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Ahead Of The Pack: Chris Brewer Sprints Up The All-Time Money List

by Sean Chaffin |  Published: Apr 17, 2024


One text stood out for Chris Brewer in the days after winning the $250,000 Super High Roller last summer at the World Series of Poker. The former University of Oregon track athlete checked his phone and saw a message from his former coach congratulating him on the big win. Brewer ran for the university while also learning how to play poker along the way.

“You’re probably the only person to ever win a WSOP bracelet and a Wheel,” legendary track coach Andy Powell noted in the text.

The message referred to the famed “Wagon Wheel” trophy given to winners at the annual Penn Relays, a marquee event for relay runners. The trophy debuted in 1925 and the circular design features a wooden exterior with a bronze center depiction of University of Pennsylvania founder Ben Franklin with four athletes. The trophy is one of the most-coveted awards in collegiate track and field, and Brewer scored one with a win in 2013 as part of Oregon’s 4×1 mile relay team.

The message brought a smile to his face. “I appreciated that support,” Brewer noted of his two worlds colliding.

After taking the success from the track to the poker table, the 31-year-old poker pro has become one of the best in the game and is looking to continue the success after a banner year in 2023 that included two bracelets and plenty of massive wins.

Running Cold, Then Running Hot

Originally from San Diego, California, Brewer and his fiancée recently moved from Las Vegas to New Jersey after he accepted a “real job,” and his girlfriend also took a new job in New York. The move means a bit less poker in Las Vegas, but it’s also easy to jump on a plane for major tournaments. He can also now get in more of the action on the East Coast as well.

But the real job didn’t last long, and that may have been a great decision if 2023 is any indication. Brewer had a monster year on the felt including his first two WSOP bracelets. Last February, Brewer kick-started the year with two high roller wins at the EPT Paris for more than $1.4 million. (He nearly went back-to-back this February in the very same event, settling for $630,000 and second place.)

Six-figure cashes then followed on the Triton tour and in PokerGO’s U.S. Poker Open. In May, Brewer grabbed a victory and runner-up finish in the Triton Cyprus series for a total of more than $500,000.

But in June at the summer series, Brewer really caught fire. That started with a third-place finish in the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship for $192,513, and then a min-cash in the $50,000 High Roller for $102,479. He then came out on top in the $250,000 Super High Roller for a massive $5.3 million. Brewer followed that up by grabbing another win in the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Championship for $367,599, a title coveted by many pros.

After several deep runs at the series dating back to 2015, it was nice to snag his first two bracelets.

“It was fun,” he says. “I think the two are very different. The first bracelet in the $250K was a really significant accomplishment where I achieved something I’ve been trying to do. I’m of the belief that almost everything results-wise is just luck, so mostly I just got lucky and won. But it still felt like, ‘Hey, finally one went my way,’ and that was great.”

Brewer Wins by PokerGO“The second bracelet, which was the $10K… I’m not a good mixed game player. I’m not a good deuce-to-seven no-limit player. I just kept getting dealt good hands and I got to win. But I’m not great at the game. I just played a tournament that seemed fun, and I got lucky.”

It was a fitting bit of luck for a man that many had previously considered to be among the unluckiest on the high roller circuit. While Brewer has racked up results, he’s also been the victim of some unfortunate runouts in key spots in some of the year’s biggest events.

With the wins, Brewer now has more than $22.8 million in tournament earnings, which is good for no. 38 on the all-time money list. However, he doesn’t chalk up his recent trips to the winner’s circle as simply improving his game. Variance plays a big part of that, he believes, and things just seem to be going his way more often lately.

“I think it’d be fun to narrow it down and say that there was something I did that caused me to win,” he says. “Maybe I played a little better. I believe it, I work hard. I hope I improve every year, but mostly I just think that I started to win all-ins. That was the big difference. I was really happy that it went well, but I just try to keep that in line with all this stuff. When it comes to live poker, we’re playing something that you’re meant to have a sample size of playing something like 10,000-plus tournaments and we’re playing 200 a year.”

Club Poker To Super High Rollers

Like many players, Brewer learned how to play poker in college. While training for the Olympic trials, a group of teammates held $5 home games. He enjoyed the game and soon moved up to playing at a nearby club called Full House Poker, occasionally for a tournament and then adding some cash games. He could be found regularly playing low-stakes games when not on the track or studying.

“I was like, ‘I liked this game and I think I can get better than these other people,’” says Brewer. “It was just like a fun hobby and I started winning pretty consistently. That kind of snowballed into something. The first hand I played was freshman year and I started playing regularly in my junior year of college. By my fifth year when I graduated, I played 20 hours a week and was making $40 or $50 an hour in a $1-$2 game.”

Brewer earned a degree in business and minored in mathematics, but instead of heading into a management job or finance, he moved right into poker. That knack for numbers at least paid off in the world of no-limit hold’em. After moving back to San Diego, he became a regular at Ocean’s 11 Casino and added in some games at the Bike and elsewhere on the Southern California cash-game scene.

He prides himself in managing his bankroll well and some of that business education may have helped in the long run.

“I do like to gamble and I can have a degen streak, but I’ve never had anything that’s been too costly,” he admits. “I don’t have a ton of really expensive tastes. I don’t like drinking or partying that much, so I never had too many issues with managing my bankroll.”

“Managing” his bankroll involved some pretty aggressive shot taking and a desire to play the biggest game in the room. On Card Player’s Poker Stories Podcast, Brewer reminisced about the times he emptied his box at the casino to chase soft spots in big games.

Unlike on the track, Brewer wasn’t interested in setting a comfortable pace and instead preferred to race out in front of his competition. In fact, during the pandemic he found himself playing online stakes as high as $1,000-$2,000, at one point dragging a single pot worth $560,000.

“I’ve always tried to play big and to move up in stakes as fast as possible,” Brewer admitted. “That was the thing I would do irresponsibly. I just was and still am very into doing the things I like, and succeeding at them. I just got lucky that I like poker so much. It was easy for me to focus on doing the things that would help me in that.”

It’s been a long journey from those low-stakes games back in Oregon, but Brewer is a testament to hard work and staying focused. He now regularly plays at some of the highest stakes around, but certainly remembers his poker roots.

Brewer still stays in touch with the owner and some other players at the Full House club. Years later, he’s still a member of a fantasy football league with players he met there.

“I have a soft spot for it,” he says of the club. “It was where I started playing. It was like an amazing setup too. The way poker works in Oregon is that they can’t take a rake, so they’re all membership clubs. It was like $150 a year membership. And the room was super clean and nice, so I have great things to say about it.”

When not playing poker, Brewer loves the NFL and doing some snow skiing. He also enjoys spending time with his fiancée Julie. One thing some might be surprised to know about him, he says, is that he also loves Broadway musicals and the move to New Jersey has made seeing shows much easier. The couple have attended about 10 productions over the last year and Brewer even chats with Erik Seidel on occasion while at the poker table about their favorite productions.

Brewer Interviewed By WPTLooking at his poker resumé, the $250,000 event bracelet win certainly stands out as his favorite. Beyond getting his first piece of WSOP gold, Brewer just enjoyed the entire scene. It was such a big moment and his friends were in attendance showing support.

“It was one of the best tournaments I’ve ever played, so that was really satisfying,” he says. “I usually feel there was something I was disappointed in the execution of. Either I made an actual mistake, or I feel I should have gotten more exploitatively. This was a tournament where I was very satisfied with my decisions. I specifically remember getting all-in with like six players left, and had this thought that I didn’t care what the result was because I was so content with the way I’d executed. I can’t say that’s the thing I feel very often. It was just a day that everything clicked.”

Poker Coaching And The High Roller Scene

Looking ahead, Brewer has lofty ambitions to become one of the best players to ever play the game. But he doesn’t think achieving big WSOP numbers or piling up high roller wins necessarily reflects a player’s skill. He doesn’t believe there will ever be enough results that can prove that.

“Hellmuth has the most bracelets, but Hellmuth isn’t close to one of the best poker players to ever play [in terms of skill],” he says. “He is just a guy who got lucky in a specific format of tournaments. So you don’t want to be like Hellmuth and shouting from the rafters. I’m not claiming he’s losing, but he’s run above EV. My goal is to keep improving and feel like I had a good process throughout.”

Brewer is constantly working on his game and spends much of his time studying, but when playing in a series, he leaves the studying behind – instead focusing on reviewing the day’s play and mentally considering some adjustments.

“When I ran track and I went to a meet, I didn’t try to get my whole workout on the day of the race,” he says. “Those are separate – competing and training. So when I’m traveling I look at and study almost nothing the entire time. But in between stops, I try to treat it as if I have a job from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and just do poker stuff.”

That involves using solvers to run experiments and tests “to try and see if my ideas about poker are true.” He enjoys considering his own concepts and strategies about the game and describes using a bit of the scientific method that often involves extreme scenarios to see if he’s on the right track. There are many options beyond what many might call “standard” play, Brewer says, that many players and experts haven’t tested.

He also believes all those years running on the track have helped him with concentration but admits that his competitive drive means that losing also upsets him more than most.

Beyond his own play at the tables, Brewer enjoys coaching other players looking to improve their own skills. Some of his time has been spent doing some private coaching in recent years, and he also recently signed a deal with Jonathan Little’s to create some training content.

“I find that it’s a really beneficial process for myself,” he says of teaching others the game. “One, having to go through and teach something makes you reinforce ideas that you have, and having to actually explain them is really good. And two, I just love being able to share knowledge about poker, so I have a lot of fun doing it.”

As a regular in PokerGO Tour and Triton events, Brewer is no stranger to playing against some of the best nosebleed-stakes grinders in the game. He enjoys hanging out and talking poker with players from the Triton series and also those who regularly play in the EPT high rollers, and appreciates the passion and intensity that comes with playing at such high stakes.

Chris Brewer Heads-Up By PokerGO“We talk poker all the time,” he says. “We’re a bunch of guys who found a game that we love and get to make money playing it. I really think that’s one of the biggest things that lets people succeed, just actually enjoying playing poker. You have to want it if you’re going to play at the highest stakes. It has to be something you want to do, all the time.” ♠

Top Tournament Scores

Chris Brewer has earned nearly $23 million in live tournaments, almost all of which has come in the last four years. His run started in December of 2020 with three big scores in Wynn Las Vegas $10,000 events, and he followed that up in the spring with six final tables at Aria, dipping his toes into high roller events. By the summer, he was regularly playing in $25,000 buy-ins and after securing a trophy at the Poker Masters in the fall, Brewer was officially a full-fledged member of the high roller community.

In the short time since, he has 49 six-figure-or-better scores, and has racked up 14 wins, including a Triton victory, two WSOP bracelets, three EPT side events, and even a WPT Online title. He now sits in the top 40 on poker’s all-time money list and is on pace to crack the top 20 as early as 2025. Not bad for a guy who started out in low-stakes cash games.

Date Event Place Payout
June 2023 $250,000 WSOP High Roller NLH 1st $5,293,556
Oct. 2023 $125,000 Triton Monte Carlo NLH 4th $1,450,000
Feb. 2023 ¤50,000 EPT Paris High Roller 1st $1,026,686
Aug. 2023 $200,000 Triton London NLH 7th $770,000
Feb. 2024 $50,000 EPT Paris High Roller 2nd $629,964
July 2023 $25,000 Triton London NLH 2nd $600,647
Nov. 2023 $50,000 Triton Monte Carlo NLH 4th $585,000
March 2024 $100,000 Triton Jeju NLH 8th $543,000
June 2022 $25,000 WSOP High Roller NLH 4th $442,213
March 2023 $25,000 Triton Vietnam NLH 3rd $435,500
Sept. 2021 $25,000 Poker Masters 1st $427,500
Aug. 2021 $50,000 Hard Rock Open High Roller 1st $420,670
Aug. 2022 $5,000 Hard Rock Open Main Event 3rd $412,375
May 2022 ¤20,000 Triton Madrid Short Deck 1st $390,600
Feb. 2023 ¤25,000 EPT Paris High Roller 1st $382,183
July 2023 $10,000 WSOP 2-7 Lowball Draw 1st $367,599
April 2021 $50,000 Hard Rock Open High Roller 3rd $295,365
May 2023 $25,000 Triton Cyprus PLO 1st $292,449