JASON QUICK, The Columbian
The worst part of being on the Trail Blazers for Dan Dickau is that nobody plays poker.
“This is the first NBA team I have been on that doesn’t play cards,” Dickau said. “These have been the most boring flights I’ve had in the NBA.”
But one consolation is being able to be a hands-on partner in his burgeoning business, which plays off his love of poker.
Dickau is a co-founder of ChipLab.com, an online company that allows customers to use a software tool to design their own [custom] poker chips. Once a customer decides on a design — it could be a logo, words, a picture — the high-end chips are delivered within two weeks.
“What sets us apart is the software,” Dickau said. “It’s a design tool that you can make whatever you want on the poker chip, and we have final product to you in two weeks. With the Internet these days, you can do anything with any image or picture you want. The chips are limited only by your imagination.”
The Web site launched in August, and although it faces the usual challenges of a start-up business, Dickau says it is showing encouraging signs of growth. More than 750 people have registered as users, and more than 100 have designed and purchased sets of chips, which cost roughly 93 cents a chip.
“It’s a risky business, but it’s to the point where we can see potential, because you can do literally whatever you want to the chip, as long as it’s legal,” Dickau said. “There are tons of fonts, sizes, borders. . . . We’ve seen some pretty cool chips come through.”
Many NBA players invest their money or have financial planners, but Dickau, 28, is a rarity in that he is helping create and run his business while in the prime of his career. His interest in business grew last December when he tore his Achilles’ tendon, ending his season.
“I know basketball is not going to last forever,” Dickau said. “And last year, when I got hurt, it was the first time I really sat down and realized that an NBA career can be a short thing. I started thinking that I need to see what I want to do when I’m done playing.”
That thinking was not-so-subtly nudged by family friend Chase Schwatka, 22, a senior at the University of Portland. Two years ago, Schwatka visited the Dickaus at Thanksgiving and tossed a poker chip toward Dickau.
“I asked him, ‘What’s this?’ and he told me, ‘It’s my new business, and you’re going to be my partner,’ ” Dickau said. “He knew I liked poker, and he had me roped in from the start.”
The thrill of starting the Portland-based company and seeing it grow has filled a void with Dickau that was created when he joined the Blazers. Much to his chagrin, nobody on the team played cards.
“No one. Not one. It’s frustrating,” Dickau said. “I’ve read more books this year than ever.”
Last year in Boston, Dickau said the players couldn’t wait to get on the plane to start playing their game of choice: Texas Hold ‘Em.
“There were seven or eight of us who would play every flight — Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis, Brian Scalabrine, Ryan Gomes, Kendrick Perkins,” Dickau said. “My nickname on the team became ‘Runner Up’ because I swear I took second place every time. It was the most frustrating run of poker I’ve had in my life.”