Chris Lawson hides every day he sits down to deal. He doesn’t stand out, nor does he want to. A round face and graying hair populate Lawson’s primary features. The most distinguishable asset owned by the 44-year-old Texan is his deep drawl.
The full-time traveling dealer’s chest gets covered by more uniforms in a year than a minor league baseball player. The black and blue of Seminole Hard Rock followed by the blue polo of the Borgata turns into the white shirt and black vest of the World Series of Poker for two months every year.
It is likely that every player who enters a WSOP event this year has Lawson deal to them or at least a table in their section. He deals all the games and the largest buy-in events as part of his six days a week, 9-12 hour schedule.
Lawson earns a sizable portion of his living during these months. He and his wife, Amy, travel in an RV together cross-country for between 20 and 26 weeks a year and encounter thousands of players on the poker road. The pair sold their exterminating business in 2015 to give dealing a full-time shot after both worked at the WSOP for a summer.
The rare time off to work on his own game is of great value. Tournament series come in two-week stints and in between those rigorous trips, Lawson is a competitive player. Following the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in August, Lawson intended to hang around the panhandle between then and the Circuit stop at Coconut Creek, FL. Hurricane Maria pushed the Lawson RV north and they pulled into Biloxi, MS.
Eight days, four cashes, and one Circuit ring later, Lawson earned a seat to the $1 million guaranteed Global Casino Championship for winning the points title at the IP Casino. The seat is worth close to $8,000, and now Lawson waits until August 7 to play for the chance at six figures in a reasonable field of no more than 150.
“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Lawson said on his freeroll seat. Lawson’s career earnings teeter near $130,000, less than half of the first-place prize at the GCC.
Mastering his ‘other’ craft
Congratulations poured in from the player and dealer community for Lawson’s accomplishment. Lawson’s craft is appreciated by players for being one of the best dealers in the U.S. When he joins their side of the felt, Lawson fits right in with his over-sized hoodie and hat that obscures any immediate recognition.
On his days off from the dealer string, Lawson is found inside the Pavilion grinding WSOP side events. That’s not all he’s doing to prepare. Lawson is studying his no-limit game for two hours per day using the tools enlisted by Chip Leader Coaching. The program welcomed Lawson as a student in January and he is enjoying the experience thus far.
“It has been great,” Lawson said. “My game has changed since I joined with them. It’s definitely a great experience and has definitely improved my game.
Lawson’s coach, Ryan Jones, finds Lawson to be a tremendous student thanks to his unique perspective of the game. Jones carries high expectations for Lawson although his pupil isn’t playing a high volume leading up to August.
“Chris is one of my more fine-turned students as in he didn’t have a ton of big leaks coming in,” Jones told USPoker.com. “I thought he played pretty well, just minor adjustments that needed to be made in certain departments. He listens and takes advice well. He has access to all the tools to combat what the regs in the GCC field will be doing.”
The studying available to Lawson surrounds him every time he jumps into the box. Lawson says he subliminally logs the sharp moves made by top pros. He specifically singled out the $100,000 High Roller, an event he dealt for the four-day entirety. The catalog retains for after he finishes a shift. As Lawson states, players are at the top of their game and needs to be on top of his, with millions hanging in the balance.
“I get to sit next to the best players in the world and watch them play. It’s definitely a great learning experience.”
Patiently waiting for his time
Playing the unique event is a sacrifice for Lawson who will have to miss the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. Lawson modestly stated he has to work “that much harder” this summer to make up for the fiscal deficit.
Bad beats dealt on a daily basis frames Lawson’s mindset to be centered as the GCC approaches. It is a tournament, after all, and Lawson knows what can happen beyond the control he’s established for his game.
“It’s a great opportunity but it’s like any other tournament where you can play your best and it won’t work out,” Lawson said. “I’m definitely going to prepare as much as I can for it. It’s somewhat of a gambling game and it doesn’t always work out when you play your best.”
Lawson idles each day waiting for his chance to win hundreds of thousands as he pitches winning hands to new bracelet winners. When the time comes, Lawson is ready to play his best and accept the outcome. Min-cash or win, Lawson is back in his RV onto the next stop living his version of the American dream.