In the ranks of British players, one participant stand head and shoulders above the others in terms of money earnings, tournament rankings and just sheer presence at the table. His name is Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot and those of us who have been following poker tournaments since before the prevalence of online and TV coverage will certainly be familiar with the name.
Born in Hull, in the North of England in 1954, Ulliot’s early life was marked by an uninspiring education and a gradual descent into moderately serious criminality. On a variety of occasions he was involved in armed robberies, safe-cracking and just plain old fights in the street. He was imprisoned twice, once for 9 months and once for 18 months, spending large periods of time on both occasions in solitary confinement.
On his second release, he was persuaded by the wife of a fellow inmate to go straight and he appears to have done so ever since. He began playing various forms of poker from the age of 16 at a local casino and as his skills improved he traveled around the areas where he lived, eventually becoming known as a serious player and winner. He is known to have regarded his first visit to London to play as something of a learning experience, losing 60,000 pounds in one evening. He learned quickly however and made the money back within 24 hours.
His name was first thought up by a Birmingham promoter, Stephen Au-Yeung, and it just appears to relate to a poisonous fish rather than anything more meaningful. It caught on at Ulliot’s first Las Vegas visit in 1997 when his long time driver and supporter Gary Whittaker cheered him on as the Devilfish in response to his opponents fans shouts of “Go on the Master” in support of American-Vietnamese player Men Nguyen.
To date Ulliot has won almost $6,000,000 in tournament winnings but his legendary name is equally important. He has written a well received autobiography – DEVILFISH: The Life & Times of a Poker Legend - and has won a WSOP bracelet. He’s also found time to have seven children.