Monday, August 26, 2013

Poker Legend Bobby Hoff, 1939-2013

Poker fans were saddened to learn of the passing on Sunday of no-limit hold'em cash game legend Bobby Hoff.  Hoff, 73, had suffered some health problems in recent years, including a stroke in 2010, but his passing was unexpected by the poker community.

Hoff's everlasting fame in poker came not only from high-stakes cash game circles, where he was regarded as one of the best no-limit players of all time, but also for his role in the 1979 World Series of Poker main event, where he served as the final victim of amateur Hal Fowler's incredible odds-bending run to that title.

In the '79 WSOP's final hand, Hoff committed half his remaining stack to a J-5-e flop while betting his pocket aces, only to see Fowler call with a gutshot straight draw (7-6 for hole cards), spike the needed 4 on the turn, and cruise to the title.  The upset loss for the heavily favored Hoff was one of two instances among 13 career WSOP cashes for Hoff where he finished second, though he never claimed a bracelet in a long career with only occasional tournament appearances.  Nonetheless, Hoff's record shows about a half million in career tourney earnings, to go along with his unknown (but considerable) cash game profits.

Hoff was one of a healthy number of Texas gamblers who relocated to Las Vegas when that state's gambling became established.  Originally, Hoff was a college golfer on a scholarship to the U. of Texas, and profited handsomely from student poker games, only to discover after graduating that the Texas poker games of the era where much tougher.

Hoff succumbed to the Nevada gambling allure, and soon became part of an early card-counting blackjack team that scored enough success to be booted from most of the state's casinos.  With blackjack closed to Hoff as an income source, he returned to poker, where he was backed by Sailor Roberts and others and soon established himself as one of the toughest no-limit players around.

Hoff remained an active part of the poker scene for more than four decades, living in the greater Los Angeles in his later years.  After suffering his stroke in 2010, he was still able to recuperate and play again the following year, and was present in games in California as recently as last week.  Hoff also played online, successfully dueling the younger generation of players on sites such as UltimateBet.

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