Poker Pro Sam Grizzle Passes Away

  • Grizzle suffered a severe stroke on Sunday and fell into a coma
  • After his condition deteriorated to the point of no recovery, his family turned off life support
  • He was known as one of the legendary characters of poker with a great sense of humor
  • Grizzle won more than $1.3m in live tournaments
vigil candle with blurred candles in the background
Sam Grizzle, one of the ultimate characters of poker, passed away on Tuesday after suffering a massive stroke two days earlier. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

One of poker’s ultimate characters

Long-time poker pro Sam Grizzle has passed away just a few days shy of his 68th birthday. The quick-tongued Grizzle suffered a massive stroke on Sunday, October 18. Soon in a coma, his condition worsened until he was pronounced brain dead on Tuesday, October 20. His family took him off life support shortly thereafter.

the funniest guy in poker”

Grizzle wasn’t quite a legendary player – though he was very good and greatly respected at the tables – but he was most definitely a legendary character. Known for his lightning-fast wit, his fellow poker players knew they could be in for an entertaining time if they were seated at his table. Grizzle was not shy about ripping into other players, but he did so with a smile. It was almost a badge of honor to be insulted by him.

Many, including Grizzle’s daughter, took to Twitter following the poker pro’s passing.

One person expressing his condolences tweeted: “he always made me laughed [sic] while taking my chips.” Others said: “His quick dry wit was unmatched” and that Grizzle was “the funniest guy in poker.”

Squaring off with Hellmuth

Grizzle planted himself firmly in the minds of poker fans during ESPN’s broadcast of the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP). This was the WSOP that, along with online poker, launched the poker boom.

In one episode, Grizzle tussled with Phil Hellmuth, joyfully getting under his skin any chance he got. If it was against any other player, Grizzle might have looked like the villain, but because it was Hellmuth he rankled, he became something of a hero.

During the broadcast, ESPN announcer Norman Chad mentioned that Grizzle and Hellmuth once got in a fist fight. In 2015, Hellmuth explained what happened in a Reddit AMA.

The two men were playing in a cash game together and Grizzle asked Hellmuth to save his seat while he got some food. After 90 minutes, Hellmuth stopped saving the seat for Grizzle, saying he didn’t want the poker room to keep taking his time collection when he wasn’t there. That explanation apparently didn’t fly and Grizzle challenged Hellmuth to a fight. Hellmuth replied: “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!”

Grinded out a living

According to The Hendon Mob, Sam Grizzle amassed over $1.3m in live tournament cashes. Scrolling down his results, he amazingly achieved that without any cashes of $100,000 or more. He never won a WSOP bracelet, but he did come close several times, including this summer, when he finished third in a 2020 WSOP Online event.

In recent years, his daughter says he had been sticking to smaller-stakes games.

the strength of his personality

But Sam Grizzle’s legacy is not so much about his financial success at the tables – though he had plenty – but rather the strength of his personality. The stories about Grizzle have flowed this week.

Brant Hale recalled an encounter in the restroom at the Gold Strike during a tournament break in 2008. Eskimo Clark was washing his hands and when Grizzle entered, he asked him if he wanted to swap 20% of each other’s action. Grizzle agreed and after Eskimo left, a young guy said: “Sam, I was at his table and he busted last hand before the break.”

“That’s ok, I’m not even playin’,” Grizzle replied.