Dave Ulliott, 1954-2015

Dave Ulliott, 1954-2015

Monday, 18 May 2015

Remembering the Devilfish.

On April 6 this year, poker lost one of its best loved and most memorable characters as Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott passed away following a battle with cancer. We have spoken to some of the people who knew him well, to share their memories of the great man.

When people talk about a lack of proper characters in poker these days, conversation invariably turns towards Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott. When news broke of the popular figure's battle with cancer, well-wishers emerged from all corners of the poker world.

Devilfish's presence spanned several different eras of poker. From secretive private games of the 80s and 90s, through the post-2000 poker boom and all the way through until the present, the Hull native remained ubiquitous. Few others (and even fewer from these shores) showed his longevity, with some 16 years separating his first and last six-figure cashes.

His first and only WSOP bracelet came against a final table including Main Event champions Tom McEvoy and Chris Ferguson, his WPT title featured a heads-up victory over Phil Ivey and his final six-figure score arrived in a tough EPT High Roller event in London. But the $6m in live earnings - placing him second in the UK's all-time money list - don't even begin to tell the story.

Devilfish was an old-school gambler extraordinaire. Despite leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, he was able to show his intelligence at the poker table and has shared many a laugh and a joke with table mates - having been born on April Fool's Day, you might say he learned to see the funny side of things early in life.

If you've read his book Devilfish: The Life and Times of a Poker Legend, you will have heard plenty about his long and winding road to poker success, and it is clear to see he's had to deal with more than most. When you've stared down a group of drunken men and women attacking you with fists, boots and a steel comb - the ordeal a young Devilfish faced when defending his brother in his native Hull - getting one-outed suddenly doesn't seem such a big deal.

That struggle taught Devilfish that "I could be beaten physically…but inside I knew I couldn't be beaten," and while that tough exterior garnered mixed reactions from different groups, those who saw all the good he has done for others are those with whom he became closest.

A regular on the games that made celebrities out of old-school gamblers, from Late Night Poker to the early years of the World Poker Tour, he would invariably regale table mates with tales from his younger days - and when it comes to poker's great storytellers, he was one of the best.

“It is hard to believe that a good looking, smooth talking guy like me can get this response from dying. If I had known I would have done it a long time ago” - Devilfish told the Hull Daily Mail, his local paper - proof that he kept his famous sense of humour through thick and thin.

When news of Devilfish's illness first broke, the godfather of poker Doyle Brunson took it upon himself to call for Hull's finest to be inducted into this year's Poker Hall of Fame. We can't think of anyone who would be more deserving of the honour.

Tags: Devilfish, Dave Ulliott