Ultimate Poker Challenge.
By the time Brown started appearing at poker tournaments around the country calling the action while wearing a black and white tuxedo, he’d already become deeply immersed in the game, fascinated by its many complexities, and mesmerized by its eccentric cast of characters. The seeds of Brown’s love for poker weren't planted in Hollywood, but were actually rooted in his wise guy neighborhood upbringing around the Italian cafes and social clubs where he was raised . His father ran a local card game in the Bronx, where Brown acquired an early knowledge of gambling, games of chance, and the sometimes quirky subculture that’s attracted to the poker scene.
Many years later as an adult, between doing occasional acting jobs and going to auditions, Brown began playing poker regularly in the cardrooms scattered around Southern California. His competitive instincts and intense dedication to the craft of poker playing made him increasingly successful as both a cash game player and later, a tournament pro. He excelled in both, and eventually became proficient at online poker too, becoming a coveted endorser and leading poker advocate.
Brown played successfully for more than 20 years and became increasingly identified in the public eye as a professional poker player. He not only took from the game. Chad also gave back plenty, evidenced by countless charity events he attended and organized. One of his pet projects was the Chad Brown Charity Open, an annual event held in the Midwest which was attended by hundreds of players and friends, which raised large sums of money for charity, thanks to Brown and those he encouraged to attend.
Brown posted an impressive career tournament resume, which included a major win at the Gulf Coast Poker Championship. His lifetime earnings from tournaments amounted to more than $3.6 million. He was awarded Bluff Magazine’s Player of the Year honor in 2006. Brown also came close to winning a WSOP gold bracelet on several occasions, cashing 38 times during his career. His closest moment to achieving the glory of a gold bracelet victory took place on three distinct occasions, when he came in second in 2004, 2005, and 2007. He also took third place three times at the annual summer classic.
A short time before his death in New York City on July 2, 2014, Brown was awarded an honorary gold bracelet by the World Series of Poker, the first gesture of its kind in history. At the moment of his passing, he was surrounded by friends and family. When he took his final breath, Brown’s wrist was wrapped in the gold bracelet which had until that very moment been so elusive.
The following day, several poker notables shared their thoughts and memories of the late Chad Brown:
"Chad was one of the great stand-up guys in poker. He was always nice, true to his word, a pleasure to interact with. He had tons of integrity. It’s so sad and tragic what happened that we lost him." - Frank Kassela
"I was well aware of his fight. He never made you feel uncomfortable about it. He played through the fight. He wasn’t looking for sympathy. He always had a bright outlook and always thought he was going to win, just like he played poker. He was winner. Even when the odds went south, he still had that fight in him. I’ve spent the last ten years playing with him in mixed games and he couldn’t have been a nicer gentleman. I was very saddened to hear of his passing, and even at the end was hoping for a miracle." - Daniel Shak
"My interactions with him were that he was always a class act. That’s the best way I can think to describe him – always a class act. All the way, in every way. In the game, and away from the game." - Cyndy Violette
"Chad was the nicest guy in all of poker. That pretty much sums it all up." - Todd Brunson
"Chad Brown has always been someone in the industry that I have looked up to. I’ve never had one bad experience with him, ever. He was always someone who left me feeling better about myself after speaking to him. He would often bring a smile to your face. It was always amazing to me to see someone who was a real star in poker and reach out to you on a personal level. He would ask how you were, not about your chip count, but about your day or your life. He really cared. He interacted with people in terms of who they were, not just as poker players." - Donnie Peters, Editor-in-Chief, PokerNews.com
One of the best people I’ve ever met. It was as simple as that. He never changed. That’s what I loved about him. I’m sick that he’s gone. - Peter Costa
"I stayed with Chad for a while. I got to know him as a friend and the more I knew him, the more I looked up to him. He was always great to talk to – not just about poker but about anything in life, in general. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met."- Allen Kessler