The game of poker lost several big names in 2015, some by tragedy and some due to the natural progression of live. The World Series of Poker lost one of their earliest voices and England lost one of their all-time greats. We also lost amazing amateur players, an online legend and one player who was a superstar in both poker and chess. Today we take a quick look back at the personalities that poker lost in 2015.
Paul “Eskimo” Clark
Eskimo Clark passed away on April 15 of this year. The former Vietnam War veteran was a three-time WSOP bracelet winner with $2.71 million in live tournament earnings. He is also one of only four players in history to win the WSOP Stud Triple Crown.
Clark had a tournament career that dated back to the late 1980’s with high profile finishes throughout the United States. Clark was a regular at the WSOP but his last cash was in 2007, a fourth place finish in the $1,500 Razz.
Clark had a pair of strokes that year, including one during the final table of the Razz event. He had to sign a release to finish the event with some wondering if it would be his last day on earth. Clark finished fourth and would live another eight years after the fact.
“There’s no such thing as a bad beat. If a guy pays for a card & gets the card, that’s it.” -Eskimo Clark (1947-2015) http://t.co/cEu6ReK6gp— CardPlayer (@CardPlayerMedia) June 9, 2015
Chad “lilholdem954” Batista
The poker world was stunned on August 20 when it was discovered that Chad Batista had passed away from an unexpected illness at 34. Known as “lilholdem954” online, Batista won million online in tournaments and cash games. He later was forced to transition to live poker due to Black Friday; a transition that his family believes led to his early death.
Rest in peace Chad lilholdem954 Batista. pic.twitter.com/6AcBJIEnOv— Allen Kessler (@AllenKessler) August 21, 2015
Batista had $952,496 in live tournament earnings with results spanning back to 2008. In 2006, he took down the WSOP-C Main Event at Caesars Indiana for $262,002. In 2007, he made his first and only WSOP final table, finishing 5th in a $1,000 NL Event. His last live six-figure score came in January 2014 when he finished runner-up in the $150 NL during the Mega Millions VIII Series in Los Angeles, good for $165,845.
Former Canadian Poker Tour Player of the Year Norman Overdijk died tragically on July 18th after his paraplane crashed shortly after takeoff in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The 54-year-old had $121,952 in career earnings and was a regular on the Canadian Poker Tour.
In 2011, he made four final tables including a third place finish in the CPT Calgary Main event. He also finished 18th in the Main Event of the British Columbia Poker Championships and 5th in the High Roller Event of the same series.
Overdijk was a competitor until the end, finishing 10th in the Main Event of the PEI Poker Challenge in Charlottetown on June 12.
David “DevilFish” Ulliott
Back in February, David “DevilFish” Ulliott was diagnosed with colon cancer. He passed away on April 6 at 61. The popular poker English poker pro was instrumental in influencing British poker and helped grow the game in the years leading up to the Poker Boom.
DevilFish had $6.2 million in live tournament earnings, including one WSOP bracelet and one WPT title. He had a record of live tournament scores that dated back to the early 1990’s and had 14 years with earnings of six-figures or more.
Ulliott was one of the featured players during the first season of Late Night Poker back in 1999. It was the first show to use hole cam technology. Ulliott won the first season and his personality was one of the reasons that the program was renewed. It ran for another five seasons.
After the Poker Boom, DevilFish became one of the games brightest stars and many fans started to copy his signature look. He would abandon the suits, slicked back hair and sunglasses later in his career because he felt too many players looked like him.
Following his passing, the international poker community came together with an outpouring of love for the DevilFish and even got him nominated as a finalist for the Poker Hall of Fame. He is expected to earn a spot in the hall at some point in the future.
Sam Simon, one of the games’ most notable celebrities, passed on March 8 from cancer. Known as the co-creator of The Simpson, Simon was a regular on the poker tournament circuit in California. He also had several deep runs in WSOP events. He cashed in the 2007 and 2011 Main Events and finished 16th in a $1k NL Event in 2007.
His best career score came after winning a $225 NL Event at the 2010 Winnin’ O’ The Green at the Bicycle Casino in Las Angeles. That victory earned him $57,308. He finished his career with $358,655 in live tournament earnings.
Simon considered himself a serious player but never turned pro despite the urging of various pro friends. His private game with celebrity friends ultimately resulted in the production of Sam’s Game on Playboy TV, a celebrity Texas Hold’em program produced and hosted by Simon. Simon is also the ex-husband of Jennifer Tilly, a former WSOP bracelet winner.
He was also a great poker buddy! http://t.co/Bw2XJqHoeb— Hank Azaria (@HankAzaria) March 16, 2015
Dick Van Patten
Dick Van Patten is best known as one of the old school voices of ESPN’s World Series of Poker broadcasts. From 1993 to 1995, Van Patten and Jim Albrecht served as the broadcast team for the annual broadcasts that consisted solely of the Main Event final table.
Van Patten joined the broadcasts during a time where the game was still largely considered taboo by the general public. Some feel that his addition to the broadcast team helped to legitimize the game and draw new players to tables around the world.
One of his three sons, Vince Van Patten, is a poker pro and one-half of the broadcasting team for the World Poker Tour. Following the Poker Boom, Dick started the Dick Van Patten Charity Poker Tournament to benefit various animal charities.
Van Patten passed away on June 23rd at the age of 86 due to complications from diabetes.
Walter Browne is a former chess Grandmaster and professional poker player. He passed away suddenly on June 24 at 66. Browne is a six-time winner of the U.S. Chess Championships and won six bronze medals at the Chess Olympiads, four with the United States and two with Australia.
Browne rose to prominence in the game in 1966 by winning the U.S. Junior Championship. He then started representing Australia where he won the 1969 Australian Chess Championship. He played for Australia in the 1970 and 1972 Chess Olympiads before switching back to the U.S. in 1974.
Brown won the 1974, 1975,1977,1980,1981 and 1983 U.S. Chess Championship. Only Bobby Fischer has more U.S. Chess Championships. In addition, the won the National Open 11 times, the American Open 7 times, the World Open three times and took the 1971 and 1972 U.S. Open Chess Championship.
In memoriam: Chess and poker legend Walter Browne, reigning U.S. senior champion http://t.co/AhqVXrobzy— Poker Central (@PokerCentral) July 4, 2015
His last major title was in 1991 when he won the Canadian Open Chess Championship. He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2003. Two years later, he took the U.S. Senior Open title.
Browne was also an accomplished poker pro, having played professionally since the 1970’s. His live tournament results date back to the late 1990’s. It wasn’t until 2007 that he started earning respectable live tournament scores.
In 2007, he made a pair of WSOP final tables. He finished 7th in the $2,000 NL Hold’em Event and finished runner-up to James Richburg in the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. Event. Brown also made the final table of the 2011 Seniors Event, finishing 8th. Browne finished his live tournament career with earnings of $269,203.