The late Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott, who died from bowel and liver cancer, at the age of 61, in 2015, was one of the most distinctive and influential British poker players in history. Born in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire in 1954, Ulliott left school at 15 and drifted into a life of petty crime. Indeed, he was twice detained at Her Majesty's pleasure in his twenties, before turning to poker as a more 'legitimate' means of making a living. That said, he spent the formative years of his new career travelling around seedy, often illegal, back rooms in the Midlands and the North of England, where he cultivated the aggressive, egotistical image that would become his trademark.
His path inevitably led to London and, later, to Las Vegas where, in April 1997, he became just the third Englishman to win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet – not to mention $180,310 in prize money – in the $2,000 Hold'em Pot Limit event at Binion's. Other notable paydays in his professional career, which spanned four decades, included $589,175 for winning the World Poker Tour (WPT) $10,000 + 100 No-Limit Hold'em Championship at Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi in January 2003 and $674,500 for a third-place finish in the WPT $15,000 + 400 Doyle Brunson Classic – No-Limit Hold'em at Bellagio, Las Vegas in December 2007. Indeed, Ulliott accrued $6,235,521 in total live earnings, at a time when poker prize money was a fraction of what it is today and was, for many years, the highest-earning British poker player ever.
Ulliott was originally christened 'Devilfish' by fellow poker player Stephen Au-Yeung, who likened him to the potentially deadly Japanese delicacy, otherwise known as 'blowfish' or 'pufferfish', during a private game at his home. However, the moniker was resurrected during a rowdy, heads-up contest against Men 'The Master' Nguyen at Four Queens Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas in January 1997; Ulliott won and the following day the local newspaper celebrated his first major tournament win under the headline 'Devilfish Devours The Master!'
Domestically, Ulliott participated in and won, the inaugural series of 'Late Night Poker' – the pioneering television programme that introduced the hole card camera – on Channel 4 in 1999. Aside from his extraordinary skill as a poker player, his slicked-back hair, sharp, pin-striped suit and tie, orange-tinted glasses and two enormous gold rings, bearing the legends 'Devil' and 'Fish', respectively, made Ulliott the star of the show and a household name in Britain. Many years later, reflecting on his career, he said, 'I’ve realised that no matter what happens, nobody can break me inside. A good player can’t have nerves. I lost mine a long time ago.'
Ulliott last cashed in a live poker tournament in the WSOP $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em – Monster Stack event at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas in June 2014, less than a year before his death. On that occasion, he collected $6,368 for finishing 265th of 7,862 entries. However, during the WSOP Main Event, at the same venue, in July 2017, it was announced that Ulliott had been posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame for 'his role in growing the game in England'.
If you want to learn more about Dave Devilfish Ulliott I have read and would recommend his publication: Devilfish: The Life & Times of a Poker Legend (2010).
The Devilfish | Poker Documentary | Full Length