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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Dave Ulliott

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I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: poker players are truly a unique group.  But within that group lays even more unique stories and personalities.  Every story in the “Where Are They Now” series has been a fun and learning experience for me, but some of the topics seem to write their own stories, while others take a little more work.  Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott is an example of one of the stories that writes itself.  From making championship trophies for others to winning them for himself, Ulliott is a unique man in a unique world.

Dave Ulliott was born at Kingston Upon Hull in England on April 4, 1954.  Unlike a large majority of successful poker players today, Ulliott didn’t have a huge interest in pursuing the best education.  The only degree Ulliott would be earning is one in the “real world.”  Ulliott’s early life took two very different paths that led to two very different places.  First, let’s take a look at his early poker life.

Ulliott was playing poker with his parents and other family by the time he was 15 years old.  Almost with ease, he began winning the games on a regular basis, and before too long his parents were forced to ask their son not to play as he was taking all of the money and ruining the social aspect of the game.  Ulliott proceeded to take the next logical step, playing with his school chums.  Once again Ulliott was controlling the tables and his friends started either playing without him or telling him that they were meeting at one time and place but they would not be there when he arrived.  Ulliott again got the hint, and went searching for yet another game.  

By this time Ulliott had begun working a series of menial jobs, including making trophies, and he had built a network of coworkers who liked to play poker.  As you can guess, Ulliott was the big winner in these games.  Just like his family and just like his friends, he was asked not to come back to these games.  Finally, Ulliott, despite being under age, formed a friendship with a local casino owner.  Ulliott would certainly find some competition here, right?  After again destroying games at the Casino, regulars refused to play with him, so they were forced to ask Ulliott to leave.  On top of having a great head for poker, he also was making taking long shots at the horse races and constantly winning there too, even bookies started to become hesitant to take his action.

Natural progression would suggest that Ulliott had a great future ahead of him.  If you were always getting asked to leave a poker game because you were constantly walking away with the most money, you’re future is bright.  Unfortunately for Ulliott around the same time he was making his rise up the poker world he was also digging himself deeper and deeper in the criminal world. 

Around the time he was 20 years old he began stealing safes from businesses along with a few other people.  One of the more notorious stories is of Ulliott losing 5000 pounds to a bookie on a night of failed bets, only to return that night and steal it out of a safe, which he proceeded to wheel it home in a baby carriage.  Eventually though, one of the members of the safecracking team was arrested and named Ulliott as one of his associates.  Ulliott would go on to serve a nine month prison sentence, which included his 21st birthday.  After getting out Ulliott admittingly went right back to robberies, and despite a few close calls with the law authorities, was able to get away with it for a few more years, until he was caught near his 28th birthday for a fight.  Here would be the turning point in his life.

Ulliott, in his mind, was to be a lifelong criminal, so while in prison he was already planning his next heist for when he was released.  There he befriended a man named John, and together they decided they would rob a bank when they were both released.  After they were released the day came when they were to rob the bank, but before they could, John was arrested on another charge.  After that, John’s wife begged Ulliott to go straight and not end up like her husband.  Something in her voice must have triggered something in Ulliott’s mind, because by all accounts, Ulliott has never committed another crime.

Ulliott again started playing poker, mainly in the back of a successful pawn shop he had.  Because nobody could kick him out of his own game, Ulliott finally had a steady game.  Ulliott also went back to placing wagers on the horses through some of his friends, since he had long ago been asked to take his business elsewhere.  Eventually it made sense for Ulliott to start branching out towards cities that could handle his business and where he could test himself against other good poker players.

Ulliott ventured to the 1997 World Series of Poker and left a legend.  Ulliott brought $200,000 with him, but only after a few buy-ins, and some really bad results at the side cash games, he was broke.  Ulliott then borrowed $70,000, losing that pretty quickly too.  Ulliott was certainly not making a great first impression.  He had already spewed off $200,000 of his own money and had lost $70,000 of other people’s money.  Maybe Ulliott was meant to be a big fish in a small town, and should return to the UK.  Ulliott decided he would try one more tournament, the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event.  In true legend fashion he would obviously go on to win this event, and $180,310.  But, this money didn’t get him back to even for the trip.  That was ok.  Over the next two weeks Ulliott went on to win at least $10,000 dollars a day for the next two weeks, including beating Lyle Berman for a toll of $168,000 over one session of Pot Limit Omaha, the game considered to be Ulliott’s best.  When all was said and done, Ulliott returned home with nearly three quarters of a million dollars, and a legend to last a life time.

Ulliott has had a series of close calls with winning a second WSOP bracelet since then, including 26 finishes in the money.  His World Poker Tour Title has relieved some of that sting, winning $589,175 in a $10,000 buy-in event in 2003.  

Uillott also made some history in 1999 when he became one of the first players ever on the television show “Late Night Poker,” to use hole card cam technology.  He went on to beat 40 others in a series of “heats.”

Ulliott has tried to tone down his appearance over the last few years.  He used to have slicked back hair, a lot of jewelry and leather jackets, but he says he looked into a poker room one day and saw most everyone looked like him, so it was time for a change.  Despite the less fearful look, he is easily one of the most feared players in tournament poker;  just take a look at the number of first place finishes in his results below.  

The first month of 2009 has started remarkably for Ulliott. On the third of January in Ireland he won the PartyPoker Irish Championship for $46,330.  Just two weeks later, on the 16th, he won the Euro Finals of Paris for $186,382, as those results show, Ulliott has no plans of stopping anytime soon.  

Ulliott earned his nickname “Devilfish” when one of the players he beat consitently at the table started calling him that.  For a while he admitted to not even knowing what that meant, but his friend eventually told him it’s a type of fish that can be deadly to consume if it isn’t prepared exactly right.  Sounds like an appropriate nickname for a man who has traveled the roads he has to become one of the most deadly players at the table.

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