Remembering Those Poker Players and Personalities Who Passed Away in 2022
The New Year is not only an opportunity for poker players to look ahead, perhaps setting new resolutions and goals, but also a chance to look back at the year gone by. In 2022, that entails remembering those players who passed on.
Here’s a look at some of those we lost over the past year.
Back in January, Comedian Louie Anderson passed away at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer. He was no stranger to mainstream audiences as he performed a clean stand-up comedy routine for decades, won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2016 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in FX’s Baskets, and hosted Family Feud from 1999-2002.
Anderson’s career is well-documented, but did you know that he once joined the poker world?
In the mid-2000s, Anderson briefly represented PokerStars, the largest online poker site in the world, even sporting their patch while playing in the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. Unfortunately, Anderson did not cash that tournament.
Paul Strohm, one of the most respected players in the mid-major poker scene, especially on the RunGood Poker Series (RGPS), and a competitor in the famed Kansas City Monday Night Poker Game passed away in late January.
The unfortunate news was shared by Strohm’s three sons – Scott, Nick, and Brian – in a social media post to his Facebook account:
“We are devastated to have to let you know that last Thursday Paul passed away peacefully in his sleep with us by his side. He had been privately battling cancer and was focused on living his best life. I think we can all agree he succeeded. We encourage you all to please share any story/picture/video you have of him on this post or his page. Thank you so much for being a part of his life- his family and friends meant more to him than anything. Our father was a hero to each of us and we loved him deeply. He will be greatly missed by us and countless other friends and family.”
According to The Hendon Mob, Strohm had $117,322 in lifetime career earnings dating back to 2017 including a career-high $26,058 for finishing 10th in the RGPS Council Bluffs Main Event back in June 2021. He had two other five-figure scores on his poker résumé – $11,634 for taking ninth in the 2019 World Series of Poker Circuit Ameristar St. Charles $1,700 Main Event and $10,512 for finishing 36th in the 2020 World Poker Tour (WPT) Fallsview.
Old school online poker legend Kelvin “aces_up4108” Beattie, a former No. 1 ranked Australian player and owner of the PokerNerve training site, passed away at the end of February after a long battle with cancer.
“He fought so hard over the past 10 months, never giving up and we are devastated having lost him,” his family said in a statement. Beattie had previously been diagnosed with cancer but several years ago went into remission. After regaining his health, he dove back into poker in Asia and created PokerNerve. Unfortunately, his cancer returned during the pandemic, and was given only a few months to live.
In the early 2010s, Beattie was a feared online player racking up more than $4.5 million in winnings, including a coveted PokerStars WCOOP title. He was also a 10x Triple Crown winner. In the live realm, Beattie had $194,574 in lifetime earnings according to The Hendon Mob. That included a career-best $26,706 for finishing eighth in the 2017 Macau Poker Cup Event #12: HK$50,000 NLH.
In March, Australian cricket legend and keen poker player Shane Warne has died after a suspected heart attack while in Thailand. The former 888poker Team Pro was 52 years old.
A brief statement from Warne’s management team broke the news.
Warne is widely regarded as one of the best spin bowlers to have ever played the game of cricket. His incredible record on the international stage for Australia showed the cricketing world what a superstar he was.
Poker was a also large part of Warne’s life; his website even has a section dedicated to the game. There, he compares poker to professional cricket and describes his love of tournament poker and the World Series of Poker in particular.
888poker signed Warne to their roster of professional poker players and ambassadors in January 2008. He remained with 888poker until January 2015.
According to The Hendon Mob Database, Warne accumulated $161,325 in live tournament cashes from 18 results. His third-place finish in an A$10,200 High Stakes Event at the 2010 Victorian Poker Championship earned Warne A$40,000 ($35,899) which remained his largest-ever haul.
Other poker-related highlights of Warne’s career include a 22nd place in the 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event won by Scott Davies, a fourth-place finish an A$2,500 No-Limit Hold’em event at the 2018 Aussie Millions worth A$41,225 ($33,320), and a cash worth $17,282 in the 2015 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas.
George Epstein w/ Robbie Strazynski
Members of the poker community mourned the loss of Los Angeles resident and renowned poker columnist George Epstein (pictured left above alongside Robbie Strazynski), who passed away on the morning of March 29 at the age of 95.
Epstein, a member of the Senior Poker Hall of Fame, was born in Boston in 1926 and attended the University of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before having “a distinguished career as an aerospace engineer,” according to an obituary published by the Los Angeles Times.
After retiring in the 1990s, Epstein, a veteran who served in the Navy during World War II, began a “second career” in the poker industry that included writing columns for various poker sites and publishing poker strategy books.
One of those books, Hold’em or Fold’em?: An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision, offers strategy to improve limit Hold’em play, while The Art of Bluffing and Other Forms of Deception in Poker walks through when and how to make a move against your opponents.
Epstein was also an accomplished poker columnist and had his writing published by the likes of Poker Player Newspaper, Gaming Today and Cardplayer Lifestyle, where he published a hundred articles and earned the moniker of “Senior contributor.”
In April, Five people, including former World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit ring champion Mohammad “Moe” Moeini, were shot dead during a Southern Mississippi killing spree.
According to Fox 8, the suspect, 32-year-old Jeremy Alesunder Reynolds, barricaded himself inside the Canal Grocery store in Biloxi, a poker hotbed, before police tear-gassed the building. He was found dead inside the store but authorities haven’t yet released the cause of death.
Reynolds is said to have shot and killed Moeini, 51, and two others at the Broadway Inn Express motel, a business owned by the poker player, before allegedly leaving the scene of the crime. Police and witnesses say he then carjacked 52-year-old William Waltman whom he also shot and killed.
Mohammad was a respected and beloved poker player who won the 2014 WSOP Circuit Biloxi Main Event for $106,101, beating out 301 entrants. In total, he cashed in nine Circuit events and two bracelet tournaments in Las Vegas.
“Moe” racked up over $520,000 in overall live tournament cashes according to the Hendon Mob. His most recent cash came in January 2020, a ninth-place finish for $7,707 in a $2,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em Tournament in his hometown of Biloxi.
“Just terrible sadness. Moe was just such a good guy. He was always one of the nicest people in the poker room,” Friend and fellow poker player Scott Weinberg told WWLTV New Orleans. “It’s a small community in the poker room so we all kind of know each other and we’re all friends and it’s tough on everybody.”
Former professional poker player and attorney Todd Terry passed away in May after a nearly decade-long battle with a devastating neurological disease.
Terry, who made numerous deep runs at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and on the World Poker Tour (WPT) and was a known and respected voice in the poker forum community, died in Los Angeles on May 17 after his battle with the incurable Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), according to his obituary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He was 48.
Terry, originally from Solon, Ohio, graduated from Harvard College and New York University Law School before becoming a practicing defense attorney in Manhattan, where he was “involved in several high-profile, front-page news trials,” as stated in his obituary.
He eventually gave up his career in law to become a professional poker player, a second career that allowed him to travel the world competing in tournaments.
According to The Hendon Mob, Terry racked up $2.4 million in lifetime earnings, including a career-best score of $434,767 from a runner-up finish at the 2009 Borgata Winter Open in the $3,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship event.
Two years earlier, Terry finished second in a $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event at the 2007 WSOP for $353,875. While he was never able to get his hands on a WSOP bracelet, he did win a Circuit ring at the 2006 WSOP Circuit Atlantic City stop in a $1,500 buy-in event for $96,525.
Terry had his last cash in 2015 and sadly had to retire from poker as a result of his worsening health condition.
In May, the poker world received the sad news that Bob Ciaffone, an accomplished poker author and longtime Card Player Magazine columnist, passed away at the age of 81.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on December 10, 1940, Ciaffone learned to play poker decades earlier at the age of nine after being taught by his mother. A year later, their family relocated to Sagniaw, Michigan, and by the time he was 15 he was excelling at several different kinds of games.
He would attend the University of Notre Dame but despite being the highest-ranked student on entrance exams, he eventually dropped out after spending too much time playing pool.
In addition to his poker and pool accomplishments, Ciaffone excelled at bridge, backgammon, and chess. The U.S. Chess Federation awarded him the title of Life Master (he also got the same title from the American Contract Bridge League), and he also previously served as the president of the Michigan Chess Association.
He was so respected in the poker industry that the New Jersey Casino Control Commission used him to help establish rules when they opened their poker rooms, something Florida officials did as well years later.
Ciaffone authored five poker books including Robert’s Rules of Poker, Middle Limit Poker, Pot-Limit and No-Limit Poker, Omaha Poker: The Action, and Improve Your Poker.
As a player, Ciaffone had career earnings of $347,106 according to The Hendon Mob. His most notable performance and biggest cash of $125,000 came when he finished third in the 1987 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event to runner-up Frank Henderson and champ Johnny Chan.
Warren “Grumpa” Griffith (left) w/ Ken Tilden
Warren “Grumpa” Griffith, a double amputee who survived multiple strokes and heart attacks and dreamed of playing at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), has passed away at the age of 73 back in May.
A Massachusetts native and poker enthusiast, Grumpa’s story touched the hearts of poker players from Daniel Negreanu to Maria Ho when he made the trip West to the 2015 WSOP. The beloved Grumpa passed peacefully on May 12 after a long battle with heart disease, according to his obituary.
Grumpa, who was affectionately given his nickname by his five granddaughters for his cranky temperament, was a massive poker fan who always wanted to travel to Las Vegas to take his shot at winning a bracelet and life-changing money. Despite a myriad of health problems, Grumpa achieved his goal in 2015 and played in the WSOP’s inaugural “The Colossus” event as a part of a Blaycation group.
Rich Korbin, a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner who began working for PokerStars during the poker site’s early days, passed in June of a heart attack at age 73, news that devastated many within the poker community.
The poker enthusiast grew up in Ardsley, New York where he attended Ardsley High School, a public school in Westchester. He’d go on to live in the Denver, Colorado area, Vancouver, Canada, and Las Vegas, his most recent residency.
When news began spreading of Korbin’s passing on social media, numerous poker players and industry personnel chimed in to share memories.
“So sad. I was fortunate to spend a lot time with Richie over the past few years and really enjoy it. He had so many great stories about his time at pokerstars (and others). I will miss him- such a nice guy. RIP my friend,” poker pro Ari Engel tweeted.
Korbin was the director of marketing for PokerStars, the online poker site he represented for 17 years.
“Damn, played with Rich over the years in the stud mix at Bellagio. Always really nice and had a great sense of Humor. Rest In Peace Rich,” Ronnie Bardah tweeted.
“Richie cruised with us years and years ago. He couldn’t believe the wonderful time that he had, he boasted about it and said he couldn’t wait to go again,” Jan Fisher, a partner at Card Player Cruises, said.
“So sorry to hear! I spent a lot of time w him at the tables several years ago – always very friendly. He was definitely one I perked up and listened to every word he had to say,” poker pro Jon Turner wrote.
As a poker player, Korbin won a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2001, a career-best $159,080 score in a $2,500 limit seven card stud hi-lo tournament. In that event, he beat a tough final table that included Poker Hall of Famer John Juanda and former Main Event champion Chris Ferguson, who was one of the top players in the game at the time.
In July, the poker community learned the sad news that Galen Kester, a well-known player in Tunica, Mississippi, passed away.
“Galen Kester was a legend in Tunica, and played in enormous cash games with a great cast of characters,” Johnny Grooms posted on social media.
In 2001, Kester won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet when he topped a 145-player field to win Event #8: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha for a career-high $167,035. He did so by defeating Poker Hall of Famer David “Devilfish” Ulliott in heads-up play and besting a final table that included Freddy Deeb and Jay Heimowitz, as well as deep runs by Erik Seidel (10th place) and Johnny Chan (14th place).
According to the Hendon Mob, Kester amassed just over $1.2 million in lifetime tournament earnings dating back to 2001. That put him fifth on Mississippi’s all-time money list at the time of his passing.
Kester also won the 2012 Gold Strike World Poker Open $3,000 Main Event in Tunica for $165,000, took down the Fourth Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open $1,060 Pot-Limit Omaha tournament for $152,096 in 2003, and was victorious in the 2006 Gold Strike World Poker Open $2,070 NLH event for $101,212. He also had a deep run in the 2006 WSOP Main Event finishing in 173rd place for $47,006.
Panayote “Pete the Greek” Vilandos
The poker world lost another character as word circulated that three-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet winner Pete “Pete the Greek” Vilandos, whose real name was Panayote Vilandos, passed away back on July 24 at the age of 82.
Vilandos, who was born May 30, 1940, arrived in the United States as an immigrant from Greece when he was just 27 years old. Despite having already earned a degree at the University of Athens, he went on to graduate from the University of Houston where he earned a degree in electrical engineering.
According to The Hendon Mob, Vilandos had $3,266,764 in lifetime earnings dating back to 1990. Of that, $2,520,167 came in WSOP-related cashes including a trio of gold bracelets. His first came at the 1995 WSOP when he won Event #10: $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em for $148,500, while the second came at the 2009 WSOP when he topped a 2,506-player field to win Event #24: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em for $607,256.
Amazingly, that win came less than two weeks after he finished runner-up to Steve Sung for $473,282 in Event #4: $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em, a tournament that attracted 6,012 runners.
The poker world is mourning the loss of Australian poker player Jan Suchanek, who passed away in September.
Suchanek had $1.1 million in live tournament cashes, according to Hendon Mob, highlighted by his memorable deep run in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. He finished in 49th place out of 6,737 for a career-best $142,447.
Irish poker pro Dara O’Kearney, a friend of Suchanek’s, wrote a glowing tribute to his late pal.
As O’Kearney explained, Suchanek was born in Prague in April 1967, but grew up in Canada. He returned to his native land following college where he began to make a living betting on sports. From there, he moved to New Zealand before ending up in Melbourne, Australia.
On the felt, the late poker player was known as an aggressive gambler who wasn’t afraid to play a big pot. He was a tough competitor but also made many friends in the game due to his charming personality.
Suchanek never won a WSOP bracelet but he came close in a 2014 $1,500 10-game mix 6-handed tournament, taking second place to Bryn Kenney for $94,618, his second largest career score.
O’Kearney wrote that his friend became ill with stomach problems earlier this month and he quickly became concerned. Although his passing is tragic, as “Doke” explained in his blog post, Suchanek lived a happy life full of love.
Former UFC fighter and poker player Elias Theodorou passed away in September at the age of 34 after a private battle with colon cancer, according to a statement from his family.
“He passed peacefully at home with his family and loved ones in his corner after a hard-fought fight with colon cancer that metastasized,” the statement on Instagram read.
The Canadian mixed martial artist, whose death was first reported by BJPenn.com, vlogged his poker journey for GGPoker and was one of a handful of celebrities who teamed up with GGPoker and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2020 to raise money during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to being a fierce opponent in the ring, Theodorou was a force at the poker table and even landed a sponsorship with GGPoker during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, Theodorou was one of a handful of celebrities who played a $1,111 COVID Charity event as part of WSOP Online Super Circuit on the leading poker site, an event that raised $175,000 for the Nevada Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund.
The next year, Theodorou vlogged his poker journey in the 18-part “Gloves & Shoves” series with GGPoker Twitch Squad member Patrick Tardif, which included a December 2021 video documenting Theodorou playing his first poker tournaments in Las Vegas earlier that year.
On Saturday, September 17, co-founder of Triton Poker Ivan Leow, 39, unexpectedly passed away from an apparent heart attack. Leow’s passing came during the highly-successful Triton Cyprus. As a result, all remaining Triton Cyprus events, which began on September 5 and were slated to run through the 19th, have been canceled so those there have the opportunity to “mourn his passing together.”
“Ivan was a hugely popular member of the Triton family. He was warm, generous, and enormous fun both at the tables and off – a loyal friend to us all. He was also a fantastic poker player, with a lifelong passion for the game,” Triton Poker said in a statement.
“Ivan was a very special person, who lived life to the full, was always smiling, and loved the game of poker. He will be sincerely missed by his family, friends, and everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him.”
From Paul & Richard,
— Triton Poker (@tritonpoker)
According to The Hendon Mob, Leow had just over $13.1 million in lifetime tournament earnings dating back to 2015. That put him third on Malaysia’s all-time money list behind only Paul Phua and Richard Yong.
Leow’s largest score of $2.46 million came in August 2021 when he finished runner-up Wiktor Malinowski in the Merit Poker Super High Roller Bowl Europe. In 2018, when Leow won an astounding $5,691,986 in tournament play, he won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Europe €100,000 Leon’s High Roller for $1,422,140, which came less than two months after he took down the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Russia Super High Roller for $1,133,555.
Southern California poker player Ramsey Doumani passed away in December. Known by his first name to viewers, Ramsey was previously a regular player on Live at the Bike. He was popular among those who watched the longstanding live-streamed poker show.
Many poker players shared memories of the late poker player on social media, including Ryan Feldman, the former Live at the Bike producer.
“Yesterday, we lost a great member of the LA poker community. Ramsey was beloved by everyone who knew him. He was young and full of energy and love. Please pray for his family and friends at this difficult time,” Feldman, who now runs the competing Hustler Casino Live show, tweeted on Tuesday.
Yesterday, we lost a great member of the LA poker community. Ramsey was beloved by everyone who knew him. He was yo… https://t.co/OEuOpAkXQ5
— Ryan Feldman (@TheRyanFeldman)
Poker vlogger Andrew Neeme also tweeted out some love to his friend on social media. The World Poker Tour ambassador shared a video of a bad beat he lost on Live at the Bike against Ramsey a few years ago.
“Very sad to hear that we lost Ramsey. So fun loving, warm, and such a supportive dude who’d tell you how much he loved you. Think he hated folding even more than me. Took us out in DTLA for some memorable nights involving arcade bars & high speed electric bikes. He’ll be missed,” Neeme wrote.
Others Who Passed in 2022
Others who the poker world lost in 2022 were Tim Kleeman, Thierry De Quick, and Sam Khouiss. PokerNews offers condolences to the friends and families of all those
lost in 2022.
Executive Editor U.S.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.