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Late Online Poker Pro ‘Was Never Quite The Same After Black Friday,’ Says Aunt

Chad Batista's Depression Worsened After April 2011


Chad “lilholdem954” Batista, one of the original online poker stars, passed away on Aug. 20 in Las Vegas. He was 34, but had already accomplished a lifetime’s worth in the game of poker thanks to the Internet.

Batista, who had nearly $1 million in lifetime live tournament earnings to go along with millions more in cyberspace, was known for having an aggressive style and playing on instinct.

Card Player had the chance to speak to his aunt who raised him, Louise Batista, about his life on and off the felt, as well as how Black Friday negatively impacted him, like so many others in the poker world.

Brian Pempus: What did Black Friday really do to Chad’s life?

Louise Batista: It affected him in every way shape and form. We were living in Florida at that time, while Chad was still in Las Vegas. It seemed like he was never quite the same after Black Friday. He resented the fact that in order to continue playing at the same level he would have to commit to playing live games or leave the US, which would leave him little opportunity to be around family throughout the year. When it happened, it was like the rug being taken right out from under you. I don’t think he thought something like that could happen. It affected a lot of people, but especially him, because he did not have another profession, something that he could go back to. After that he left Las Vegas and moved back to Florida for a year. From there, he decided to go to Mexico, because that was one of the only countries he could go to and drive, and bring his dogs. He wasn’t going anywhere without those dogs. Mexico was hell, though.

BP: Why didn’t he like it there?

LB: Mexico was not a good place at all. He got stripped down I don’t know how many times. It is a corrupt country, and it’s not a safe place for a guy weighing 110 pounds soaking wet with two little doggies. You know, he basically walked around with a target on his back. After 10 months, he had over-stayed his welcome. He got the heck out of there. He did have his biggest score when he was in Mexico.

BP: What happened after Mexico?

LB: He went to Oceanside, California, and stayed there for a little while because he could play at the Commerce [Casino]. He was there for about five months, and then he ended up going back to Vegas. All this time his stuff had been in storage. He thought if he was going to be on the west coast it might as well be Vegas.

BP: Do you think all the moving around contributed to the depression?

LB: Yes, it did. Live poker games were not Chad’s thing. He didn’t like the crowd, and he never played poker for the celebrity status. Chad really wanted to be with family, and for a time my family and I did move out to Vegas. We all lived together in Vegas, then moved out to Henderson. But having [multiple] adults under one roof, and we all have our opinions, and Chad was very volatile and had a big personality, so it was tough. We eventually decided it wasn’t for us anymore. Chad went and got his own place, and we moved back to Florida.

Batista in 2007BP: Did he have a lot of money tied up on the defunct poker sites after Black Friday?

LB: Yes, he lost a lot of money there. Chad never had the patience to deal with [trying to get it back]. That was my job. You had to provide all this information to get your own money. They wanted all his documentation and I provided what we could. We had to take a settlement [for the Full Tilt money] like a ton of other people had to because we couldn’t prove [how much was in his account]. We had to take a percentage of what he had. It was a nightmare. Everything got handled, but we had to accept what they gave us. He had to wait it out, and luckily he had some funds to sustain himself.

BP: What about poker do you think clicked with him?

LB: To be honest, anything that Chad ever did he always did well. He played travel soccer as a kid, and a lot of people don’t know that he was an amazing bowler. He could also play pool. As a high school kid he used to bowl against adults and that contributed to him leaving school in 11th grade. He would play these tournaments and be up all night, and he wouldn’t want to go to school. We used to fight about that. When he switched to poker, the bowling took a back seat. Chad always was a sore loser; he never accepted second place. He wanted to win. His aggressive style was from an attitude that he had everything to gain and nothing to lose. He never really gave a shit; he made a call if he wanted to call. He had a fire and a passion for the game. He was always good at reading other people. In his mind, he could figure out sort of what you had, and he could be holding nothing.

BP: Do you wish some of the nice things said about him on social media had been said more often to him while he was still alive?

LB: No, because it wouldn’t have changed anything. Chad lived life on his own terms from the very start. He never played poker to win a bracelet. It was always about the game and the money, the payoff. It was never about titles. In one of his huge scores, he deliberately got second [after they chopped] because he didn’t want more notoriety.

BP: Can you talk about some of the other struggles he had throughout his life?

LB: He didn’t have a normal upbringing, that white picket fence and two parents. My sister also struggled with drugs and alcohol. When my sister passed away, I got Chad permanently, and we raised him with my two boys. He never really understood why this all was happening to him. There was always a dark side to him that would really take over. Poker was an interesting choice to make. I told him that he chose such a hard thing to do professionally. For someone with depression, the ups and downs of poker are hard; you really need to be a stable person, in order to accept the losses. You can’t win every time. He was thrown a lot of curve balls in life.

BP: Did he still have a love for poker up until he passed?

LB: One of our last conversations was about him going to play a tournament in Arizona and him having to board the dogs. He loved the online game and hated the live game. I think in the end poker did leave a bad taste in his mouth, but he realized he had made a choice. What else was he going to do? He had those days when he really wanted to play, and days when he didn’t even want to talk about it.

BP: There was some stuff said on the Internet about how and why he passed away. Would you able to talk about this and possibly clear up any inaccuracies out there about him?

LB: First and foremost, to clear up two things that were said even before he passed away: Chad was never in prison, he spent time in county jail, but never in prison; and Chad quit school in the 11th grade, not the seventh grade. Those are definitely two wrong facts out there. What he actually passed away from was liver and kidney failure. Chad fell and passed out and had bleeding in the brain. It was from an over-consumption of alcohol. Chad drank to a degree that his body just shut down on him. He was so small in size, so there wasn’t a lot there to work with. He kind of threw in the towel and gave in. He didn’t want to seek professional help. We fought for years about getting help. He would never take a prescription drug. He lived life on his own terms until the end. He struggled and alcohol was his escape. In the end, the alcohol won…He was special to a lot of people, and so if this wakes up one person to stop drinking excessively, then this wasn’t all for nothing.

BP: What do you think the poker community should and will remember about him?

LB: For me, and my family, we would like for them to remember Chad as that young man with a sharp tongue, aggressive play and a heart of gold. You either loved him or you hated him, there was no in between.



over 6 years ago

This is a great interview, completely honest: one of the best things I've read in Cardplayer in the last 8 years. Sparkling. Sad yet instructive.


Mr. Honest
over 6 years ago

Yes i agree. I was captivated. Very sad.


over 6 years ago

In the article, the following quote, "Mexico was not a good place at all. He got stripped down I don’t know how many times. It is a corrupt country . . . "

What is the meaning here, 'stripped down'? robbed? arrested? sorry, i don't get it? can anyone help me with this?

I do agree, this is well written, an honest description, captivating!!


over 6 years ago

thank you, Mr Brian Pempus.