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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Paul “Eskimo” Clark

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

For some of us poker players out there it might almost seem like a comforting thought that you might possibly die at the poker table.  After all, for most of us, playing poker is one of our favorite things in the world, and dying at a poker table seems as any honorable way to die.  Imagine getting all your chips in good one last time only to suffer one last bad beat.  Like I said, it beats other ways of going.  But, when you really think about it, nobody would probably want to go that way, and when you actually see someone that may go that way, it can seem rather depressing.  Paul “Eskimo” Clark is one of the top tournament poker players in the world, but as of late, people have been more worried about his health than his results at the poker table.

Let’s try to swing back to a more positive note.  Despite Clark having issues regarding his health and facing criticisms about his choices to continue playing instead of seeking medical attention, he has been a winning tournament player throughout his entire career, including during these recent problems.

Despite the fact that his nickname is “Eskimo,” which has led many to believe he was born in Alaska, he was actually born in a much warmer, much more southern part of the United States.  The nickname stems from the fact that he looks like an old Alaskan Airlines logo.  Paul Clark was born on June 1, 1951 (we think) in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I say, “we think,” because Clark fits the mold of the old time poker players who preferred to keep most personal information to himself, thinking the less that is known about him at the poker table, the more powerful, and profitable, he would be.  

It’s believed he started playing poker in the Vietnam War, where he worked as a medic.  A lot of young men were first introduced to poker during the Vietnam War, so this is certainly a plausible guess.  However, he didn’t really step into the poker world until 1988, when he first started earning top finishes at poker tournaments in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  Before this he was strictly a cash game player, and to this day he still prefers high stakes cash games, where he has proven he can win at any of the games being offered.  

Clark’s first noticeable finishes came in 1988 and 1989 where he finished in 8th place in both of the World Series of Poker Events that he cashed in that year.  In 1990 at the $1,500 Limit Seven Card Stud at the Hall of Fame Poker Classic, he finished in second for $49,800. The year 1992 can only be considered Clark’s breakout year, where he cashed in three tournaments, including his first WSOP bracelet when he took down the $5000 Seven Card Stud event for $122,000.  

In 1999, Clark secured his second bracelet, winning the $1500 Razz tournament, adding over $80,000 to his pocket.  Three years later he added a third bracelet in a third event, the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event for $125,000.  The versatility of his poker skills is shown in winning three bracelets in three separate events, but throughout his career he has won, or finished high in major tournaments involving all the poker games.  He won a No Limit event for $160,000 in 2003, a pot-limit Omaha event in 2003, and a limit hold’em event in 2000.

However, winning poker tournaments unfortunately doesn’t improve your health, and shortly after winning his third WSOP bracelet, concerns about his wellbeing started surfacing on the internet from various sources.  From his weight, and apparent grogginess, over the last few years it’s easy to tell Clark isn’t “all there,” and all that came into focus at the 2007 WSOP, during the $1500 Razz tournament.  Some reports said that he passed out as many as three times, at first blaming the heat.  Others at the table said on top of passing out he was having trouble handling his chips, and was inordinately slow making basic decisions.  He was first attended to by security guards, but he refused to leave because he had the chip lead in the tournament.  He was eventually tended to by paramedics on the scene, and despite them believing he may have been suffering from “mini-strokes,” they continued to let him play.  When Clark got back to the table, he lit up a cigarette and ordered chicken wings.  For what it’s worth, and it’s not worth more than his health, he went on to finish fourth in that tournament.  

On top of his bad health, he is apparently hurting financially.  It seems that he is showing up at some of the major tournaments and asking for backing arrangements.  Potential stakers know he has the skill, or at least once possessed the skill, to make some money, but in his current state of bad health players are hesitant to give him any money, and sadly, probably rightfully so.  

Rumors also continue to surface on the internet, with one saying at the end of February that he was found dead outside of a casino after being the target of a robbery.  Some have speculated that he owes money to some people, so unfortunately this story was believable to some local players in Las Vegas, but thankfully Clark was seen at a local tournament just a few days after that untrue story was told.  

Clark is still having some success at the poker tables today, despite all of these ongoing problems and concerns for his health.  However, the success he is having now is on a much smaller level than his WSOP glory days.  Last year, and the first few parts of this year, he has placed in a handful of tournaments ranging from $300-$500 dollar buy-ins.

I guess you don’t need to me to tell you that the Eskimo Clark story is fixing to have a tragic ending.  Hopefully Clark, or some closer to him, will have a moment of clarity where they see that he can probably still have a long healthy life if he gets the medical attention he needs.  However, I’ve learned from writing these stories over the last few months that poker players march to the beat of their own drum. 

*Editor's Note:  It has been rumored for years that Eskimo 'pieces' out so much of his tournament buy-in that he rarely has much left over.*

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