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Poker Pro Layne Flack Passes Away At Age 52

The Poker World Mourns The Loss Of The Six-Time WSOP Bracelet Winner

by Steve Schult |  Published: Aug 25, 2021

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Six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Layne Flack passed away in July. He was 52.

Flack burst onto the scene in the late 1990’s and was a household name throughout the poker boom of the early 2000’s, generally regarded as one of the best players of his era. The South Dakota native worked at small card clubs in Montana and in Deadwood, both running games and playing. He had a short stint in college, but poker called him back.

“I only went for a couple of years because I had a couple of wealthy roommates, and they weren’t very good at cards,” Flack told Card Player’s Poker Stories podcast.

He eventually made the trek south to Reno and then Las Vegas to play as a full-time professional, thanks in part to a nudge from Huck Seed. The 1996 WSOP main event champion saw Flack’s relentless aggression and thought he would clean up against the competition.

“He said, ‘The way you play, you should be in Vegas,’” remembered Flack.

Flack lost his initial $2,000 stake, but wired home for another $1,000 and used it to win a tournament for just shy of $68,000.

“I busted 14 of the final 15 players,” Flack boasted with a smile.

He then won another tournament at the start of 1998 for nearly $65,000 before picking up his first six-figure score a few months later with a runner-up finish in the $2,000 no-limit hold’em event at the WSOP for $133,000.

It was a fast start to a long and illustrious poker career.

While he was tearing up the tournament circuit, Flack was also making his mark in the cash game world. He became somewhat of a regular in high-stakes rooms, including Larry Flynt’s private seven card stud game.

In 1999, Flack won his first WSOP bracelet in the $3,000 pot-limit hold’em event for $224,000. He then earned the nickname “Back-to-Back Flack” for winning two tournaments in as many days at the Legends of Poker series in Los Angeles just two months later.

The nickname became prophetic, as he went on to win two bracelets at consecutive WSOPs in 2002 and 2003 to add to his collection. He won a pair of no-limit hold’em events in 2002 for a combined $571,900 before coming back the next year and taking down the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout for $120,000 and the $2,500 Omaha eight-or-better event for another $119,260.

“It was back-to-back days,” he explained. “No sleep. I hadn’t been to bed yet.”

“The fifth bracelet Ted lost,” explained Flack. “When I won it, I went out partying that night and I gave it to him to take home, and he had no clue where it was. We actually found it six or seven years later. Another guy that was living in Ted’s house called me up and said, ‘By the way, I have your bracelet.’

At one point, Flack was even recruited by Benny Binion and members of the Chicago mafia to play in Michael Jordan’s poker game, but the plan was foiled when his name was mentioned on David Letterman’s Late Night show, killing his anonymity.

“We went to the back office of the Crazy Horse and a couple of guys said, ‘Layne, we want to take you to Chicago, get you into this Michael Jordan game, no pros allowed. I was like, ‘Alright, who am I getting into bed with? But let’s go!’ Then I won back-to-back bracelets, and there it was on ESPN and on David Letterman. They called me back and said, ‘Cat’s outta the bag kid. No go.’”

Flack won his sixth and final WSOP title in 2008 in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event for a career-best score of $577,725. With six bracelets, Flack is tied with Daniel Negreanu, John Hennigan, Chris Ferguson, TJ Cloutier, Jeff Lisandro, Ted Forrest, and Jay Heimowitz for ninth on the all-time bracelet list.

Over the course of his more than two-decade career, Flack racked up more than $5 million in live tournament earnings, including a World Poker Tour title. Although he has not yet been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, he certainly qualifies based on the listed criteria, but is sitting behind a logjam of other deserving inductees.

“I know I’ll be in the Hall of Fame,” Flack said back in 2019. “Of course, I’d like to be alive when I get in.”

The Poker World Reacts

The news of Flack’s passing sent shockwaves through the poker community. While Flack experienced his fair share of ups and downs during his career, it never seemed to affect his demeanor at the table. He was considered one of the game’s best storytellers, and would often have his opponents howling with laughter even as he took their chips.

“I’m a type-A personality, so when I’m at the table, you’re going to know I’m sitting there,” Flack said. “But it’s all in fun.”

“He was universally loved in our poker world,” explained Phil Hellmuth. “When it came to having a quick wit, there was Layne! He would make you laugh about anything, even serious matters.”

Many of the poker world’s most prominent figures took to social media to share tales about their time on the felt with Flack and celebrate his life.

“Just got a great quote from Huck Seed about how Layne died,” wrote Eli Elezra. “’He must have been murdered. There’s no f***ing way an OD could kill that guy.’ Layne would have loved that. RIP great friend.”

Flack had been open about past issues with substance abuse. Hellmuth stated that he was someone “who burned the candle hard on both sides.” But he had reportedly been clean for quite some time when his death occurred.

“I wouldn’t trade it in,” Flack said, talking about his wild life. “I had a lot of fun, but there’s things I wish I would have done differently… obviously financially. You know, because I just had no respect for money. But now I can’t even drink three or four beers without being laid up for a day. I don’t do anything anymore.”

“I’m so gutted as I just got news Layne passed away,” tweeted Mike Matusow. “I talked with him two hours on the phone a week ago and he was telling me how he had turned his life around! Rest in peace.”

“A while, while back, I staked Layne Flack,” tweeted Jennifer Harman. “There were six rules that he agreed to. The first night he broke them all. We laughed about it and then it was business as usual. Rest in peace, Layne. I’m going to miss your infectious laugh!”

“He might be the sharpest mind outside of Stu Ungar that I’ve ever seen,” said Doyle Brunson.

“We go way, way back and I’ll cherish all the crazy memories,” tweeted Daniel Negreanu alongside a photo of himself, Flack, and his wife Amanda. “Knowing Layne, I imagine he would want us all to celebrate his life and share some laughs about the good old days.”

“Layne Flack was one of the most hilarious people I ever had the pleasure of playing with,” said Cliff Josephy. “I remember grinding online with him at Brandon Cantu’s house about 15 years ago, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Played live with him two weeks ago and he was the exact same. Always fun.”

“Sad to hear the passing of Layne Flack,” tweeted high-stakes cash game pro Len Ashby. “In poker, you tend to meet two types of professional players. Those who play only to make money and don’t enjoy it, and those who play because they love the game and making money is a bonus. Layne was the latter. RIP to a great personality.”

Flack’s daughter Halie joined some of his closest friends on Matusow’s podcast, where they shared their favorite stories.

“I was always scared I would get his bad traits,” she said. “Hearing you guys talk definitely makes me feel like I got some of the better traits out of him.” ♠

Flack’s Top Tournament Scores

Date Event Place Payout
June 2008 WSOP $1,500 PLO 1st $577,725
Oct. 2004 Aruba Poker Classic $6,000 NLHE 2nd $500,000
April 2002 WSOP $2,000 NLHE 1st $303,880
May 2002 WSOP $1,500 NLHE 1st $268,020
Sept. 2016 River Poker Series $2,500 NLHE 4th $225,190
May 1999 WSOP $3,000 PLH 1st $224,400
Nov. 2002 World Poker Finals $10,000 NLHE 2nd $186,900
June 2005 WSOP $1,500 PLH 2nd $185,855
April 1998 WSOP $2,000 NLHE 2nd $133,000
Feb. 2003 WPT Invitational 1st $125,000
May 2003 WSOP $1,500 LHE Shootout 1st $120,000
May 2003 WSOP $2,500 Omaha 8 1st $119,260
Aug. 2000 Legends of Poker $5,000 NLHE 1st $114,000