Veteran poker pro Sam Grizzle passed away Tuesday after suffering a massive stroke. According to reports from friends close to the situation, the stroke was so bad that Grizzle fell into a coma with no hopes of recovering. His family made the decision to end life support.
My introduction to Sam Grizzle was the same as many poker fans and players: the 2003 World Series of Poker telecasts on ESPN. Unless you were a poker insider at that time – and most of us were not – you had no idea who Sam Grizzle was. And honestly, you probably didn’t know who Phil Hellmuth was, but of course, through ESPN broadcasts, you quickly figured it out.
Grizzle was not supposed to be the star of the show, but he was. He and Hellmuth butted heads throughout the television coverage, with Grizzle needling the “Poker Brat” relentlessly as they played. At one point, acknowledging that Hellmuth has had great success, Grizzle said, “What if you’re a goofball that just catches cards?”
One of the highlights of the telecast was when Norman Chad told the audience that the two men once got in a fistfight. It was hard to imagine, but apparently, it did actually happen. In a 2015 Reddit AMA, Hellmuth explained what happened:
One day he asked me to save him a seat in a game while he went to eat. After 90 minutes, I made the casino stop taking his $9 every 30 minutes, cause so much time had passed, AND then he shows up and the game is full, DOH! So he wants to fight me…I say, well you better do it this week while my back is out, and suddenly I’m in my first and only fist fight I’ve ever had in the poker world! We both land punches, but next day not a mark on either of us (BEST FIGHT EVER cause no one was hurt).
Sam Grizzle was a classic poker character, better than anything a screenwriter could imagine. He was the guy who knew everyone and believed he was better at poker than all of them. Every poker player seemingly has a story about him, each of which ends with a laugh and a smile. Grizzle isn’t a Poker Hall of Famer, but he is most definitely an all-time great. He owned the room.
Since his death, fellow poker players have been sharing anecdotes about Sam Grizzle. He was playing poker just days before his stroke. Danny Sepiol wrote, “We were sitting next to each other a few days ago in a live 400 at venetian. We’ve been chatting, he wins a massive flip off me. Then he asks if ill take a pic of his stack and text to him because his phone is shit. lololololol. RIP”
How about this “inside poker” Sam Grizzle one liner:
That is truly a poker player’s joke if I’ve ever heard one.
We’ll close with what is perhaps my favorite story about Grizzle, posted by Brant Hale in response to Ashby’s tweet: