Facing the Firing Squad: Robert “Chipburner” Turner
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 an 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 unpredictable 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.”
Visit Robert Turner’s website here — ROBERT TURNER POKER
Follow Robert Turner on Twitter at — @thechipburner
Read more about Robert Turner’s history with Omaha High-Low Split here — CARDPLAYERLIFESTYLE
What are some of the things you stand for?
Fairness and integrity in poker. I wish all poker games could be played fairly, and without collusion and cheating.
What are some of the things you stand against?
Politicians who do not understand the human suffering that some people endure right in their own backyards.
What living person do you admire the most, and why?
My four children — Tammy, Jaden, Julian and Gracie — who range in age from 10 to 47 years of age. My life wouldn’t have been the same without them. They have been the driving force of my life and kept it in balance.
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
Franklin D. Roosevelt, because he changed the South and gave the people hope along with the rest of the country.
What living person do you despise?
I try not to say bad things about people, but that being said, Vladimir Putin is one sick person.
If money were not an object, what profession would you chose?
A football coach — because you are rewarded for hard work. It gives you the chance to shape young minds.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
All the tournaments I have created over the years that are still played today, including Legends of Poker, the Grand Slam of Poker, the National Championship of Poker, and others. I strived to make each tournament a major event and not just another poker tournament.
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
I would like to be a better listener. I seem to answer before people are finished. My mind just moves on. My wife tells me all the time, “I’m not finished!”
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
Went on a rush for two days and never missed one flop. It’s only happened once, and I have played poker for fifty years.
What are the most unusual time and place you ever visited?
The Alabama football team playing for the National Championship right in my back yard in Pasadena, California at the Rose Bowl against Texas. They won. It doesn’t get any better, and the best part was I shared it with my son.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
I’ve been all over the world except Asia, so I would love to visit China.
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician.
— The Holy Bible never stops teaching you about life.
— My favorite movie is Forrest Gump.
— My favorite music runs the gamut. If I’m in the mood for country, it’s George Strait. If it’s pop, it’s the Beatles. As for rock ‘n’ roll, it’s Led Zeppelin.
What upsets you the most?
Some of the thinking by my friends and relatives in the South. That said, I love them all.
What bores you?
Soccer. Unless I bet a lot of money on it, then it’s exciting.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
Yes, I believe in an afterlife because I do believe your spirit will carry on, and if not, what a disappointment.