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Book Review: Devilfish ⎯ The Life & Times of a Poker Legend

Dave Ulliott Spills the Beans About His Remarkable Life in New Autobiography

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The Devilfish autobiography in out Sept. 9Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott, poker legend. People either love him or hate him but the one thing no one in poker can do is ignore him. Now he has told his life story in Devilfish ⎯ The Life & Times of a Poker Legend and what a story it is.

From rags to riches, prisons to penthouses, mug gambler to millionaire poker genius, Ulliott regales us with his bawdy northerner humour ⎯ quick witted and self-deprecating ⎯ in a fast-paced tale that is part kitchen-sink drama part Hollywood blockbuster.

Born into a working class family in Hull, England ⎯ a rather bleak, industrial northern city in post-war Britain ⎯ a boisterous and wayward young Ulliott soon developed a penchant for thrills to spice up an otherwise drab, poverty-filled existence and thus began an early career as a sneak thief, safe cracker, bad gambler, and serial womaniser.

He came to the attention of the local police at an early age and was constantly under their watchful, but often inept, eye.

He engaged in a long-running battle of wits with the law, often escaping its long arm with barely an inch to spare until eventually he was “well and truly dropped in it” when his stolen-good seller Fred got nicked, grassed Ulliott up, and our resourceful hero went on the run, staying at friends’ houses to avoid capture.

Eventually having decided it was safe to head home he was finally caught hiding under his own bed.

He was on remand for four months before receiving a sentence of 12 months in jail and during this time his first marriage broke down with his wife moving away to marry, much to his chagrin, a policeman, and taking their kids with her.

Upon leaving jail he fell in love, married, had more kids, then went back for another extended period at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, all the while hustling and getting into violent confrontations.

After his release he decided to go straight. A short-lived plan but one that did result in him opening a successful pawnbrokers shop which allowed him to start a regular poker game in a room upstairs. The rest is history.

Finding it increasingly difficult to get a game in Hull he began travelling around the north with his driver, playing seedy backroom games and eventually fetched up in the Vic in London for the biggest games in the country at the time.

While his bankroll grew he was still dissatisfied with the challenge of the games he was Devilfish grins when he's winningdominating on home soil so he opted to hit Las Vegas, first on a reconnaissance mission, then, a few months later, to the World Series of Poker where he won a bracelet.

So began a rollercoaster period in his life where his bankroll (and beyond) was frequently on the line and swings of hundreds of thousands of dollars peppered an increasingly fruitful but edgy career as a full-time poker player.

After winning the first series of seminal poker TV show, Late Night Poker, he became virtually a household name in Britain and his notoriety grew hand-in-hand with his outrageous lifestyle populated with celebrity encounters and runs of cards veering from the sublime to the near ruinous.

He became the most successful British tournament poker player of all time, amassing a staggering $6 million in career winnings, a World Poker Tour title, and 11 WSOP final tables.

Ulliott’s book is a thrilling ride out of the darkness and into the light. He tells his story with his trademark, tongue-in-cheek humour and is effortlessly charming ⎯ even when it turns dark, violent, and is verging on the amoral.

Even when he’s unlucky at the table (and boy does he get unlucky ⎯ on one occasion one of his opponents suffers a fatal heart attack at the table but not before calling Dave’s bet and winning the pot), Devilfish acknowledges his luck in life and tells his story with the air of a man who knows he’s been blessed.

Everyone loves a “lying in the gutter but staring at the stars” story and Devilfish provides a bona fide, page-turning classic of the genre. And despite his hubris (of which there is plenty, mostly comedic) he’s one in a million and his autobiography tells an ultimately heartwarming tale of a bad boy made good and all on his own terms.

Devilfish – The Life & Times of a Poker Legend is now available for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk.