Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott (1954-2015)

Sad news this week regarding the passing of Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott who succumbed to cancer just a couple of days after his 61st birthday.

Ulliott occupied a meaningful place in poker lore for many players, especially those who came into the game just before and during the “boom” of the mid-2000s and most especially for players in the U.K. who watched him star in (and win) the first series of Late Night Poker back in 1999.

As detailed in Des Wilson’s Swimming with the Devil Fish (2007) and Ulliott's autobiography, humbly titled Devilfish: The Life and Times of a Poker Legend (2010), Ulliott had a colorful life including tales of safe-cracking, robberies, fist fights, and prison time as a younger man, and lots of gambling and poker dominating his story thereafter.

He’d win a World Series of Poker bracelet (in 1997) and come close several more times. He also had success on the World Poker Tour (winning an event during Season 1), helping make him a familiar character to American poker TV viewers as well.

I can’t say I had a great deal of interaction with Ulliott, although I did cover him in many events at the WSOP. The most vivid memory of came in 2011 when at the $10,000 NLHE Six-Max event Ulliott pulled out a harmonica during the early levels of Day 1 and played it for a few minutes before tournament staff made him stop.

Soon after he’d pulled a guitar from a case and began playing a blues riff, getting part of the way into the first verse before being stopped again. “Was someone complaining?” deadpanned Ulliott, to which the TD responded “You just can’t have a guitar at the table.” (Here’s a short report of that moment.)

I remember after that him picking the guitar back up during breaks that afternoon to serenade passersby. Such center-of-attention antics were the norm for Ulliott at the tables, inspiring a lot of positive memories on the forums and over Twitter this week and a few not-so-nice ones, too.

Of course, Ulliott’s willful seeking of the spotlight was one of a few crucial elements of that first series of Late Night Poker -- along with the under-the-table hole card cams, Rob Gardner’s production, the commentary of Jesse May and Nic Szeremeta, and others’ contributions -- ensuring himself a significant role in chapters about latter-day poker’s history.

Visit The Telegraph for a more substantial obituary covering the highs and lows of Ulliott’s colorful life and career.

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