As we continue to countdown the biggest poker stories of 2014, let us not forget that poker is a game played by mortals. Poker players are first and foremost people: fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, colleagues and friends.
With this in mind I’d like to pay homage to eight men and women who passed in 2014, and whose lives were intricately woven into the fabric of the poker world.
Mehmet Hassan 1958-2014
Mehmet Hassan, just 56 years old, was a well-known and well-liked cash game player from the UK who was the victim of a vicious robbery, orchestrated by the charms of a young woman. Hassan’s death is a tragic story, but one many poker players should take heed of.
The outpouring of affection from the UK poker community upon learning of Hassan’s passing was a great demonstration of how close knit the poker fraternity is, and how even though he plied his trade in the relative anonymity of cash games, Hassan was a well-respected player.
Johannes Strassman 1985-2014
The death of Johannes Strassman was utterly heart-wrenching, not only because of the prolific poker pro’s age (Strassman was just 29) but because of the circumstances surrounding his death.
Strassman, a German, disappeared while visiting friends in Slovenia and was missing for a week before his body was discovered in the Ljublianica River. He was last seen on June 21 and had apparently taken hallucinogenic mushrooms with friends before bolting from the group.
Danny Robison 1945-2014
The poker world lost one of the game’s best Stud Poker players in 2014 when Danny Robison, one of Chip Reese’s partners, passed away in April.
As Doyle Brunson stated on Twitter:
“Got word Danny Robinson (sic) just died. He was Chip Reese’s best friend and was instrumental in poker development in Vegas. #myfriendtooRIP”
Robison is not as well-known as some of his contemporaries who garnered fame with their WSOP accomplishments, but Robison’s abilities were held in very high regard, even by the game’s more youthful practitioners who heaped praise on his talents upon learning of his death.
Robison won a WSOP bracelet in 1995, but was best known as a cash game specialist, preferring to crush the opposition playing 7 Card Stud rather than play tournaments.
Tony Korfman 1942-2014
Larger than life is perhaps the best way to describe Tony Korfman. Korfman was a solid poker player who made an immediate impact on anyone who happened to sit at one of the many poker tables he occupied over the years. If you ever played with Tony Korfman, you remember that session!
Korfman managed two card rooms over the years, and wrote several poker books, including one reviewed by Nolan Dalla, who wrote of Korfman:
Korfman is one of those no-nonsense old pricks who both irritates and gets irritated by anyone who’s younger than him, which means just about everybody who plays poker nowadays. He’s chicken-necked 22-year-old punks right out of their seats and has even taken swings at people.”
Having interacted with Tony, my guess is he would proudly use that quote as a blurb for his next book, a book that is now sadly unwritten after Tony passed away from complications following hip surgery.
Liam Flood 1943-2014
One of the instigators of poker’s success in Ireland and Europe passed away in 2014, Gentleman Liam Flood. Flood was a solid poker player – he won the Irish Poker Open twice in his career – and was a tournament organizer extraordinaire, running the IPO from 1999 on.
Flood was part of the Eccentrics Club in Ireland, which gave rise to No Limit Holdem in Europe, and was part of Terry Rogers cadre of poker pros who dominated the WSOP in 1999, placing three people at the final table, including eventual winner Noel Furlong.
Starla Brodie ?-2014
Starla Brodie is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and a true pioneer for female poker players. Brodie was the first woman to win an open event at the WSOP, triumphing in the mixed doubles with Doyle Brunson in 1979.
Brodie was one of the game’s best players at a time when a woman in a poker room would figuratively stop the music and cause the room to stop.
And as you can see, like most women of her generation, pinning down Starla’s age requires some serious effort.
Joe Sartori 1959-2014
Joe Sartori is a name few poker players are likely to know, but it’s a name most of the poker industry was quite familiar with and fond of. Sartori held many positions within the poker industry over the years, including running the Palms poker room and most recently working on Poker Night in America, and was considered “one of the good guys” the poker world produced.
I could try, but nothing will approach this poignant piece penned by one of the people who worked closely with Joe over the years, Nolan Dalla. Definitely give it a read.
Chad Brown 1961-2014
Chad Brown led a life most people could only ever dream of. The former actor was good looking, in shape, and an excellent poker player. He was also kind, good-natured, and a standup individual. Which is why Brown’s passing in 2014 hit the poker world so hard.
Poker lost a true champion and a true ambassador when Brown finally succumbed to cancer after a hard fought battle against a rare form of the disease. Brown never quit, and continued to play poker while undergoing treatment until it was no longer possible.
Even though a WSOP bracelet eluded Brown during his career (Chad had seven Top 5 finishes including three runner-up finishes in WSOP events), he was honored at the 2014 WSOP with the first ever honorary gold bracelet, which Brown received in his hospital bed.