MEET ROBERT TURNER
It’s not often you meet the inventor of a poker game.
That’s the case with Robert “Chipburner” Turner, a longtime veteran of the green felt who has devoted his life to poker.
Turner initially invented and helped to popularize Omaha High-Low Split, arguably the second most popular form of poker played inside many cardrooms today. He introduced the game of Omaha (which was then played “high only”) to Nevada in 1982, and to California in 1986 when flop games first became legal.
Over the years, Turner has worked as a casino executive, poker host, and tournament promoter. He’s been part of management at the Hustler Casino and the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino and the National Championship of Poker for Hollywood Park Casino, both which started in 1995. He created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker, in 2000. He helped to create “Live at the Bike,” the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet, in 2002. Turner is currently working with his new companies Crown Digital Games developing mobile apps and Vision Poker, a poker marketing and managing group.
As a player, Turner is a living legend among his peers, having enjoyed success both in tournaments and as a highly-respected cash game pro. In sheer volume, Turner probably won and cashed in more tournaments overall than any other player during the 1980s and 1990s. His first major career victory took place at the Grand Prix of Poker, in 1986. Since then, he’s won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet, and posted what might be an unbreakable record for consecutive high finishes in the WSOP Main Event Championship — coming in 10th place in 1991, 36th place in 1992, 13th place in 1993, and 6th place in 1994.
I first met Turner back in 1995. That year, we dined out together at the Chinese restaurant inside Binion’s Horseshoe, this while the WSOP was going on. Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher made our introduction. But Turner seemed preoccupied with something else during our dinner, for reasons only a poker player would understand.
Turner made a commitment to attend the dinner but then left the table repeatedly between courses. He would order his meal, then leave for five minutes, return and sample the appetizers, and then rush out the door again. This went on for more than an hour. Finally, it became apparent that Turner was “in action.” He was playing in a WSOP gold bracelet while having dinner. That wacky multi-tasking moment always stuck with me, and in many ways defines Turner, who always seems to strive for balance. It also made quite and impression that Turner, someone I’d never met before, would keep his dinner engagement in spite of the fact he was playing in the biggest poker event of the year.
Not surprisingly, Turner acquired a well-deserved nickname to go along with his unpredicatable style, which was a novel tournament strategy at the time. Everyone began calling him “Chip Burner Turner,” because he’d either be one of the first ones out of the tournament, or be among the chip leaders within the first few hours. Turner doesn’t mess around. Turner doesn’t waste time.
Indeed, when it comes to poker, Turner has pretty much done it all and seen it all. That is, except for “Facing the Firing Squad.”