During the broadcast of Friday night’s action at the 2017 World Series of Poker Championship Event final table, the two latest inductees for the Poker Hall of Fame were announced. With congratulations, one of them was a first-ballot inductee in Phil Ivey and the other was a well-deserved and beloved choice in David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott.
“I want to thank the living members of the Poker Hall of Fame as well as the media who voted for me to be part of the Poker Hall of Fame,” said Ivey. “It’s an honor to be inducted alongside legends like Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson. I love the game of poker and the game has done a lot for me. I am one of the lucky people who has been able to make a living playing a game which was always my passion. Thankfully, I’m just as passionate about the game today as when I first stepped into Binion’s Horseshoe to play my first-ever WSOP. Thank you to my family, my friends, and all the poker fans across the world that supported me on this journey.”
Ivey was considered a shoo-in for nomination for the resume he has built over the last 20-odd years. From the days he played in the New Jersey poker rooms using a friend’s identification – which brought him the nickname “No Home Jerome” for the amount of time he spent playing on the Boardwalk – and over the next two decades, it is arguable there isn’t a more feared player in the game. His first tournament cash dates to 1998, when he won a Customer Appreciation event for $1000, and he certainly has gone on to greater things in the years that followed.
In Ivey’s first serious foray into a tournament schedule in 2000, he would final table four events at the First Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, MS, before moving on to Las Vegas for the WSOP. In the span of 10 days that year, Ivey cashed three times and made two final tables, including winning his first WSOP bracelet in Pot Limit Omaha. Phil Ivey was now known to the world and he took full advantage of it.
He holds the record for most final tables on the World Poker Tour with 10, winning one of those opportunities in 2008 at the L. A. Poker Classic. Ivey has also cashed 59 times at the WSOP, with 10 bracelet victories that put him in second place all-time (only behind Phil Hellmuth and tied with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan). More impressive than his tournament record, however, is his cash game statistics.
It is conceivable that Ivey has made twice as much playing cash games around the world than his $23 million-plus that he’s won on the tournament circuit. In fact, over the past few years, those cash games have infringed on his play at the WSOP, slowing down his pursuit of Hellmuth. Still, one of the qualifications for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame is to have “played for high stakes,” and Ivey has played for the highest possible.
The Ulliott family commented to WSOP officials regarding the induction of their loved one. “As a family, we would like to thank the general public, media and current Poker Hall of Fame members that voted David into the Poker Hall of Fame. We know he will be up there strumming on his guitar and probably asking what took so long! How he might say it – I think you all know!”
“There isn’t a day that goes past when we don’t think of him and miss him but today we are so proud and delighted that he takes his rightful place in poker history – the legend of the Devilfish lives on! One thing we know he would be happy about is the progress of John Hesp in the Main Event, a regular at Napoleon’s in Hull, David’s home city in the UK. John represents what poker is all about – a true game of the people.”
“There are too many people to individually thank but we would particularly like to thank Rob Yong and Simon Trumper of Dusk Till Dawn in Nottingham for their support and also we would like to thank Leon from Kings Casino in advance for offering to commemorate David’s induction into the Poker Hall of Fame at the WSOP Europe in October. Just remember, as the Devilfish would say – ‘Life is a blast. It doesn’t last. Live it long and live it fast’.”
Ulliott, who passed away in 2015, was a popular sentimental choice that year but had the qualifications to be there previous to his passing. Once a safecracker who served time for his offenses, Ulliott changed his life as he poured himself into his passion, poker. He became such a feared competitor in his hometown of Hull that he found it nearly impossible to find a cash game to play, which sent him into the casinos of the United Kingdom. His first tournament cash was in a Seven Card Stud event at the Grosvenor Spring Classic in London in 1993, where he won £200 for his sixth-place finish.
There would be much more for Ulliott in the world of poker after that. In 1997, legend has it his nickname of ‘Devilfish’ came into being after defeating Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen in Pot Limit Omaha at the Four Queens Poker Classic. Reports with the headline “Devilfish Devours The Master” circulated following that win and Ulliott would embrace it head-on, including having a set of ‘knuckle dusters’ (a form of brass knuckles) with ‘Devil’ on the right hand and ‘Fish’ on the left made for him personally.
1997 was also the year of Ulliott’s one and only WSOP victory, in the $2000 Pot Limit Hold’em competition. He would come close on several occasions after that, but would never taste of WSOP gold again. ‘Devilfish’ would also win on the WPT, taking the championship of the 2003 Jack Binion World Poker Open Main Event during the tour’s inaugural season.
Once again, while the tournament record is outstanding (227 cashes for over $6.1 million in earnings), it is the cash game arena where Ulliott made his mark. He also was one of the biggest characters in poker, taking such poker programming as Late Night Poker to unprecedented heights with his roguish personality. When he passed in 2015, not only the British poker community but the international poker world mourned the passing of a truly one of a kind character.
Congratulations to Ivey and the Ulliott Family for their inductions into the Poker Hall of Fame.