Bobby Hoff, 1979 WSOP Main Event Runner-up, Passes at 73

Bobby Hoff, 1979 WSOP Main Event Runner-up, Passes at 73

Word has spread through the poker world late on Sunday evening of the passing of Robert “Bobby” Hoff, 73, a legendary no-limit hold ’em cash gamer and a feared tournament force (though only an occasional attendee) for decades.  The cause of Hoff’s death was not immediately available, though he had been in lessened health since a stroke in 2010.

Hoff’s death was confirmed by poker-world veterans on social media, with condolences shared by Todd Brunson, Doyle Brunson. Phil Hellmuth and Erik Seidel, among others.

Hoff, who was known as “The Wizard,” was involved in one of the most memorable matchups in early poker-tournament history, when he was defeated by the unsung and inexperienced Hal Fowler for the 1979 World Series of Poker main event title.  Hoff was a significant favorite over Fowler once the two reached heads-up play, though Fowler’s luck ran true, including the final hand when he connected on a gutshot straight draw to crack Hoff’s all-in pocket aces.

While Fowler quickly became a curious footnote in WSOP history, Hoff went on to a long and notable career.  At the WSOP alone, Bobby Hoff logged 13 cashes, with two runner-up showings but no bracelets.  Early records of poker tournaments are incomplete, but Hoff is credited with at least $460,000 in official tourney winnings along with his extensive cash-game profits.

Hoff was one of the many Texas “road gamblers” who found greater fame and fortune in Las Vegas, and followed a typical route at the time, becoming a casino dealer and playing in his off hours while mastering the game.  Hoff attended the University of Texas on a golf scholarship, though gambling was in his blood, and he gave up golf for poker, only to learn that the game’s pros were much tougher than his fellow college students

Hoff improved after going broke several times, and also became a member of an early blackjack card-counting team.  That group was eventually banned from playing blackjack in most Nevada casinos, forcing Hoff back to poker.  He was backed into major Nevada poker games by Poker Hall of Famer Bryan “Sailor” Roberts, and eventually made his own name in the game.

Born in the Houston suburb of Victoria, Texas in 1939, Hoff later shuffled his places of residence between Texas, Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area, where he lived for most of his later years.  His final residence was in Palm Springs, CA, though he recuperated for some time in Texas following his 2010 health crisis.


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